Each month, we ask you a book-related question (either related to a recently published title, or a general question about Oak Knoll). Answering correctly gives you a chance to win free stuff from Oak Knoll. This month we’re giving away a $25 gift certificate to the randomly-selected winner. Here is this month’s question:
What is the origin of the name “Oak Knoll?”
Email email@example.com with a subject line of “Biblio Trivia” by the end of the day on June 30th to enter.
Hint: Read previous blog posts to find the answer!
Starting this week, each Friday we will post a short excerpt from Books about Books (Oak Knoll Press, 2008). The book begins with an essay by Bob about his adventures in publishing, and concludes with a bibliography of Oak Knoll publications through 2008. We hope you enjoy!
Thirty years ago I made the life-changing decision that I should try my hand in the world of publishing. Was I breaking new ground in the antiquarian bookselling business? Hardly! Any of you who have read the history of bookselling know that the professions of bookseller and publisher have been intertwined for centuries with large out-of-print booksellers often having equally large publishing programs. This method of doing business has all but died out today. The following experiment in biography will tell you the story of how our company has tried to resurrect it.
I went to college to study chemical engineering (BChe from University of Delaware, MS Chemical Engineering from University of Virginia) and worked as an engineer for a number of companies from 1971 to 1976. As soon as I had money to spend, I started collecting books and formed large collections of Hemingway, Faulkner, Steinbeck, and books about books. In 1976, I was asked to transfer to Allentown, Pennsylvania. I looked at my job and looked in my heart to determine what I really enjoyed doing. I decided to go with my heart, and on a Monday in early March, I became a rare book seller. I had absolutely no training at the feet of a renowned bookseller, so I made all the usual mistakes of a novice in the field. All I had going for me was my love of books and reading and some hidden skills in business that I had discovered along the way. I made a decision that I was not going to follow the usual path of dealing in the modern literature that I had collected and immediately sold off or traded my personal collection for inventory in the field of books about books. This neglected field of books on the physical production and distribution of books, supplemented with examples of fine printing seemed to be a relatively unbeaten path without much competition. For better or worse, I sank all my limited resources into developing this niche market.
Check back next Friday to see what happens next! (Or if you can’t wait that long, order the book!)
I don’t think I have ever been surrounded by quite as many booksellers, librarians, and bright-eyed book lovers as I was yesterday. Tuesday, June 22, 2010, marked the date of my first book fair with Oak Knoll, and more formally the 51st RBMS Pre Conference Book Fair in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Since I had never attended a book fair before, I was very curious to see just what kind of events this new endeavor would bring.
After spending the night before setting up our booth with my fellow workers, Rob and Laura, I was already energized and excited to start the fair and showcase some books. The festive Mexican restaurant we dined at on the way home surely didn’t hurt my enthusiasm either! After a good night’s sleep, we had returned to Philly, and it wasn’t long after we had arrived that other booksellers were already coming to our booth to say hello and browse our titles. They were of course all friendly and talkative, and with such a crowd meandering throughout, I learned why the name tags they provided were so important!
As the day continued, I was able to take some time to walk around the room and look at other sellers’ books. Now, while I thoroughly enjoyed fancying the samples of each seller’s inventory, the more inspiring aspect was discovered through conversations with some truly unique individuals in attendance. Many of the experienced booksellers (and even many of the younger booksellers!) had such an astronomical knowledge of rare books, that it was invigorating to see such a specialized field of interest so strongly represented. An immense passion for books was present no doubt.
After all was said and done, and the delicious wine and cheese served was devoured, I was able to leave my first book fair with a feeling of reward. It was nice to finally put faces to many of the booksellers and customers who play in active role in Oak Knoll’s success. It was also satisfying to know that even though I still have years of knowledge to gain in the world of books, I was able to apply what I do know to help my company and our customers.
- Danielle Burcham, Publishing Assistant
Many people have asked me over the years how Oak Knoll Books got its name. A recent interview by Nigel Beale drew the story out of me along with a number of other anecdotes that might interest you.
As a young Chemical Engineer with my first paycheck in my pocket, I was finally able to start collecting books in earnest. I found the books of A. Edward Newton fascinating as they told of a book world that I knew little about. Newton described his collecting with such enthusiasm that I got caught up and eventually quit my job to begin Oak Knoll Books. Newton’s home outside Philadelphia was called Oak Knoll. Ah, you are starting to get the connection! Listen to the interview for more of the story.
- Bob Fleck, President