Me: “Good morning, Oak Knoll, how may I help you?”
Caller: “Hello, yes, I’m wondering if you buy books.”
This is the typical start of a conversation with someone interested in selling parts of their collections to us, and my reply is always the same:
Me: “We wouldn’t be in business if we didn’t buy books! What kind of books are we talking about here?”
Working at Oak Knoll, the frequency of people looking to sell part, if not all, of their collection to us has increased recently. Usually the amount of books in question don’t exceed a few boxes worth, but every now and then we come across a unique scenario that really blows us out of the water.
One such collection was from a fellow ABAA dealer from Chevy Chase, MD called Nina Matheson Books. Nina Matheson had been in bookselling for years, running her bookstore out of a two bedroom apartment at 4701 Willard Avenue, and had just recently come into contact with another large collection of books she needed to clear some room for. Fortunately for us, she was going to part with her collection of books about books, as well as her interesting group of poetry books. After hearing this (and seeing the collection for ourselves), we decided to purchase it, and went down to Chevy Chase to visit her. On the way, we picked up a monstrous 26’ U-Haul truck. Some of you are probably thinking ‘overkill’, but I was thinking ‘precaution’.
We ended up parking it in a spot on the street that was available parking until 4pm, thinking we would be out of Maryland by then (I won 2nd place in estimation at a science fair when I attended New Castle Middle School, and unfortunately my skills in that area had faded away as we ended up leaving much later than that).
When we finally did arrive at her shop, we started packing up the books into boxes and labeling them either books about books or poetry. Slowly but surely we got the first room packed up completely, then the second. Upon starting the third and final room, it was getting close to 4 o’clock, so I wanted to make sure that I could park the truck in the loading dock for easy loading of the books. However, I didn’t take into account the other truck that was scheduled to be there until 8p.
The spot that I was in was ‘no parking between 4 to 6’, and all the other spots on the street were ‘no parking’, period. This wasn’t looking good. After asking around for other places to park (to no avail) I decided to take a chance and park near the loading dock where we could start loading as quickly as possible. Bailey, James, and I became close acquaintances with the maintenance elevator as we had to load all 6,200 packed-up books into the truck.
Luckily it went by quickly and we were on our way back to Delaware, but not before stopping at a local Mexican restaurant for some quesadillas and margaritas!
The next day, the whole Oak Knoll staff (including the boss, and my father, Bob) had to unload the boxes into the shop. Half of the boxes went on the second floor to be priced immediately and half went into the basement. Unfortunately the only way to get the massive amount of boxes that we had on the truck into the basement was through a trap door in the alley beside the building. We had our Publishing Director, Laura Williams, stand on an unsteady piece of wood, which was a lawsuit waiting to happen, to guide the boxes down. Luckily no one died and we had it all unloaded in just over an hour.
Oak Knoll Fest XVII, which took place last weekend, was a great success. We’ve heard nothing but positive reviews so far. Below is a sampling of pictures from the weekend. Our facebook album has the rest. We hope to see you all in 2014 for Oak Knoll Fest XVIII!
Tom Congalton of Between the Covers Rare Books, one of the two bookshops that make up The Bookshop in Old New Castle, has been unanimously elected president of ILAB. Read more courtesy of Fine Books & Collections.
A unanimous vote: At the Ordinary General Meeting on 23rd September 2012 in Lucerne the presidents of the 22 national member associations of the International League of Antiquarian Booksellers elected Tom Congalton (United States) as new ILAB President. He succeeds Arnoud Gerits (Netherlands) who served as President from 2010 to 2012. Arnoud Gerits honoured his successor:
“Tom Congalton, over a long period of time, has shown his great commitment to the League and his concise, short but always accurate comments on various topics, his impartial but clever and clear judgements, and his capacity to quickly see and understand the essence of a problem, make him the perfect new President of ILAB. He has been a wonderful Vice- President and I owe him a lot of thanks for his unfailing commitment, support and intelligent contributions to our discussions. To continue the metaphor coined by Adrian Harrington in 2010: the Ship of ILAB is safe in the good hands of Tom.”
Tom Congalton, owner of Between the Covers Rare Books, joined the ILAB Committee in 2006. He is the former editor of the ILAB Newsletter. As chair of the ILAB IT Committee he had been responsible for the launch of the new ILAB website including the ILAB Metasearch in 2009/2010, before he became Vice-President in autumn 2010. With Between the Covers Rare Books, founded in 1985, Tom Congalton is regarded as one of the leading experts in 20th century literature and modern first editions who owns one of the largest rare book inventories in the world comprising over 230.000 books and including 150.000 first editions. The American dealer became a member of the Antiquarian Booksellers’ Association of America (ABAA) in 1990. After terms on the Board of Governors, as Secretary, and as Vice-President of the ABAA, he served as ABAA President from the year 2000 to 2002. For 16 years he also was a member of the Committee of the New York Antiquarian Book Fair. From 2005 to 2010 he lectured at the Colorado Antiquarian Book Seminar, since 2008 he has been teaching at the Rare Book School at the University of Virginia. Tom Congalton is author of numerous excellent articles on book collecting and the antiquarian book trade.
One of the little known sidelines of Oak Knoll Books is Delaware history. If you are in an historically interesting state and love its history as I do, then your store should certainly reflect that interest. We currently have over 1000 titles in this section of our bookstore at present. And it just grew a lot recently!
We hadn’t purchased a large group of Delaware related items for a number of years but recently purchased three private collections. The largest was just purchased from a long time Delaware resident who was moving from his home in one Delaware town to the quaint town of Arden, Delaware. Arden has its own story as it was founded by Frank Stephens and Will Price in 1900 under the philosophy of Henry George as a single tax community.
And Delaware being what it is, the second smallest state in the union, I experienced the usual “do you know such and such” moment where it turned out that the collector had graduated a few years before me from the University of Delaware’s Chemical Engineering program and knew many of the professors that taught me back in the late 1960s. My first job out of college was at the refinery in Delaware City, Delaware. He had worked there when it was Tidewater before its purchase by Getty Oil. A number of his fellow workers had stayed on after the purchase and I knew them. He got a kick out of some of the stories that I told about the refinery including the one about John Paul Getty’s payphones in his personal English estate house meant to keep his expenses down. ‘Tis a small world.
Alastair Johnston wrote a nice piece on Booktryst about The Rise and Fall of the Printers’ International Specimen Exchange.
Not all books have a plot, or a beginning and an end. I am not referring to Artists’ books or directories, but rather sample books, like catalogues or salesman’s specimens. And all periodicals have a trajectory: they are born, boom, and then decline and die. The Printers’ International Specimen Exchange, which ran from 1880 to 1896, is a scarce work today, but it is very important in the history of graphic design.
The Printers’ International Specimen Exchange demonstrates how an ephemeral publication can have a major impact on aesthetics and the quality of work. It also documents the growth of a movement known as “Artistic Printing” in the USA and “Leicester Freestyle” in England that ultimately gave birth to modernist typography, as seen in the work of Oscar Wilde, J. M. Whistler, and then in the twentieth century, in practitioners like Jan Tschichold, Karel Teige and Jack Stauffacher.
Click here to keep reading.
One of our authors, Joel Silver, has an interesting piece on books as objects up on Fine Books and Collections.
It’s a Book—Not an App
Have you ever tried to explain book collecting to someone who’s not a collector? This has never been an easy thing to do, but it seems to be much more difficult now than it was just a few years ago. The problem is not that books are unfamiliar objects, or that collecting is seen as an unusual pursuit. Despite increased competition, books can still be found everywhere, and collectors of all kinds are featured on more television shows than ever before. What makes an explanation of book collecting more difficult now is that the main purposes books have served for more than two thousand years—the storage and provision of information—can be achieved today in many other, and often much less expensive, ways.
It was less than a century ago that written and printed materials, such as books, pamphlets, newspapers, magazines, letters, notes, signs, and labels, were the primary sources of information for literate people. There was also speech and gesture, from the instructions given by a parent or teacher to conversations among friends or associates. For the storage and retrieval of information, however, the written and printed word, in its variety of physical manifestations, provided needed information, as well as enjoyable and educational reading experiences.
David Carruthers opened the Saint-Armand paper-mill in January 1979. He had difficult first years, but started selling and exporting his paper and pushed sales as far and fast as he could. He came from a family associated with paper. His grandfather was the owner the Interlake Paper Mill and his father was a paper salesman with the family firm. The expected diminution of handmade production didn’t happen and the paper mill continues to expand its handmade operation. The Saint-Armand paper-mill is located in Montréal, Canada.
Thomas Parker Williams started to make artist books in 1998. Though his primary body of work is painting, he continues to return to the unique book as another form of expression to try out new concepts and structures. Music informs his work as well and he has used his own original music as a source for paintings and several artist book editions that include music CD’s. Since 1990 he has been exhibiting in Philadelphia, New York, and elsewhere around the United States. Thomas Parker Williams lives and works in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
David Esslemont studied Fine Art at the Central School of Art and Design in London. From 1985 to 1997 he was managing and artistic director of the Gregynog Press in Wales. At Gregynog he designed and printed several prize-winning books. He has lectured widely in the U.K. and U.S.A., and his work can be found in both private and public collections worldwide. His archive to 2005 is held at the University of Iowa. He has been artist-in-residence with the Wordsworth Trust in Grasmere, England, and Minnesota Center for Book Arts in Minneapolis. The Solmentes Press is located in Decorah, Iowa.