The call is out for submissions to the 16th ILAB Breslauer Prize for Bibliography. Publishers, librarians, collectors, antiquarian booksellers and all book lovers have until the end of April 2013 to submit books to the prize. The prize will be awarded in 2014 to a book (or books) published between 2009 and 2012. Books in any language from anywhere in the world covering any aspect of bibliography (e.g. enumerative, textual, history of the book, design, binding, book trade, etc.) are welcome.
You can learn more about the prize, its history, and submission guidlines here, and see a list of this year’s submitted books here. (Our submissions aren’t up yet, but they will be when our books reach the prize secretary!)
A prize with prestige and tradition, a strong support for scholarship: The ILAB Breslauer Prize for Bibliography of $10,000 US is awarded every fourth year to the authors of the most outstanding works on the history of the book. Famous scholars like Jean Peeters-Fontainas, I. C. Koeman and Anthony Hobson belong to the prize winners alongside Lotte Hellinga and Jan Storm van Leeuwen who were honoured with the 15th Prize in September 2010. Both, Lotte Hellinga’s monumental Catalogue of Books printed in the XVth Century now in the British Library, BMC. Part XI – England and Jan Storm van Leeuwen’s opus magnum on Dutch Decorated Bookbinding in the Eighteenth Century are shining examples for the enormous amount of knowledge – and work – which stands behind such brilliant studies in a scientific field that is essential for every kind of academic research, and for the rare book trade.
One of the joys of being an antiquarian bookseller is the experience of traveling overseas for business. I left last night for what I estimate is my 75th trip overseas. This trip will include time in England, the Netherlands, and Hungary. Hungary is the newest country to become a member of the International League of Antiquarian Booksellers, and they have invited the Committee that manages the business of the League to have their Spring meeting in Budapest. Even though I’m long retired from being President of the League, Presidents of Honour are still invited to the meetings for their feedback, so off I go.
I’ll keep you posted about England and the Netherlands as well, as I’m visiting lots of interesting bookshops while there and will experience the England-to-Netherlands ferry for the first time.
Check out this interview of Bob Fleck that reveals his history as a bookseller and Antiquarian Booksellers’ Association of America (ABAA) member. He talks about the history behind Oak Knoll’s founding, his work and relations with the ABAA, various committees on which he has served, his travels and love for the social aspect of the ABAA, and much more. He also examines the challenges of bookselling and offers advice for those who are interested in starting a business just as he did.
The interview is part of an effort by ABAA member Michael Ginsberg to cover members’ personal histories as well as their involvement in the rare book trade. Click here to watch the interview.
The International League of Antiquarian Booksellers posted an excellent article on its President Arnoud Gerits, chronicling his career in books and bookselling. It provides an extensive overview of his journey as an ILAB member, his successes in bookselling, and even his disappointments. It reveals the relationship with his father in their book business, how his personal interests coincide with his book profession, and how he still treasures the chances he gets to meet other ILAB members, hold their books, and talk face-to-face.
Arnoud Gerits has been closely connected with the League for more than a decade. He joined the ILAB Committee in 1998, was editor of the ILAB Newsletter from 2002 to 2006, and became Vice President in 2008. As Secretary of the ILAB Breslauer Prize for Bibliography he supervised the 15th Prize in 2010 and will be responsible for the 16th award in 2014. During the 39th ILAB Congress and 23rd International Antiquarian Book Fair in Bologna the presidents of the affiliated associations elected Arnoud Gerits as the new President of the League – and welcomed him with standing ovations.
One Night in Amsterdam
It runs in the family: In 1993 both father and son sat at the conference table of the Presidents Meeting in Los Angeles. Anton Gerits as ILAB President, Arnoud Gerits joined the meeting as delegate of the Dutch Antiquarian Booksellers’ Association (NVvA).
“I have grown up in a rare book selling family. Books, reading, and the interest in history and politics were vital for us”, says Arnoud Gerits. He studied history and Dutch language and literature at the University of Amsterdam. In the 1970s most professors held their lectures about the Middle Ages. As he has always been a passionate reader with a special interest in history, he knew most books, facts, persons and epochs they were referring to in their lectures – and got bored. He took his degrees and thought about his future career. Then, one evening in Amsterdam, a friend celebrated the opening of his bookshop, and at the opening Arnoud Gerits met the owner of Athenaeum, one of Holland’s largest independent bookstores founded in 1966. The owner urged him to establish his own business. “And suddenly I knew: I wanted to become a bookseller.” The next day Arnoud Gerits called his father, who said:
“If you want to work in a bookshop, why don’t you work for me?”
Click here to read the full article.
Once a year, the Committee of the International League of Antiquarian Booksellers (ILAB) gets together to talk about the problems and challenges facing the League. This Committee consists of the officers of the League that actually do the day-to-day work of this international organization composed of 21 countries. The meeting falls half way between the Presidents Meeting and the Congress, with events held in alternating years in the fall of the year. For the last three years, the Committee meeting has been held in Gimenelles, a quiet hotel about an hour outside Barcelona.
I go to these meetings as a part of the “corporate memory” of the organization, as I had served on the Committee for many years including a four year stint as President.
The pictures might lead you to think that most of the meeting consists of fun activities surrounded by large meals and an unending supply of the local wine. But don’t be fooled. These laid-back times give all of us the perfect opportunity to talk about the future of antiquarian bookselling and what role the ILAB should play in the lives of the 2000 booksellers who are part of the League. In attendance were booksellers from the Netherlands, Austria, Germany, France, Australia, England, Denmark, and Tom and Heidi Congalton from the U.S. (Tom is Vice President). The main meeting was held outside in the yard under the trees, beginning at 10 in the morning and lasting until almost 7 at night. We discussed international tariffs and trade restrictions, the role of the book fair in our lives, our new meta-search engine on our web site, consumer protection, and many smaller issues. Outreach to the public and other booksellers via our new electronic newsletter and the possible establishment of a speaker’s bureau were part of our look into the future.
All this was done in the most congenial manner as we have come to know each other through our years of attending Congresses and our work on the Committee. We have truly become friends. None of us will forget my wife Millie leading the cheerleaders of the “Rest of the World” soccer team when playing the Italian team during our last congress in Bologna (we lost). She had organized cheerleaders from countries across the world including the wonderful Mrs. Nitta, wife of Mitsu Nitta of Japan (Yushodo) and had them all prancing along the sideline while waving home-made pom-poms.
Click here to view more pictures from the trip.
To learn more about the ILAB, go to www.ilab.org.
Did you see the latest ILAB E-Newsletter?
This edition of the newsletter features ILAB booksellers on video, stories of great bookshops and sellers, an interview with the ILAB President on collecting antiquarian books, and other interesting articles. Click here to read the entire newsletter.
The always present problem of lack of space reared its ugly head yet again in 2001—we had run out of room in spite of our expanded 5000 square foot third floor lease. This is such a sickness with booksellers. They can never be happy with the space they have and must keep expanding. John published 21 titles in 2001, and we had bought a large antiquarian collection, so space was at a premium.
We decided to lease half the first floor of our building and move our publishing fulfillment and shipping to that floor and even pretend to have a real bookstore presence. We moved in and John found a huge assortment of blue metal shelving being sold at a very good price by a warehouse. We bought the shelving and installed it on the first floor. These bookcases were handy in keeping a small number of each publishing/distribution title arranged by stock number and readily available for order fulfillment. Most of the inventory was kept in a large warehouse in the Newark, Delaware, area as New Castle is not very truck friendly, and we had no docking area at our Delaware Street location. New Castle is a charming city but doesn’t have much in the way of retail street traffic, so street sales didn’t increase much. However, the rent was very reasonable, and we had a lot more space.
Meanwhile my “other job” became closer to a full-time position as I was elected President of ILAB during the Scandinavian Congress of 2002. Millie and I have been to many Congresses, but this whirlwind trip through Sweden, Finland, Norway, and Denmark was one of the best.
John managed to get out another 21 titles in 2002 and followed up with 21 more in 2003, 21 in 2004 and 18 in 2005. I must admit that I did not have as much time to give him as I had before taking on the Presidency of ILAB, but he was becoming an old hand at our type of publishing.
And of course, the strangest thing happened—we ran out of space again in 2005. The antique mall and tea shop had left the second floor, leaving it as empty space. I really didn’t need to be on the first floor, so I discussed the idea of leasing the entire building from the owner and taking on the responsibility for one monthly rental payment for the entire building. I would need to find appropriate sub-leases for the first floor to partially defray my costs. He agreed, and John yet again got a major task—find renters for the first floor, and move our operation from our half of the first floor to the second floor, thus adding 2500 square feet to our space. If we worked it right, we could significantly increase our space and reduce costs by sub-leasing the entire first floor, while moving books out of the Newark warehouse to further reduce our overhead. As usual, John accomplished this task in record time, and now our inventory shares the second floor with Annie Oakley’s ghost.
The Flecks (Millie, Rob and and I) are off to Italy tomorrow to participate in the International League of Antiquarian Bookseller’s (ILAB) Congress and Bookfair. This will be Rob’s first Congress—Millie and I have been doing them since 1990 (Tokyo, Cologne, Amsterdam, Los Angeles, Vienna, Edinburgh, Scandinavia, Melbourne, Madrid) and have met wonderful friends over the years. This year, Millie, former head coach of the A.I. DuPont High School cheerleaders, will take up her pom-pom again and lead the cheerleaders for the rest of the world when they try to beat the local Italian team (all booksellers of course). Rob will be a forward on the team and I will be cheering. We will keep you posted.
-Bob, President and Owner
Yes, I will miss my lovely girlfriend, but who can pass up a chance to visit Bolongna for a week and a half while participating in the ILAB Congress Book Fair? I’m extremely ecstatic about going to my first Congress! Being the cook at my house, I’m also particularly excited about the food experience that I will indulge myself in. Bolognese sauce was originated in Bologna, and has given me a sense of what to expect when I touch down. I also recently bought a Nikon D40 DSLR camera which I will use on my trip for documentation. See you when I get back!
-Rob, Antiquarian & Library Sales
Previously in Books about Books: Bob hires Paul Wakeman as the first publishing director.
But not so fast! You may think it would be an easy thing to have someone from England come to work in a small business in New Castle, Delaware, but this was not the case. The trouble began when we applied for a permanent Visa and learned to our dismay that it might take years to get the proper permissions. We were told that we had to run job advertisements in a number of nationwide magazines in the industry in case there was some American with a desire to take a minimum wage job in the little, sleepy town of New Castle working for a neophyte publisher. We ran the ad and got no responses. We then had to wait in the long line of applicants for our case to be heard. Meanwhile, the months were slipping by, and neither one of us was getting what we needed. Calls to Immigration Services were a lesson in anger management.
One of the many better features of living in Delaware, the second smallest state in the Union, is the ability to reach your representative to Congress without the grief experienced in larger states. I decided to use the services of our Congressman, Bill Roth. His office promised to call the Immigration Services and—it must have been a miracle—Paul’s application was moved up in the line and approved.
I remember him flying into Philadelphia to start work in August of 1988 just as we were getting ready to move the business up the street. I picked him up from the airport and took him to a grand dinner at my favorite restaurant in Wilmington, Vincente’s, where we plotted the rapid growth of the publishing business and his adjustment to life in America while consuming too much wine. He had brought his cricket equipment with him so he would be in good shape for those long evenings and weekends in New Castle.
After using his brute strength to help us move the shop, he dived into the publishing business and produced a Christmas keepsake for the end of 1988, three titles in 1989, and five titles in 1990. Two of these were printed by the Bird & Bull Press in limited editions, which allowed Paul and Henry Morris to meet and develop a friendship. Another publication was a book on marbling done in a limited edition with his mother and the Plough Press as a co-publisher. We also published a new edition of Jane Greenfield and Jenny Hille’s Headbands, which continues to sell well to this day.
On a side note, I was becoming very active in the Antiquarian Booksellers Association of America (ABAA), first serving on the Board in 1982 and then becoming Chair of their Finance Committee in 1989 and Treasurer in 1990. Millie and I enjoyed the international congresses that the International League of Antiquarian Booksellers (ILAB) conducted and began to attend them in 1990, starting with the Tokyo Congress. This event led to many contacts in publishing that eventually paid dividends, proving yet again that the cross-over between the antiquarian book world and the publishing world is a very healthy relationship.
Check back next week for more from Books about Books!