Late last month, I conducted the first of several trips to various libraries and institutions planned for our fiscal year 2012–2013.
Destination: Washington D.C.
Starting off early in the morning, I began my drive down to the Hotel Harrington. Driving on the nightmare known as the Washington Beltway was surprisingly pleasant and I made great time. With some time to spare, I freshened up and started my walk, past the White House, towards George Washington University’s campus where I met with Brad Sabin Hill, curator of the I. Edward Kiev Judaica Collection at the Gelman Library. After showing me around the beautiful top floor of the library, we discussed future exhibitions that will be occurring at the library. Afterwards, we took a break for a late lunch at a lovely French bistro (my favorite cuisine) and parted ways shortly thereafter.
It was then time for some fun and, since I’m a huge basketball fan, I decided to take the plunge and attend a Washington Wizards game. Luckily enough for me, I got to see the Wizards win their first game of the 2012-2013 season (they should pay me to attend the games now). Afterwards, I had a late dinner at Graffiato, which is the restaurant owned by Top Chef Winner Mike Isabella. I was really interested in going to this restaurant, not for Isabella or Top Chef, but because Isabella’s cookbook Crazy Good Italian was co-written by my favorite food blogger Carol Blymire. If you like food, you would love her current blog Alinea at Home, as well as her past blog (and 2007 winner for best food blog), French Laundry at Home.
The next morning I met with curator of the Rosenwald collection at the Library of Congress, Dan De Simone. I had never been to the Library of Congress before, so I was pretty excited. He gave me a VERY detailed tour of the Rare Books Collection, as well as the numerous exhibitions that they had displayed. If you haven’t been to the LoC, I highly recommend going, as it is certainly a beautiful building, inside and out. After our relaxing lunch, he gave me a copy of his Seven Perspectives of the Woodcut and personally inscribed it as a memento of my first visit to “the big house (LoC).” After saying our final goodbyes, we parted ways and thus ended my adventure in Washington D.C.
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.
Book hunting. It’s what we have to do from time to time to keep in stock hard-to-find items for catalogues. I don’t know if our dedicated followers (YOU!) have been paying much attention to our recently acquired stock lately, but we have been on a type specimen and illuminated facsimiles binge. My father and I recently got back from a trip to New England, making rounds at some local bookstores and picking up a couple collections on the way. It has become quite fun adding new titles to the lists for our upcoming Special Catalogue #19 and Catalogue #300. Even after 36 years in business, we do run into books that, believe it or not, we have never had before. One book that we came back with was, while not incredibly expensive, incredibly interesting. It’s a type specimen foldout by the French type foundry Deberny & Peignot titled Les Cochins from 1914. We were so surprised to find that this one hasn’t ever been in our system, as we have had other Deberny & Peignot titles before, but it certainly is nice to add one more. It’s so new it is sitting on a cart waiting for an image as we speak. You can view the book online here.
Some of you have probably seen my recent interview with Nate Pedersen on the Fine Books & Collections blog. I just wanted to add that I am now an official Associate Member of the Antiquarian Booksellers’ Association of America! It is truly an honor to belong to a society that has affected me throughout my entire life. I would like to thank the members of the ABAA, as well as Tom Congalton for writing an excellent letter of recommendation. Most of all, I’d like to thank my father. Without him, I wouldn’t have been introduced into the bookselling career.
An interview of Rob Fleck was recently posted on the Fine Books & Collections column titled “Bright Young Things” by Nate Pedersen. In this section, Pedersen interviews young booksellers about their adventures in the exciting and sometimes challenging life of
bookselling. Rob reveals his collecting interests, what he likes most about the trade, and more.
For me the one thing that I love more about the book trade more than anything else is simple: the people. Going to book fairs is one of my favorite tasks to do for Oak Knoll. Many members of the ABAA/ILAB are extremely caring, nice, interesting individuals that all share the same interests. Very few of them don’t go out of their way to help you if you have a problem. Not to mention the countless amazing stories about bookselling and book collecting that are told around a shared bottle of wine.
Click here to read more of Rob’s interview.
My fiancé (Lauren) and I just got back from lovely Pasadena and the 45th California International Antiquarian Book Fair. Oak Knoll hasn’t done a book fair in southern California for many years, but with a few new exciting collections that we received the past year, we thought that we should give it a try. In comparison to Century City, where it was held in previous years, the Pasadena convention center offered us booksellers a lovely new venue that had easy access to Colorado Ave (the main drag) and surrounding museums, restaurants, and shops. Winslow & Associates, in connection with the Huntington Library, did an excellent job at promoting the fair as Saturday morning felt like everyone in Los Angeles was there. All in all, it was very exciting for us!
Oak Knoll is excited to kick off 2012 with a set of New Year’s resolutions. We have each taken time to think of ways we can improve over the next year, and we wanted to share our ideas with you. Check out what we plan to do in the upcoming year.
Ah, there are so many that I should have made but didn’t. At least I haven’t broken any of them yet.
I need to learn to smile when a person is standing in my book store and asks “Do you buy books?” I guess they think that my books breed with each other in the late evening hours.
I need to learn to smile when the phone caller asks me the value of a book that has been in the family for decades but they can’t remember the full title or author. Bless Jim Hinck and vialibri.net as now I can just recommend that they visit that site.
I need to learn to smile when the person on the phone says that the book must go out that day, as it is a birthday present for his or her husband/wife/child in two days hence. Nothing like advance planning!
But wait – I’m actually smiling all the time because I have the greatest group here at Oak Knoll and have loved being a bookseller for 35 years. I smile when I come to work – how many people can say that?
Rob Fleck (Antiquarian & Library Sales)
Last year, we purchased two exciting collections from two long-time Oak Knoll customers. These collections helped make 2011 a great year for us and for you, our customers, by adding many important and rare books to our inventory. Our main goal for 2012 is to branch out to individuals or institutions that have collections that they would be willing to part with. We hope that 2012 will be the year of collection acquisition for Oak Knoll. It’s actually all very exciting to me! Send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have a collection that you’d like us to see.
This year I would like to discover more manuscripts and encourage more potential authors to write new books on the history of the book. We are particularly interested in new manuscripts on bookbinding, book collecting, printing, and typography, but please feel free to propose any project that could be considered a “book about books.” If you have a manuscript or a book idea, please check out our website and send me an email at email@example.com. I look forward to hearing from you, so don’t hesitate to contact me! I also plan to continue on the tradition of being the Oak Knoll party planner (or as Bob calls it “the Oak Knoll social butterfly”), as it’s one of my favorite roles here at work.
Danielle Burcham (Publishing and Marketing Assistant)
It’s been almost two years since I started working at Oak Knoll, and I have learned quite a bit since my first day! While at first it seemed like it took all my time just to learn the ins and outs of the book business, this year I plan to really focus my attention on expanding our audiences. This means finding new businesses and individuals who would have an interest in our books but haven’t yet heard of us. I hope to find more organizations and journals who would like to review our books, and I plan on using our social media platforms to facilitate this. If you haven’t hopped on the social media train yet, what are you waiting for? Follow us through facebook, twitter, and our blog. There is a lot to learn about us just through these sites alone!
While I will continue to maintain my responsibilities cataloging books, taking photographs (in our new and updated style), and providing customer service, I also plan to use my research skills to help our publishing department. I will explore library holdings and assist libraries in finding titles to add to their collections, while also finding new groups who might have an interest in our titles. I may even get more involved with our shipping department, helping to pull and pack books. I guess you could say I have my hand in a little bit of everything that goes on here at Oak Knoll.
Considering that I was raised in the image of Mary Poppins, (you know, “Practically Perfect in Every Way”), I failed to see the need for any New Year’s Resolutions. Fortunately, my colleagues quickly disabused me of that notion, so here I sit pondering my role at Oak Knoll and trying to understand how I can make your interactions with us the best possible. First of all, I will put a smile on my face before answering the phone. I once read that this simple action carries through in your voice, making it more welcoming. I will also try to remember if it is morning or afternoon, although I don’t seem to have much luck with that as frequent callers can attest. Yes, I’m the one who says Good…with a long pause…before the next words are out of my mouth. Maybe, I should just say “Hello?”
All kidding aside, each one of us here understands that without the support and patronage of our bibliophile friends, Oak Knoll would be no more than a memory. We come to work every day enthused and convinced that we will either help one of you find that long desired treasure, get the newly required text book for your latest class, or finally see your name in print as the author of a scholarly text. So, bring on 2012! We welcome it and you with smiles on our faces.
Not many personal stories make it to our blog very often, but I thought that I would fill people in on something that happened on New Year’s Eve. THIS GUY (uses two thumbs) got engaged to his girlfriend of almost six years, Lauren McNerney. We met in college back in 2005 when I was a junior and she was a sophomore, and we started dating shortly after that. We are currently looking for both a house and places to hold a wedding with a projected date in March/April of 2013. We have already lived with each other for a year and a half, so I think the initial stage of driving each other crazy is somewhat over! I’m definitely the lucky one.
This week Rob wrote a blog post about Oak Knoll’s new method of photography and our efforts to preserve and capture each book’s condition as best as possible. Check out another similar article on Yale University’s Bibliofile site that provides a training manual on how to handle rare books and other works on paper when photographing them. The article explains how to meet libraries’ preservation aims, while still meeting the needs of researchers. It is illustrated with many great photographs from Yale’s Medical Historical and Law Libraries.
Click here to read the full article.
Recently, Oak Knoll has been going through some changes, some of them more noticeable than others. One of these changes is in the way we take our images. Just under a year ago, I purchased a used Nikon D40 with an 18-55mm kit lens at a great price, which I intended to use for personal photography. I thought that it would be a neat item to take on trips, book fairs, holidays, you name it. After becoming somewhat familiar with it, I decided to try it out on a few books here at the shop. To my surprise, they came out much better than any of our previous images did before.
So about two months ago, after showing these images to people around the office, I finally offered the camera to Oak Knoll to use for taking our everyday pictures, as well as fine photography for catalogues. Based on customer feedback about our most recent catalogue, it’s been one of the most noticeable changes to happen to Oak Knoll in a long time. Click here to view a PDF our most recent catalogue.