Q & A with Reid Byers, author of The Private Library

April 29, 2021 Leave a comment

Learn more about the story and the research behind The Private Library directly from the author!

What inspired you to research and write about the private library?

In Princeton we lived directly across Nassau Street from Toni Morrison. Dr. Morrison once said that if there was a book you really wanted to read and it didn’t exist, then you had to write it. When we decided to add a library to our house, I looked for a book of private library architecture. Not finding anything like it, I started reading around the subject, and I eventually built up a substantial collection (and a passion for libraries). There is a problem in collecting, of course, because when books are allowed to get together there is always a danger that they will generate another book. Twenty years (and four libraries) later, here’s that book.

 You describe the private library as eliciting a feeling of being book-wrapt­. What about a library most contributes to this feeling for you?

I searched for a long time for the right word to describe the feeling that makes a library different from any other room. I tried feeling imbooked, beshelved, inlibriated, circumvolumed, and peribibliated before settling on book-wrapt, because it carries so many meanings. It implies the traditional library wrapped in shelves of books, and the condition of rapt attention to a particular volume, and the rapture of being transported into the wood beyond the world. At one level this feeling is of course produced by the books, but underneath it’s produced by the framework, the structure that holds the books just so. This book is about the history of that structure and that feeling.

I noticed your passage on round libraries, and I understand that your library when you lived in Princeton was in a round room. Could you tell us about your own libraries, past or present, such as this one?

Our Nassau Street library was a first floor addition, a clean rectangle, with precise, permanently fixed mahogany shelving, seven-high, under an eight foot ceiling. It had a modest Palladian window with a window seat and a couple of display niches. The second was in an A. Page Brown shingle-style on Bayard Lane: it was octagonal, a tower room on the second floor. The shelves were tall, nine-high, and although it had a lovely Putnam ladder, it was hard to get at the highest shelves, and octagonal rooms are difficult spaces in which to arrange furniture. It did however have a fireplace and a ib door to a secret room, which I rather liked.

The third library was in the big house in Maine, a fine L-shaped space with a nice fireplace, rooms full of convenient six-high shelves, and another jib door, this one hiding a study. And we’ve now come to rest in a down-sized condo in the city, where the small footprint of the library requires Brobdingnagian shelving and an industrial ladder, but at least everything fits. The stacks are off-the-shelf, as it were, twelve shelves high, over the top.

What aspect of private libraries and their history surprised you the most in your research?

I’m constantly amazed by the variety of people who see their library as important enough to give it a dedicated room. Some of rooms are of course spectacular, some modest, all very different. Harold Otness said, “The residential library . . . is once again becoming the preserve of only the most wealthy and the most cultured among us.” To an extent that’s true, but I think he could have cast a wider net. Personal bookrooms are important to a lot of people, even in these digital days.

What are your favorites among the libraries you visited and why?

The best libraries are those that combine a lot of big space with some cozy alcoves. People like to be able to see lots of their books at once, but feeling book-wrapt in a cozy space is equally important. Bishop Ken’s library at Longleat House is perhaps my all-time favorite, because although it is very large (a whole wing of the top floor), it has lots of separate bays and nooks, and wonderful box windows. It would make a world-class hide-and-seek venue.

What are your expectations for the private libraries of the future?

Collectors’ libraries will of course continue to look much as they do today. Many readers’ libraries will become digital, but in several different ways – we’re seeing remixed libraries already that are different combinations of digital and paper books. But even in the distant future, after the singularity, even if everything becomes digital and people become completely virtual, libraries will still be with us and will still use the book/shelf metaphor, because the book-wrapt feeling is such an important part of the reading experience.

What do you hope readers gain from your book? How do you think your book will change the way readers view the private library?

I hope that readers get ideas. The history of libraries is interesting not just because it tells us about the development of an architecture, or about stylistic influences, or about the social and economic forces that shape our spaces. Some of us, all of the time, and all of us, some of the time, like to look at great rooms to imagine how it would feel to live in such surroundings, and to get ideas for our own. Any book of historic architecture will also perforce serve as a pattern-book. I hope this one does.

The Private Library:

The History of the Architecture and Furnishing of the Domestic Bookroom

Now available for Pre-Order!

Expected to ship late May.

Categories: Oak Knoll Press

August 6, 2020 Leave a comment

hendrikvervlietWe received sad news today… Hendrik D.L. Vervliet, who authored four titles published by Oak Knoll Press, has passed away, peacefully and surrounded by his loved ones. Hendrik’s accomplishments in the fields of typography and printing are monumental, and his wonderful career greatly influenced book history. May he rest in peace.

Hendrik D.L. Vervliet worked until 1968 at the Plantin-Moretus Museum, Antwerp, and, from 1969 onwards, he served as Librarian of the University of Antwerp. He held the Professorship of Book History at the University of Amsterdam from 1974 up to his retirement in 1990. In 2011, he was honored with the Individual Laureate Award by the American Printing History Association for distinguished contribution to the study of printing history.

Pictured is a drawn portrait of Hendrik by Jo De Beadermaeker.

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Interning from Home!

May 8, 2020 Leave a comment


An Update from Intern Kiersten Campbell

Hi all! I hope everyone is staying safe in this strange time we are living in. We are quarantined to our homes, schools have moved online, and most of the time, no one knows what day it is! I for one was not the happiest my last year of college is being spent in my living room in New Jersey. Lucky for us, Oak Knoll is open and providing us with the books we desire in these perfect reading days!  Even though I might not be in Delaware to assist Oak Knoll, I am so glad they have given me the opportunity to complete my internship from home.

Interning remotely can have its challenges, but in the end, the rewards are worth it. Even from home, I have been able to help out in engaging and fun tasks. I had the opportunity to proofread a manuscript for an upcoming publication. This was exciting for me, as it’s what I want to do one day. I also had the opportunity to contribute my own marketing ideas for the book. For our upcoming publication about Theodore Roosevelt, I assisted the Oak Knoll team in marketing research. It’s been really great to not only gain publishing experience, but marketing experience as well.

The greatest challenge, of course, is the distance in communication. Emails and phone calls are helpful, but nothing is the same as hands on learning and access to a mentor, someone with experience and knowledge. I miss being able to go to Oak Knoll in person, to see the multiple shelves of books, but in the end, working from home has given me a different kind of experience and lessons you can only get during this time. The circumstances may not be ideal or what I had imagined, but I am eternally grateful to Oak Knoll for this opportunity, and I will enjoy the remaining weeks I have to be a part of the team.

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Simon Loxley at Emery Walker’s House

March 3, 2020 Leave a comment

Simon Loxley, author of Emery Walker: Arts, Crafts, and a World in Motion (Oak Knoll Press, 2019), sent us the photo below. If you let your imagination wander, can you see a ghost in the corner of the staircase behind Simon?

“Arts and Crafts Hammersmith’s publicist Lucinda MacPherson took this picture of me in Emery Walker’s House a couple of weeks ago. Walker would have walked up and down that staircase many times…”

Simon is a graphic designer and a writer on design, typography and design history. He designed the Emery Walker’s House logo, and he designed and edited (2006-2016) Ultrabold, the Journal of St. Bride Library.

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Meet Our Spring Intern, Kiersten!

February 20, 2020 Leave a comment



Hi Everyone! My name is Kiersten Campbell and I am the newest intern to join the Oak Knoll Team! I am a current senior at the University of Delaware majoring in English with a minor in Advertising. During my time at UD I have had the opportunity to study a variety of literature topics, such as the depiction of women in literature ranging from Victorian women to Violent women, old British poems by John Donne, to even my favorite Harry Potter. I am from South Jersey, a small beach town called Ventnor City, where I love to spend my time with my family. When I am not powering through homework with my best friend and roommate, I enjoy watching romantic comedies, going out for a delicious bowl of pasta, and of course, Reading!

When considering my major in college and what I was going to do with my future, I always wished I could just read books for a living. Unfortunately, that job does not exist yet, so I went on to the next best thing, working with books! The publishing industry has been my goal since the start of college, so when I got an email from my school about an internship with Oak Knoll Books and Press, I knew it would be perfect for me. The moment I walked in and saw walls lined with shelves and shelves filled with books, I couldn’t imagine a better place to work. Add in the friendliest black lab and the rest of the Oak Knoll team, I fell in love. I am so excited to be working within these whimsical walls and to learn all about the publishing and book selling industry. I can’t wait to get started!

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A Short History of the Guild of Women-Binders

January 21, 2020 Leave a comment

Oak Knoll is proud to announce Special Catalogue 30: The Guild of Women-Binders!

Special Cat 30.COVER

Download a PDF of the catalogue HERE.

View all available titles from the catalogue HERE.


See below for a brief history of the Guild of Women-Binders…



The Guild of Women-Binders
“Finishing” (Tidcombe, 121)

During the latter half nineteenth century, the Arts and Crafts movement took flight in Britain as a reaction to industrialization and mass production. The movement was notably advanced by such luminaries as William Morris, T. J. Cobden-Sanderson (who coined the term), and Emery Walker, as well as authors such as Dante Gabriel Rossetti & John Ruskin, artist Edward Burne-Jones, and architect and designer Charles Rennie Macintosh. The focus on the decorative arts, independent of other attributes, became a trend that quickly spread to Europe, the Americas, and around the world, influencing everything from architecture and furniture to art, graphic design, and bookmaking. The Fine Press Revival begun by Morris would turn the book world on its head, and the resurgence of interest in the book as an object would begin, creating a need for artists & artisans.

Additionally, women during this time period were developing a foothold in industries where they had not before. Ainslie C. Waller states in her article from The Private Library (Autumn, Vol 6:3, 1983):

“The involvement of women in the Arts and Crafts movement has been divided by Anthea Callen, in her book on the subject, into four main categories: the working-class or peasant women who were organized and employed in the revival of traditional rural crafts; the aristocratic, upper- and middle-class women who were philanthropically engaged in the organization of rural craft revivals; destitute gentlewomen forced to make an independent livelihood from art-work; and the elite inner circle of educated middle-class women, often related by birth or marriage to the key male figures within the vanguard of the movement.”

Bookbinding, increasingly valued for its artistic contribution during this period, is one such craft that was becoming more open and available to women.  Numerous guilds, schools, and binderies began accepting women at an accelerated pace to help fulfill the role of the decorative binder. These organizations included The Guild of Handicrafts, St George’s Guild, the Royal School of Art Needlework, the Chiswick Art Workers’ Guild, and the Working Ladies Guild, to name a few. These organizations helped launch the lengthy and prosperous careers of some of the most successful and well-known female bookbinders of the time, such as Sarah Prideaux and Katharine Adams.

With bindings by women becoming both more numerous and more elegant, members of the Royal Court began to take notice. It was in 1897, for the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, that the Victorian Era Exhibition displayed multiple examples of bindings executed by women. The London bookseller Francis Karslake attended this exhibition and took interest in the bindings.



Frank Karslake (1851–1920) made his living through his passion for books and bookselling. He was an interesting figure, in that he started off as an apprentice for a notable London bookseller in his teens, married his wife, Martha McGregor, ventured out on his own for a few years, and then put bookselling on hold to migrate to California to start a fruit farm. It wasn’t until three years after that Karslake returned to London to take up bookselling again and to help found the Guild of Women-Binders.

The Guild was established in May of 1898 at 61, Charing Cross Road, in the same building as Karslake’s other bindery, The Hampstead Bindery. The bindery produced lavishly-bound books in the highest quality material for their clients and took on many different binders, such as Mrs. Annie S. MacDonald, Miss Marshall, Phoebe Traquair, Florence de Rheims, and Frank’s two daughters, Constance & Olive Karslake. In the early months and years of the Guild, women were required to be both designer and binder for a project. That production model eventually became more flexible, so that one person might design a binding for another to finish.

The Guild had four general rules for binders and the books bound in its name. Anstruther’s The Bindings of To-Morrow (1902) states:

“…first requirements in an embellished bookbinding is that it shall be satisfactory to the eyes…Next in order , although perhaps not in importance, may be set down fullness of material treatment. A book is– or ought to be – a thing of utility; an inviting , companionable, useful piece of property, to be handled and surveyed with pleasure…Thirdly, a binding should posses a character of its own, the individual volume or set being distinguished by special treatment from all its fellows…Lastly–and here a code for artistic ethics comes into operation–the design upon a book-cover, in order to qualify as a really efficient application of an idea, should be in correspondence with the nature of the book itself.”

Unfortunately, the Guild of Women-Binders lasted only six years, folding in 1904. This failure can most likely be attributed to Karslake’s requirement that the male staff, most likely from The Hampstead Bindery, work with the women, who were joining the Guild at an accelerated pace. While the standards for the bindings remained high, staff was stretched thin and less income was being generated.

Read more…

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Remembering Gayle Garlock

November 20, 2019 Leave a comment

On August 26, 2019, we lost Gayle Garlock, author of Canadian Binders’ Tickets and Booksellers’ Labels. In the course of that project several years ago, it became apparent that Gayle was increasingly unable to handle his end of the copy editing and revision process, and he was subsequently diagnosed with Lewy body dementia. He was, however, determined to see his study published, and we at Oak Knoll worked closely by telephone and email with Gayle and his wife Barbara to complete the book and see it through to publication in late 2015, to reviews that hailed it as “pioneering and truly impressive” (Papers of the Bibliographical Society of America).


Gayle was one of the first people with dementia to receive approval to die with medical assistance under Canadian Medical Assistance in Dying (MAID) legislation. A documentary about his case aired on CBC Radio on October 27, including the results of extensive interviews with Barbara and Dr. Stefanie Green, the head of the Canadian Association of MAID Assessors and Providers (CAMAP), who provided the medical assistance to Gayle. Gayle, Barbara, and Dr. Green agreed to the documentary because they wanted their story to reach those who might be helped by it, and so we include a link to the CBC page (click HERE) where a description and the broadcast itself can be found.

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The CODEX Foundation Symposium is available online!

October 23, 2019 Leave a comment
The CODEX Foundation symposium, The CODEX Effect and the Emergence of the “Third Stream” in the 21st Century, was held last weekend at the Grolier Club! The event focused on the influence of Peter Koch and the CODEX Foundation and the “Third Stream,” a new way of defining and thinking about the book as a work of art in today’s world. For a full description of the event, see the CODEX website here: https://www.codexfoundation.org/the-codex-effect, or watch the symposium online at the links below!
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Letterform Archive’s “Only on Saturday: The Wood Type Prints of Jack Stauffacher”

October 15, 2019 Leave a comment

Letterform Archive, a San Francisco-based non-profit center for preserving and sharing the history of the graphic arts, has just announced its third book Only on Saturday, “a stunning tribute to Jack Stauffacher, a letterpress printer, typographer, and designer whose elegant and innovative type treatments cemented his reputation as one of the best printers of the twentieth century.”

For more information and to back this project, see the Kickstarter here: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/letterformarchive/only-on-saturday-the-wood-type-prints-of-jack-stauffacher


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Meet Interns Grace and Charlotte!

September 18, 2019 Leave a comment


Grace Buck

Hi, Oak Knollers! My name is Grace Buck and I am a current sophomore at the University of Delaware. I am currently pursuing an English major with a minor in Advertising. I am from Chester Springs, Pennsylvania where I also work as a waitress when I am not away at school. I adore writing, reading, yoga, and traveling, and I am absolutely thrilled to be Oak Knoll’s newest team member this fall!

Originally, I had applied to UD as a biology major. This was a surprising decision, to both myself and everyone who knew me. Though I loved the natural world and loved learning about it, my endless passion for reading and writing made it an uncharacteristic choice. Quickly, however, I realized that while biology may be a subject I enjoy learning about, it was not the field where I would find the most happiness and fulfillment in my future career. I switched to English, made an entirely new schedule of classes, and began my freshman year. Having this experience working at Oak Knoll is only making me more certain that I am on the path that is best for me.

I cannot remember a time where books were not an influential part of life; my mom would read me and my siblings stories on end before bed, and when I was old enough I began reading anything and everything I could get my hands on. Growing up in a household filled with people and pets, I would hide away any chance I could and throw myself into a book. Though life has certainly gotten busier, I still pursue an avid love of reading, with my GoodReads account potentially being more active than my Instagram.

Because the English major can lead to a fairly broad field, I found myself (and still find myself) faced with the decision of where it will lead me and one milestone of this decision was finding Oak Knoll books. I was always incredibly interested in the book publishing field and the creation of books, but had very little knowledge of what it entailed, and very little idea how to learn. In the spring of last year, I decided to additionally purse an Advertising minor, as I thought obtaining a deeper knowledge of the business and marketing world would help me understand what it takes to make and sell a product, namely, books.

When I received an email from the English department asking for applications for an intern position at a book publishing company that specializes in books about books, I thought it could not be more perfect. I am so incredibly excited to learn all that I can from this experience and am so grateful that the staff has been so wonderfully welcoming! I can’t wait to get started!

Charlotte Brown

Hello all! My name is Charlotte Brown, and I am a current junior at the University of Delaware. I am currently majoring in English. During my time at UD, I have studied a broad range of literature and other topics, such as British and American literature, as well as literature in relation to gender, advertising, film and film history, and several creative writing classes. In addition to my position as intern at Oak Knoll, I work part-time in the UD library, helping to digitally preserve historical documents. When I am not studying or scanning old books, I enjoy reading, writing, hanging out with friends, and a myriad of other activities.

Despite not knowing what exactly I want to do as a full-time career, thanks to the English major’s broad range of options, I always knew I wanted to work with books in some capacity. Books have always been a major part of my life: I started reading children’s books at a very young age, but quickly grew bored and moved on to higher-level reading material. It used to be that I would read so much that my mother would have to ban me from doing so until I got some actual work done. Now, unfortunately, I don’t read as often as I used to. I hope that while at Oak Knoll, I will learn the inner workings of how a store is run and how books are created and published, but I also hope that being surrounded by so many physical books will re-inspire me to continue reading as I once did.

When I received an email from the English Department that asked for applications for an internship position at a bookstore/publisher, I knew immediately that I wanted this position. I can’t wait to learn as much as I can from this experience, and I am so happy that everyone has been so kind and welcoming! I can’t wait to get started!

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