Twelve days: how long one must stay in California to do both the Pasadena Antiquarian Book, Print, Photo, and Paper Fair & the California International Antiquarian Book Fair. Doing the whole thing by yourself: priceless.
That’s right, boys and girls. I did the whole thing by myself. This was the first time I had done double fairs without my Dad and I was nervous going into the trip. However, I did take some comfort in knowing I would be getting out of the Delaware cold and into the lovely California weather.
This year the shadow fair was in Pasadena and as was the case last year, it was held on Super Bowl weekend. Needless to say, while there were crowds on Saturday, Sunday was another story… Miniature books were popular, which is usually the case when we do fairs in California. This year, our Marketing Director, Bailey Kung, supplied me with 20 of her favorite miniature books and they sold extremely well. The group was made up of a variety of different presses and designers, featuring books such as The Devil’s Printer (Tarantula Press) and Voyager (Tabula Rasa Press), which was particularly interesting due to its holographic cover.
After the Pasadena fair, I needed to transport the books from the Los Angeles area to the Bay Area. Luckily, after taking advantage of a free upgrade at the local Avis, I was able to rent a Chevrolet Traverse which had more than enough space for the boxes and trunks.
I had planned several stops along the way to break up the driving time. The first was in lovely Laguna Beach, where I looked at an interesting collection comprised of pre-WWII Japanese related material. While most of the material was books, there were also some examples of feudal-age metallurgy and numismatics. After stopping at few other towns, including Yountville, the home of the famous French Laundry (owned and operated by Thomas Keller), I finally made it to this year’s home of the California Book Fair: Oakland.
While skeptics were wary of a new location for the book fair (just like some were wary of Pasadena in 2012), the location was central, easily accessible from the BART, and in an area with an abundance of shopping and eateries. But the real test would be how well the committee marketed the fair. Judging from the number of people coming through, I’d say they did a great job. Friday had your typical range of high profile buyers as well as novice collectors, but Saturday and Sunday had bigger crowds than I’ve ever seen at an ABAA fair before. I also had some collectors that requested tickets to the show come up and introduce themselves to me over the course of the weekend. The aisles were constantly filled with attendees talking and walking, discussing with a smile the book that they had just bought, or listening to a dealer recount the provenance of one treasure or another.
As for me, my proudest experience was sending a copy of Marbled Papers by Karli Frigge home with a customer who was an avid collector of her work. Additionally, our publishing assistant, James McKinstry, did a wonderful job of selecting hot sellers from our publishing/distribution inventory. I sold every copy he packed of the latest Grolier Club exhibition catalogue, One Hundred Books Famous in Children’s Literature.
Overall, conducting two book fairs as a one man show is tiresome – try holding a conversation and writing up invoices at the same time, all day, for three days! But as the Oakland fair was winding down on Sunday night, I felt like I was completing a ritual; a “rite of passage,” if you will. Even though the trip was stressful at times, by gosh was it worth it!
Oak Knoll is headed to California for the Pasadena Antiquarian Book, Print, Photo and Paper Fair (January 31-February 1) and the California International Antiquarian Book Fair (February 6-8 in Oakland). We have some discount tickets to give away for both fairs; see the end of this post for details.
The Oakland fair kicks off Rare Book Week West, an impressive array of special events dedicated to rare and finely-printed books. See the RBWW website for full details on the book fairs, auctions, presentations, and exhibitions. Although we won’t be attending, we recommend the CODEX Fair and Symposium (February 8-11), which showcases 100 fine press printers, book artists, and fine art publishers from all over the world, including many of our Oak Knoll Fest participants.
We’ve packed our trunks with all manner of books about books–papermaking, bookbinding, calligraphy, typography, printing history, book collecting– a number of finely printed private press books, a little mountain of miniature books, and a selection of new and bestselling titles from Oak Knoll Press. Plus, we’re excited to debut some wonderful books that we recently acquired from the collection of Michael Peich, professor emeritus at West Chester University and proprietor of the Aralia Press.
Peich is responsible for making West Chester a hub for poetry: he co-founded university’s annual Poetry Conference in 1995, was instrumental in the establishment of the Poetry Center in 2004, and helped secure a permanent endowment to support future poetry-related activities at West Chester. His Aralia Press, founded in 1983, and located in WCU’s F.H. Green Library, provided an opportunity to publish contemporary poetry, while teaching students the craft of fine printing.
Peich’s collection is full of lovely private press material from the 1970s to 2000, including presentation copies, a number of publications from the Toothpaste Press (predecessor of the Coffee House Press), and work from the San Francisco Renaissance poet William Everson (aka Brother Antonius), a conscientious objector and a fine press printer in his own right.
Click the images below to see what we’ll have at the fairs:
Book Fair Details
Pasadena Antiquarian Book, Print, Photo, and Paper Fair
January 31-February 1, 2015
Pasadena Convention Center
We have a limited number of complimentary and discount tickets, available on a first-come, first-served basis. E-mail [rob (at) oakknoll.com] to claim one.
California International Antiquarian Book Fair
February 6-8, 2015
Oakland Marriott City Center
We have a limited number of complimentary tickets, available on a first-come, first-served basis. E-mail [rob (at) oakknoll.com] to claim one.
Academically, it gives a birds-eye view of where family law came from and how it developed to the point in its tradition as we know it today.
To Put Asunder is a “must read” for every practitioner who does not merely copy forms, but who practices law “to make a difference”—for clients as well as for self.
-Willard DaSilva, Family Advocate magazine*
Oak Knoll is pleased to announce that, in cooperation with the author Lawrence Stotter, we have significantly reduced the price of his legal history book To Put Asunder: The Laws of Matrimonial Strife (2011), from $150 to $95. We think you’ll find this a great deal for what one reviewer** called “a love letter to rare books and the history of family law publishing throughout history.”
To Put Asunder is a joy to behold: numerous full color illustrations, wide margins, and colored text are housed in an expertly-made binding, complete with ribbon bookmark. A recent review in Family Advocate magazine* declared, “From a visual perspective the book is a masterpiece,” and an earlier write-up on the AALL Spectrum blog** called it “one of the most visually appealing books I have ever read.”
In 2011, The New York Book Festival awarded To Put Asunder second place in its History division, a highly diverse, nationally competitive pool.
According to Stotter, To Put Asunder may well be the very first comprehensive Anglo-American literary history book written on family law in the twentieth century, or ever. It is the only book in print which provides an early history of family law publishing in both England and the United States prior to 1900, and it contains the first and only current bibliography on the subject since A Study of English Domestic Relations of Matrimony and Family Life, 1487-1653 (Chilton Latham Powell, 1917) and American Family Law and American Family History: A Bibliography (Institute for Legal Studies, 1984).
Family law has been overlooked academically – historically designated as “church law” rather than traditional common law, and therefore books such as Stotter discusses here are quite rare. The titles pictured on the dust jacket are, with the rare exception of a few antiquarian collectors and dealers, a reflection of books almost totally unknown to lawyers in general, and cannot be currently found in either public or traditional law libraries. These 16th and 17th century books, along with copies of nearly every English-language treatise on the subject published over four centuries, now reside in the Lawrence H. Stotter Collection at the Mortiz College of Law, Ohio State University.
In addition to bringing these rare books to light, Stotter draws attention to two little-known contributors to the field of family law, each of whom receives a chapter in the book. Henry Swinburne (England, 1551-1624) bridged the gap between ecclesiastical laws and English civil laws by writing in English rather than in the traditional Latin. Tapping Reeve (United States, 1744-1823)—whom Stotter considers the Father of American Law—established the first true law school in America, laying the foundation for legal structures in the United States and training many colonial lawmakers and justices.
It makes a great addition to any academic library with an emphasis on the history of law or to any library with a strong collection of family law material.
– Lance Burke, AALL Spectrum blog**
Head over to our website to learn more about To Put Asunder, read an excerpt, and see the table of contents.
* Willard DaSilva, editor emeritus of Family Advocate magazine, a publication of the American Bar Association. Review in Family Advocate. Summer 2014 (Vol. 37, No. 1).
** Lance Burke, reference/access services librarian, Elon School of Law. Review on AALL (American Association of Law Libraries) Spectrum blog. Nov. 2011
Who ever thought that books that can’t exceed 3 inches in any direction could become such a huge success! What was to be a three day visit to Boston to learn about miniature books turned into an adventure that provided me with an excellent opportunity to meet avid collectors, printers, and booksellers that revolves around the saying “yes, a book can be too big!”
The Miniature Book Society was founded in 1983 and has had a conclave every year to help bring face to face interaction between its members. Obviously some conclaves are harder to get to than others (for example last year’s conclave in Vancouver was attended by 40 members) while others, like this year’s conclave in Boston, MA was one of the most attended in recent history (over 80 members). I take great pride in being one of those 80 attendees that was able to make it.
The first day was a meet and greet over a lovely dinner where we took over half of 75 Chestnut, a restaurant whose owner owns Cheers of TV fame.
The next day was registration and a nice reception hosted by Ann and David Bromer at Bromer Booksellers (you too Phil and Shannon!).
After the registration was a silent auction, which I won a lovely miniature book which was printed accordion style, and an exquisite buffet dinner. After the dinner, I won the award for being the most recent newlywed in attendance and won Miriam Mouse’s Marriage Contract, which is a lovely miniature book by Miriam Irwin. She even signed it for me!
Saturday was a day filled with meetings, talks, presentations, dinner with booksellers and collectors, and tours, all while ending with a live auction.
The tour of the Boston Athenaeum was particularly interesting because we got a top-to-bottom walkthrough of the Athenaeum (which houses 1/3 of George Washington’s original library).
The last day of the fair was more work than play (but isn’t playing all we do in bookselling?!?) because it was the bookfair.
Let me tell you, doing a bookfair for miniature books is a dream come true for booksellers because it means you only need to bring a carryon and all of your books with you on a plane.
Can’t wait for the conclave next year in Amsterdam!
A travel report from Rob:
My first visit to the Windy City couldn’t have been more enjoyable, although it only lasted a couple days. My first library visit was with Paul Gehl at the Newberry Library. They had a lovely exhibition (titled Plainly Spoken) organized by the Midwest Guild of Bookworkers, which showed 17 different bindings of sections of Julia Miller’s incredibly detailed bookbinding handbook Books Will Speak Plain. You can check out the online description here.
While visiting with Paul, I brought our copy of the 1824 edition of Peter Cottom’s Whole Art of Book-Binding. By total coincidence, a previous owner wrote on the front pastedown, in pencil, “Newberry Lib has 1811 English first”. This prompted us to do some searching and eventually we got to look at the first known manual of bookbinding in person. Needless to say, I was pretty excited.
The second stop was in Chicago’s South Side where I would meet with Alice Schreyer and Daniel Meyer of the University of Chicago. What followed was one of the most detailed library tours I have ever taken. The U of C library does not use off-site storage, quite the challenge for a collection of over 10 million volumes. So the library constructed an underground storage area in the Joe and Rika Mansueto Library, which houses a very advanced automated retrieval system complete with robotic cranes. This monster project took three years from 2008 – 2011, with the final volume being added in 2013.
The trip wouldn’t be complete without food! I went to the James Beard award-winning restaurant Blackbird (twice!), Buddy Guy’s Legends, and sampled a good ol’ fashioned Chicago deep dish pizza.
One of our nicest customers, Marcia Preston, called me in the spring of last year and invited me to give the 2014 Ron Ravneberg Lecture to the Aldus Society of Columbus, Ohio. This very active group of book lovers founded their Society in 2000 and it has grown to a very significant size. As with any trip, I planned several stops along the way. My wife, Millie, and I left on a Wednesday morning and kept to my strict personal guideline of never driving more than five hours in a day. That placed us in Washington, Pennsylvania early Wednesday afternoon and gave us time to tour the LeMoyne House and learn about its history and role in the Underground Railroad.
The next morning, under threat of snow, we were off to Columbus to meet Ed Hoffman, an ABAA dealer in Columbus and President of the Aldus Society. Ed took us to lunch in the historic district of Columbus, gave us a tour of the town, bought us ice cream at Jeni’s Ice Cream (which was unknown to us Easterners), and then took us to the home of the collector who had asked me to speak. We spent a delightful few hours looking at books and then returned to the hotel to rest up for the night’s speech. Here I am waxing lyrically about Oak Knoll.
The crowd of 60 folks seemed to find it all entertaining, but maybe that had something to do with the many wine bottles available for one and all before the speech began!
The first stop on our way back was Erie, Pennsylvania (remember my five hour rule!) on the way to Buffalo, New York to see a collection of books. The snow storm on Thursday night did not stand in our way as these northern folks know how to clean up quickly. We saw the collection at Ron Cozzi’s Old Editions Bookshop & Gallery, a bookstore with lots of books to view and well worth a trip to visit.
While in Buffalo, I also got to visit my high school for the first time in almost 50 years. Good old Amherst High stands solid as a rock.
Next stop: Ithaca, New York, where yes, it snowed again, but not enough to keep us from finding the delightful hotel La Tourelle where we sampled Finger Lake wines with the owner and author Wally Wiggins and his son. Wally even gave Millie one of the books he had authored and added an inscription, which made her blush.
The last stop was the result of a spur-of-the-moment thought that it would be really nice to see Henry and Pearl Morris (Bird & Bull Press). We called them up and arranged for a lunch in Newton, Pennsylvania the next day. Henry recently sold us his collection of books as they had moved into a retirement community. Two months of retirement living was enough to convince them to move back into their old home on Jericho Mountain. This was unexpected news to us, but pretty logical if you know Henry and Pearl. We reminisced about old times and I told him that he appeared four times in my presentation to the Aldus Society! Here is one picture showing us together during the APHA award ceremony in 2008 where Henry and I each got an award.
Finally we returned to Delaware where we discovered the most snow on the ground of any of the places we had visited.
My first look at the famed Kelmscott/Goudy press owned by J. Ben Lieberman was in March of 1997 when I was invited by his son, Jethro, to buy many of the books in Ben’s library. There it was, standing in all his historic beauty, in a separate room. I knew all about this legendary press from Neil Shaver (Yellow Barn Press)’s The Liberty Bell on the Kelmscott Goudy Press, authored by Ben in 1996. I bought all the books along with the 20-some four drawer file cabinets that contained his detailed correspondence with fellow printers and his extensive files on all aspects of printing history and modern technology. The file cabinets went en masse to the University of Delaware who have organized them for interested scholars. The press was not for sale.
Now fast forward to March 2013 when I got an email from Jethro asking me if I would be interested in purchasing the remaining books that they had kept out from the 1997 sale. Rob and I went to New York and went through the books in detail and bought them (see the collection on our website). These were the books that had been kept out of the first group as they had more sentimental value to the family. And there standing beside the bookcases during our entire visit was the famous Kelmscott/Goudy press that I had seen 16 years earlier. When Jethro told me that he was retiring and wanted to move, I asked him what was going to happen to the press. It was to be sold! I lusted for the opportunity to be part of the sale of that press and told him that I thought it would bring a hefty price because of all the sentimental value attached to it. It was not to be. Jethro decided to let Christie’s handle the sale and they did a great PR job.
Standing this week in the atrium of Christie’s Rockefeller Center gallery, the press — a thing of dark, Dickensian iron musculature — looked like a rough guest who had shown up for tea. The great platen, with its clawlike flanges, was suspended at rest. But a glance at the pistons above made clear how much force that platen could exert on the paper and printing plate below.
-from the New York Times article that ran the day before auction
The press has just sold for $233,000, a spectacular amount, but then how can you determine a value for such an emotionally stimulating piece of antiquity? And I got to touch it!
Here’s the listing on the Christie’s website. The press’s new home will be at the Cary Graphic Arts Collection at RIT, where curator Steven Galbraith promises it “will have an active life… not simply as a museum artifact, but as a working press accessible to students, scholars and printers.” Read RIT’s press release about the acquisition.