Archive for April, 2011

“The book has somehow, and miraculously, made it through”

April 29, 2011 Leave a comment

For us here at Oak Knoll Books, there is a framed leaf that we must walk past to get to the kitchen that reads as follows:

The World of Books

Is the most remarkable creation of man

Nothing else that he builds ever lasts

Monuments fall

Nations perish

Civilizations grow old and die out

And after an era of darkness

New races build others

But in the world of books are volumes

That have seen this happen again and again

And yet live on

Still young

Still as fresh as the day they were written

Still telling men’s hearts

Of the hearts of men centuries dead

-Clarence Day

What Clarence Day meant by this saying was that no matter what, through all the hardships that have occurred through human history, the book has somehow, and miraculously, made it through. However, we are entering a world of Kindles, Nooks, and iPads that put a digital book in the palm of your hand. Now, with the flick of a finger, we can download and read Gone with the Wind or The Great Gatsby in its entirety. The headaches of having to cart around the entire collection of your favorite volumes through the ever-so-constricting lines of the airport security are now a thing of the past.

But where will the book be in the future with all of these technological advancements going on around it? Personally, I like a physical book in my hand, but I also like playing Angry Birds on my phone—not necessarily the same thing. After reading email after email and researching antiquarian titles for customers, at the end of the day, I really just want to close my eyes for a while (I wait until I’m done driving home!) and relax them.

As someone who works in my kitchen all of the time, I read through a lot of cookbooks (thank you Thomas Keller). As you know, paper and veal stock don’t react well to each other, especially when you want to reuse the cookbook again. However, I love the feeling of having little red dollops of marinara sauce on a page where there is a lasagna recipe, or green splotches over the chive oil recipe. It gives me that feeling of ‘yea, I’ve been there before’. I can savor the memory of making that recipe before which gives me the most satisfaction. It’s like the book is reading me instead of me reading it.

Try letting sauce and oils creep into the crevices of an eBook reader and watch how quickly you will have to get it repaired, or take it back to the store all together.


The “manual transmission” of reading

April 27, 2011 Leave a comment

The future of the book has been the subject of many stimulating conversations in the Williams household. As the publishing director for Oak Knoll Press, I am invested in the plight of the physical book. Not only do we publish high-quality printed books at Oak Knoll, but we publish on the history of the book, celebrating the book as an object valuable for its history and artistic qualities. In contrast, my husband Ian is a computer programmer who enjoys being a part of an industry working to make the world more digital and electronic. He argues that the printed book will be eventually replaced by a free and open pool of information available electronically.

Yet, both of us can see the other side to a certain extent. Neither of us owns a specialized e-reader, but we both have downloaded the Kindle app on our smartphones. While I still prefer reading a paperback to reading on my phone, I can’t argue with the convenience of always having a book with me (as I’m never far from my phone). The fact that so many of my favorite classics are available for free is a benefit that is hard to turn down. And Ian, while he argues that the information is the only important part and that the delivery mechanism is irrelevant, is surprisingly protective of his books and has been known to berate me for dog-earing the pages.

Ian likes to refer to printed media as “the manual transmission” of communication. Like an automatic transmission, the e-book has advantages in terms of convenience. And yet, automatic transmissions have been available for more than fifty years, and still a sizeable percentage of the population prefers to do the shifting themselves. I think that books are the same—readers will opt for the superior reading experience (the manual transmission) over the convenience (the automatic transmission). In fact, I think that true book lovers will be driven to an even greater appreciation for books as objects, as they start to notice things that they had taken for granted, such as high-quality materials and typography.

So I see a future where e-books and traditional books co-exist comfortably, side-by-side. The advantages of an e-book will make it the convenient choice in many circumstances, but it will not soon replace the tactile experience and the pride of ownership that a physical book elicits.


A book worth $23,698,655.93?

April 25, 2011 Leave a comment

Can you believe a book about flies was listed on for $23,698,655.93?

Check out this blog article that tells the story of Michael Eisen, a biologist at UC Berkeley, who followed the price of a book called The Making of Flies on Michael discovered Amazon was selling 15 used copies of the book for $35.54 and 2 new copies for $1,730,045.91 (+$3.99 shipping). The book price eventually topped out at $23,698,655.93.

So what caused two companies to list the the book at such an inaccurate, high price? Read Michael’s blog to get the full story and see the statistics he has on the price changes.

This is just another reason why Oak Knoll thought repricing all of our books by hand was the best way to go!

The book isn’t dying; it’s digitizing

April 21, 2011 Leave a comment

Print runs are shrinking and unit costs are growing, we’re told. Texts are now tweets, and looking over your shoulder no longer reveals the identities of those “following” you.

Throughout this technological transition, the publishing process remains the same: write, read, revise, design, discuss, repeat. Good writing remains a universal driver of productivity. Yet, I can’t help but find today’s intermediary industry fascinating.

True, I’ll always dote upon my overstuffed bookshelves much like Gollum does upon his “Precious.” And I will forever prefer thumbing through a dog-eared copy of my favorite novel over scanning its text on a pixilated computer screen. But the web’s unprecedented scope takes the publishing industry to an entirely new level.

Technology enhances product discoverability and expands existing audiences. It also preserves texts subject to deterioration and permits cheesy romance novel enthusiasts to read on in public unscathed. Books (and their evil e-book offspring) are both made to inform, inspire, record and admire. The insurgent e-book, though guilty of providing an inferior reader experience, can’t be blamed if the book industry suddenly suffers an onset of organ failure. Not yet, at least.

Book purists, fear not: the book industry is alive and kicking and will be for many generations to come.

To sum up, in 140 characters or less, the book isn’t dying; it’s digitizing. Gradually.


Click. Delete. The book is dead.

April 19, 2011 Leave a comment

Bob recently gave a presentation at The Grolier Club titled, “Good News! The Book is Dead.” While this title sounds dreary, his speech presented a very positive outlook on the future of books. With this topic being on our minds here at Oak Knoll, we began sharing our thoughts of how we think books will change in the future. Read to see what Cara, an Oak Knoll intern from the University of Delaware thinks about the future of the book.

Click. Delete. The book is dead. One key stroke is all it takes to erase an entire industry and culture. Or is it? Can the book ever truly be stripped from our hands and replaced with fluorescent screens? Are we forever finished flipping the page and instead content with scrolling down? As a 21 year old student, a girl caught between my childhood of renting dusty library books and my present life of MP3 players and GPS cell phones, I don’t think we are quite ready to close that chapter.

I’ve heard the stories, read the articles, and watched the news. I know all about what people are saying. However, I’ve also talked to students, the main advertising market for those oh-so-fabulous e-books, portable Kindles, and iPads. Although every kid likes a new toy, they do grow tired of its plastic exterior and over-processed quality. They eventually always return to their old favorite friend, that tattered stuffed animal or beaten-up doll. So it is with e-books and actual books. Yes, we are fascinated with these new gadgets, but I know that we will return to what is familiar and friendly.

This does not mean that things aren’t changing, because they are. Publishers will have to discover new ways to keep current by marketing themselves with the ever-moving electronic age. However, I know that there are still people out there, myself included, that will always prefer the hard copy to the digital page.


The journey behind publishing Line, Shade and Shadow

April 14, 2011 Leave a comment

We recently announced that Line, Shade and Shadow: The Fabrication and Preservation of Architectural Drawings by Lois Price won the 2011 Historic Preservation Book Prize. It was chosen as the most significant contribution to the intellectual vitality of historic preservation in America. A book of this excellence takes years of research and work. Read about Lois Price and her journey in creating such a fascinating work.

This book began with a search for information that was not there. As a paper conservator working at a busy regional conservation center, the Conservation Center for Art and Historic Artifacts (CCAHA) in Philadelphia, I never knew what kind of material would appear on my roster of treatments, and it was impossible to ignore the increasing number of architectural drawings and blueprints that entered the lab in the late 1980s. The wonderful images, unfamiliar materials, and mysterious reprographic processes piqued my curiosity. They reawakened a somewhat dormant interest in architecture that began in my undergraduate days during a course in American art, continuing through my senior honors thesis on American architecture and even into a few additional graduate courses. Interest renewed, I began a largely unsuccessful search of secondary sources looking for information about materials and techniques. Collection curators had some answers but not in the depth and detail I needed. Architects were distinctly uninterested in discussing the craft of creating their drawings, though I learned a lot about design theories, competitions, and the big one that got away. And so, the odyssey through original source material— drawings, trade catalogs, builders and drafters manuals, and technical treatises on the manufacture of specialty materials, began.

Fast forward a decade and a half through many libraries, a job change, several research grants to a manuscript, and a list of possible illustrations, and enter Oak Knoll Press in the person of John Von Hoelle. He had much encouragement and a commitment for publication. Little did I know that another odyssey was just beginning. With Oak Knoll’s encouragement, the list of possible illustrations grew to over 350, including images that illustrated every facet of the text. Securing them and writing the captions was a huge and time consuming challenge that took almost five years, but thanks to the wonders of digital photography and the generosity of several institutions, particularly the Athenaeum of Philadelphia and the Winterthur Museum, Garden & Library, everything finally came together. If you can call a motley collection of black and white prints, color transparencies, 35mm slides, and a large stack of CDs, together.

When my manuscript was finally ready for editing, Laura Williams took on the task, and began making sense of the daunting stack of images. She patiently saw the manuscript through two rounds of copy editing and finally typesetting and design. That first look at the text in print and the stunning design will remain a memorable moment. Next, we traversed several rounds of galley proofs as I fretted about typos, color accuracy, and image resolution. The best part of the editing and publication process, of course, was the need to visit Oak Knoll in New Castle on a regular basis and peruse the bookshelves. I occasionally brought my students and we never left empty handed.

I still see the transformation of my initial vision of what we needed to know about architectural drawings to a beautifully printed book as rather miraculous. Oak Knoll is a small press and things do take time, but there is a real commitment to working with the author and getting it right. For that I am extremely grateful.

We want to congratulate Lois Price again on winning the 2011 Historic Preservation Book Prize. We are excited to see all of her hard work pay off!

Click here for more information on Line, Shade and Shadow.

Bob follows up on his Grolier Club presentation

April 13, 2011 1 comment

Remember that talk I was going to give at the Grolier Club as part of a panel discussion on collecting books in the digital age? My title and first picture declared “Good News! The Book is Dead.” After shocking the audience into silence with the title, I proceeded to explain why books as three-dimensional physical objects have a life unto themselves and why libraries have a responsibility to preserve and conserve them. The three talks and the panel discussion were filmed, and we shall give you a link to it when it becomes available. Rob Fleck, who was in the audience, was told there is a life for booksellers in the 21st century and believed it!


Line, Shade and Shadow wins the 2011 Historic Preservation Book Prize!

April 12, 2011 Leave a comment

We are excited to announce that Line, Shade and Shadow: The Fabrication and Preservation of Architectural Drawings by Lois Olcott Price has won the 2011 Historic Preservation Book Prize awarded by The University of Mary Washington Center for Historic Preservation.

Exploring the materials and techniques used in the fabrication of architectural drawings while illustrating their evolution from the eighteenth through the twentieth century, Line, Shade and Shadow is detailed, descriptive, beautifully illustrated, and has been deemed the most significant contribution to the intellectual vitality of historic preservation in America.

As winner of this award, Ms. Price will receive $500 from the Center for Historic Preservation. We congratulate Ms. Price on this fine accomplishment!

Click here to read more about the award and click here for more information on Line, Shade and Shadow.

An excerpt from Rudyard Kipling, A Bibliography

April 7, 2011 Leave a comment

Rudyard Kipling, A Bibliography by Dave Richards doesn’t just include the basic details of each of Kipling’s books. Instead, it provides extensive and specific notes on each of the listings, letting the reader get a true understanding of every book. Take a look at this excerpt from Rudyard Kipling, A Bibliography that contains Richard’s notes on two of Kipling’s titles.


Notes: Of the seven stories and seven poems comprising The Jungle Book, only the stories had previously appeared in periodicals (in 1893 and 1894), and when collected here, each story had an additional verse heading appended.  (All of the poems and all of the verse chapter headings were to be collected in Songs from Books [London, 1913, A265].)  Macmillan continued to publish all subsequent English editions, including the Uniform edition of 1899 and the Library edition of 1950. The imprint changed during the print run of the First English Edition: in the first copies, the printer is ‘R. & R. Clark’, whereas in later printings it is ‘R. & R. Clark Ltd.’, reflecting the English law that whenever a firm becomes limited in liability, it must indicate the change wherever it prints its name. In some copies the blank leaf before the fore-title is lacking. Eight of the illustrations are by the author’s father John Lockwood Kipling. The manuscripts of The Jungle Book and The Second Jungle Book, including all of the stories and some of the poems in those books, were presented to the British Library by Caroline Kipling in 1940.

The English edition differs from the simultaneously published American edition [A77] in several respects. There is no list of illustrations in the London edition, and the final story is entitled ‘The Servants of the Queen’ (appearing as ‘Her Majesty’s Servants’ in the New York edition). The jungle animals’ names vary: in the English edition, the kite is ‘Chil’, in the American, ‘Rann’; in the English, the porcupine is ‘Sahi’, in the American, ‘Ikki’; the peacock is ‘Mor’ in the English, and ‘Moa’ in the American. The American edition of  ‘“Tiger-Tiger”’ [A77] has seven lines of text (beginning in the third line on p. 128) which are not found in the English edition. Conversely, the English edition contains just over eight lines (beginning with the fourth line on p. 72) which are not found in the American book’s text of this story.

Published on 22 May 1894, The Jungle Book was reprinted twice in 1894 (June and August), twice in 1895, and once each in 1896, 1897, 1898, and 1899. The Preface, omitted in the ‘fifteenth thousand’ issue in 1894, was restored in 1899 in the Uniform edition (red cloth with the Ganesha device on the front cover). In that edition the text was revised, and the revised text was thereupon used for volumes bound in the original 1894 format as well as for volumes in the Uniform edition style.  Omitted from these printings were the frontispiece, the fore-title, and the end leaf of advertisements, while the title of the last story was changed to conform to the American title ‘Her Majesty’s Servants’ and its illustrations were omitted. The Jungle Book was reprinted in the Uniform edition in 1900-03, 1905, 1906, 1908, 1910, 1911, 1913, 1915, 1917, 1918, 1920, 1922, 1924, 1929, 1932, 1937, 1943-44, and 1947; the types were reset for the Library edition in 1950 [D26]. In 1934, Mrs. Rudyard Kipling loaned for display at the Second Sunday Times’ Book Exhibition twenty foreign language editions of The Jungle Books, in French, German, Italian, Spanish, Swedish, Danish, Dutch, Russian, Polish, Czech, Serbian, and Slovak.

Ballard writes that this was the first of Kipling’s books to be issued with a dustjacket, and he owned one with a wrapper of “plain paraffine paper” [B98, p. 113 and Ballard 1942 107].  The question is not free from doubt: in Livingston’s extensive correspondence with Kipling’s literary agent A. S. Watt on this point (now at Houghton Harvard), publisher (later Prime Minister) Harold Macmillan is quoted as saying that his firm had no records of a dustjacket, although one employee claimed to remember one (Watt to Livingston, 20 July 1937); Percy Hodder Williams of Hodder & Stoughton, on the other hand, advised Watt that “publishers never used a jacket in the days of the first ‘Jungle Book’” and that instead the books came in “packed between ‘binders’ boards’, just as they were pressed after leaving the binders’ hands” (Watt to Livingston, 31 July 1937).  However, the copy of Dickens bibliographer John Eckel [Eckel 1935 256, NYPL Berg] has an “original glazed tissue dustjacket” (presumably like the Ballard copy’s), with Eckel’s personal note attesting to his belief in its authenticity, and saying that he had seen a second copy with the same wrapper; the Marsden Perry copy [Perry 1936 307] was similarly jacketed, so while these are the only three copies on record with such dustjackets, it seems probable that Macmillan indeed employed them to protect the elaborate gilt ornamentation on the spine and front board of the First English Edition. In and after 1895 a pictorial dustjacket was employed bearing illustrations from the book, to complement the similar bluish gray paper dustjacket lettered and illustrated in dark blue used for The Second Jungle Book published that same year.


Notes: Robert Baden-Powell, founder of the Boy Scouts, had invited Kipling to the ‘Posse of Welcome’ of Cub Scouts staged to greet the Prince of Wales on his return from a world tour on 7 October 1922, and by June 1923 the author was reviewing his scrapbook for material that might be suitable for a book of stories for Scouts. Whether Kipling’s appointment that year as Scout Commissioner (noted on the title-page) inspired him to compile the book, or advance news of his book induced Baden-Powell to make the appointment, cannot at present be guessed, according to Hugh Brogan’s Mowgli’s Sons: Kipling and Baden-Powell’s Scouts [1987, Bl113], p. 53. Appearing in good time for the Christmas trade, the book was priced at 4s, deliberately low to allow wide circulation among (boy) Scouts and (girl) Guides.

The eleven stories and eight poems comprising this collection were composed between 1898 and 1923. One story (‘His Gift ’) and seven poems are published here for the very first time, and the other poem (‘The Nurses’) and four of the stories (‘The Way That He Took’, ‘A Flight of Fact’, ‘A Parable of Boy Jones’, and ‘“Stalky”’) had previously appeared only in periodicals; the author also provides a linking commentary in the form of prefatory paragraphs before seven of the stories, to bring out their special significance for scouting and its principles. The remaining six stories had already appeared in book form, although for this edition he revised the 1897 article ‘Winning the Victoria Cross’, to bring it up to date, and this is the first entire reprinting of ‘An English School’, which had appeared in Youth’s Companion for 18 October 1893 and previously been collected in shortened form in The Boyhood of Famous Authors [1897, B21]. (‘“Stalky”’, written in 1898, was omitted from Stalky & Co. [1899, A144], but was to be included in The Complete Stalky & Co. [1929, A381]). This title appeared in Macmillan’s Uniform Edition in 1925 with twelve full-page illustrations by H. R. Millar (Stewart 507), and in a simultaneously published Pocket Edition. Volume XVI of the Sussex Edition, entitled Land and Sea Tales and Thy Servant a Dog, included for the first time in book form in England the story ‘A Tabu Tale’, a Just So Story which had appeared originally in the September 1903 Windsor Magazine, and had been previously collected in the United States in Volume XX of the Outward Bound edition [1903, A189].

A copy is known with a tipped-in letter dated 15 November 1923 from publisher Harold Macmillan (later Great Britain’s Prime Minister) to printer Edward Clark of R. & R. Clark, Limited, declaring that the “production of this book must be almost a record”, and noting that he had written on the flyleaf of the enclosed copy “the remarkable history of its manufacture.” Those notes comprising the presentation inscription read:  “[‘Copy’ sent to printer Oct 22nd | Early copies sent off  by printer Oct 30th | Final sheets (35,000) sent off  by printer Nov 7th.] | Edward Clark. | Nov. 1923. | from the grateful publishers.” (The Macmillan Archive in the British Library states that 35,500 copies were printed.) The Grolier Catalogue entry for this book says that the official publication date was 23 November, but that copies were actually sold on November 7; the evidence of Macmillan’s notes makes that unlikely, but on the same evidence bound copies were clearly available on 15 November. The book was reprinted twice in November 1923 (42,000 copies) and twice again in December (42,500 copies).

Click here for more information on Rudyard Kipling, A Bibliography.

April’s Exhibition of Association Copies from Oak Knoll Books

April 6, 2011 Leave a comment

April’s exhibition at the Bookshop in Old New Castle features association copies from Oak Knoll Books.

Association copies are truly unique books because they have been signed and/or presented by the author, editor, or someone closely related. The books on display cover a broad range of topics including bookbinding, poetry, bibliography, libraries, publishing, and others. Some of the books are inscribed to bibliophiles Henry Stevens and Frank Altshul, while others contain presentations with letters and presentations written by the editor. Stop by the bookshop to see the rare inscriptions on these books. All books are available for purchase. Click here to see the complete list of exhibition books.