Archive for May, 2011

Highly Reviewed

May 31, 2011 Leave a comment

Oak Knoll regularly sends out copies of our new publications to be reviewed. Check out these short excerpts from a few of of the recent reviews that have been published.

A Catalogue of the Junius Spencer Morgan Collection of Virgil by Craig Kallendorf

“Bibliographers and bibliophiles alike may fairly rejoice in this product of ten years’ work: Kallendorf has provided an expansive and illuminating account, replete with illustrations and indexes, of more than 700 printed editions and translations (evidenced by some 900 copies) of the great Mantuan bard, ranging from the mid-fifteenth to the twenty-first centuries. The book itself is a tall and stately folio, printed on fine paper and accurately set by Michael Höhne, with rubricated headings throughout, not unlike many of the works it describes. There are 49 high-quality plates, including fifteenth-century illuminations, woodcut illustrations, fine bindings and title-pages bearing the signatures of the great classical scholars Daniel Heinsius (p.4) and Peiter Burman the Younger (p.141). Kalendorf is to be commended for this stimulating and eminently readable survey.” —D.J. Butterfield, The Book Collector 

Bookbinding & Conservation: A Sixty-Year Odyssey of Art and Craft by Don Etherington

“This slim, attractive volume packs a lot of information. Don has laid out the arc of his life to date, filling in the early formative years during and immediately following World War II and his apprenticeship in the 1950s London. More than an enjoyable read, this volume illuminates the training and development of not just one binder, but of a generation of British binders and conservators who heavily influenced the development of the library conservation field in the United States.” —Roberta Pilette, Libraries & the Cultural Record

Illustrated Periodicals of the 1860s: Contexts & Collaborations by Simon Cooke

“This handsomely printed and profusely illustrated book provides insight into the complex processes involved in illustrating British periodicals of “The Sixties”—that is, the period roughly from 1855 to the mid-1870s. In explaining these complex relationships, Cooke provides insights that will be valuable to the fields of librarianship, print history, and literary criticism. A surprising number of libraries in the United States have solid holdings of some of the magazines discussed in this book. The author’s ideas should aid scholars who study the magazines to understand their illustrations in new ways—not the least of which is the manner in which some of the illustrations enhanced the quality of the literary works in which they appeared. Cooke’s solid scholarship, which is based on many years of collecting and studying nineteenth-century British periodicals, artists’ drawings and proofs, plates, original correspondence and business records, published memoirs, and an extensive number of secondary sources, builds on his related articles, which have appeared in Brontë Studies, Thomas Hardy Journal, Victorians Institute Journal, and Victorian Periodicals Review.” —Maurice C. York, College & Research Libraries

The Last of the Great Swashbucklers: A Bio-Bibliography of Rafael Sabatini by Jesse F. Knight and Stephen Darley

“Rafael Sabatini’s many admirers will be glad to know that the bio-bibliography by the late Jesse F. Knight and Stephen Darley now exists, in a handsome hardcover form. The bibliography is meticulous in its details for the first English and first American editions, as well as later editions of some interest, such as Grosset & Dunlap’s photoplay editions. Dust jackets are illustrated when specimens were found, and I must shout my praise to the rooftops for Darley’s detailed descriptions of those jackets he had to hand. The main entries are very clear and detailed, and everything that anyone would hope for. But this book provided me with an enormous flash of inspiration. Every now and then Darley refers to copies out there in cyberspace, and from time to time refers to a title’s rarity. While preparing my own bibliography, Voyages in Space, I too from time to time referred to a book’s rarity. When I read Darley’s words, I thought to myself—why not conduct a kind of census for each title in my book by looking for copies on a meta-search engine such as AddAll. I’ve now started to do that— and what an enourmous help (as well as a lot of work) has it provided to be! To conclude, the bibliography has catered very well for the rational collector, and will prove to be an excellent addition to his shelves.” —George Locke, Antiquarian Booksellers’ Association Newsletter

From the Scroll to the Codex

May 26, 2011 Leave a comment

Check out this excerpt from The Gilded Page: The History and Technique of Manuscript Gilding by Kathleen P. Whitley. Not only does The Gilded Page explain excellent step-by-step methods to manuscript gilding, it also provides a history of gilding from ancient Egypt and Babylon through Rome and the Renaissance Europe, finally into the modern day studio. The following excerpt describes the history of the scroll moving to the codex.

Scroll to Codex

Papyrus as a writing material was excellent for single-sided scrolls, the primary form of the book throughout the ancient Greek and Roman world. The disadvantages of the scroll (rotulus), whether made of papyrus or of leather, may be easily seen: a reader cannot skip from section to section without unrolling and rerolling the scroll, and once read, the scroll must be rerolled completely back to the beginning. Longer works had to be placed on several rolls or they became unwieldy and difficult to use; as noted by Callimachus in 260 BCE, “A big book is a big nuisance” (Mega biblion, mega kakon). Even subdividing longer works in this way had disadvantages; scrolls were difficult to store and stack, especially in large numbers such as in a library or public archives. Due to the restriction in length inherent in the use of scrolls, authors subdivided their works into shorter sections or “books” which would easily fit on a single scroll. The standard Roman scroll format was about 7 to 10 inches wide, about 30 feet in length, written in columns, or pagina, of about 3 inches in width. Scrolls began with a blank column to prevent exposing the written text when the scroll was stored or handled, but had no title page: the title might be written on a strip-like label attached to the outside of the scroll (the index or titulus), or at the end of the scroll there might be information about the book and its author in the colophon. It has been estimated that twelve papyrus rolls, each 30-35 feet in length, would have been required to transcribe the complete text of Virgil’s Aeneid, a work that can be contained in a single codex.

Codex binding structure (modern reconstruction by William Whitley). Created as a teaching example of Coptic-style binding.

As mentioned previously, Romans also wrote upon a type of wooden tablet coated with blackened wax or with gesso known as a pugillare, or “handbook”, which was used to take notes from dictation or to compose writings in a draft form before copying them to papyrus. A tool which was pointed on one end, and flattened on the other, the stylus, was used to scratch letters into the wax which could be smoothed out later for reuse. Such pugillares were also used for writing practice in schools, for sending letters and notes to others, and for temporary tallies and accounts. Several pugillares could be wired or tied together into a type of tablet-book, called a diptych if two tablets were used, a triptych for three tablets, or a polyptych for several leaves or tablets. The interior tablets could be coated with wax on two sides for use in writing, since the wooden backs of single-sided pugillares on the exterior of the polyptych would protect the inscriptions from being scraped or erased with handling. Sets of such tablets were also known as codices from the Latin codex, meaning the bark or stem of a tree, and hence anything made of wood. It would have been a small albeit revolutionary step from using wooden pugillares as leaves in a codex to using leaves made from another available medium such as parchment. Over time, the term codex came to be associated especially with account books and legal documents such as collections of laws, and eventually to any book consisting of leaves folded and bound together. As the material for pages in a codex, parchment had the advantage of flexibility: it could be folded several times into smaller leaves, and could be folded in any direction since it lacked a directional grain. Folded leaves could then be stitched together at the fold to create a compact and easily portable book. Papyrus was also used for codices, but each leaf of papyrus could only be folded once without cracking, and the edges of a papyrus codex suffered greatly from wear when being handled.

The recorded history of the papyrus or parchment codex actually dates at least back to the first century BCE, based on an inscription found in Priene mentioning that the laws and public acts of the city had been recorded in codices both of papyrus and parchment. Martial also makes an early reference to the parchment codex in 84-86 CE when he notes that a codex is very convenient to transport when travelling and in libraries, the codex format saves space when compared to scrolls. Interestingly enough, despite all the observed advantages of the codex for durability, ease of handling and storage, the eventual replacement of the scroll format by the codex format was apparently a matter not of practicality, but of faith.

The widespread popularity of the codex for written works appears closely linked to the rise of Christianity in the ancient world. Early Christianity emphasized the importance of the teachings of Jesus and venerated the Gospels as the essential sacred texts of the faith. The compact format of the codex encouraged use of sacred texts by several readers in succession without rerolling, and allowed easy reference to several different sections of texts by scholars and teachers who might wish to bolster their arguments and learned discussions by supportive quotations from the Gospels. Codices were easier to store and transport from place to place as required by early Christian missionaries and teachers; such compactness and portability must have been especially advantageous when early Christians were forced to hide their faith from persecuting Roman authorities. The codex had a further advantage for the first Christians: scrolls were associated with Greek and Roman literature, with the Roman Imperial state and the Roman religion, and furthermore, scrolls also were the format of the Torah and other Jewish religious books. A new religious movement, in need of defining its differences from Judaism and other faiths, could further distinguish its sacred writings by placing them in a distinctive format. Some of the earliest surviving fragmentary codices date from the second century CE, written on papyrus and containing Christian texts; the oldest complete codex known to have survived intact in its original wooden and leather binding is a Coptic psalter from the second half of the fourth century found in 1984 in an Egyptian cemetery.

Click here for more information on The Gilded Page: The History and Technique of Manuscript Gilding.

Author of Thread that Binds to be recognized

May 23, 2011 Leave a comment

On June 3, Pamela Leutz, author of The Thread that Binds: Interviews with Private Practice Bookbinders, will be honored by the Lone Star Chapter of the Guild of Book Workers.

“The Thread that Binds—The 2011 Exhibition of Fine Bindings” will celebrate Leutz’s accomplishments as an author and binder. Held at the DeGolyer Library of Southern Methodist University from 5:00pm to 7:00pm, the event will include a talk by Leutz, a reception, and an exhibition of 51 hand-crafted bindings created by members of the Lone Star Chapter. A catalogue to accompany the exhibition will also be available for purchase.

Click here for more information on the event and click here for more information on The Thread that Binds.

An Excerpt from Series Americana by Carol Fitzgerald

May 19, 2011 Leave a comment

Earlier this week, author Carol Fitzgerald shared about the joy she experienced researching for The Rivers of America: A Descriptive Bibliography and Series Americana: Post Depression-Era Regional Literature, 1938-1980, A Descriptive Bibliography.

Series Americana provides a unique and compelling self-portrait of America, encompassing the American people, their history and culture, the nation’s mountains, plains, lakes, landmarks, and important American customs. Each book listed in Series Americana contains detailed descriptions of the collation, cover, contents, binding, and dust jacket, as well as thorough author biographies and notes one each title. Check out this excerpt describing the author and notes of Golden Gate Country by Gertrude Atherton.

Golden Gate Country

Gertrude Atherton, October 30, 1857- June 14, 1948

AF8    First edition, first printing (1945) [11]


Gertrude Horn Atherton was born in San Francisco, California, on October 30, 1857, the only child of Thomas Ludovich and Gertrude (Franklin) Horn. Horn was a New England businessman whose family had been in the shipping business there for some two hundred years. His wife, Gertrude, a descendant of Benjamin Franklin, had grown up on a Louisiana plantation.

Atherton’s parents were divorced when she was a young girl. She attended public and private schools in California, lived from time to time on her maternal grandfather’s San Jose ranch, and at age seventeen went to Lexington, Kentucky, to study at the Sayre Institute. After a year, she returned to California. In 1876, shortly after her return, young Gertrude eloped with George H. Bowen Atherton, then twenty-four. He was the son of a trader with business interests in California and Chile and a Chilean mother, Dominga de Goñi. The couple had two children, George Goñi, who died at age six, and Muriel Florence. In her mid-twenties, bored with her marriage and domestic life, Atherton began to write, employing various pen names. Around 1883, her first novel, The Randolphs of Redwoods, was serialized in the San Francisco Argonaut. The novel was based on a contemporary scandal involving a privileged young woman who succumbed to alcoholism. When it became known that Atherton was the author, she was ostracized by San Francisco society. The book was revised and published in England by John Lane, The BodleyHead, in 1899 as A Daughter of the Vine.

Atherton’s husband died in 1887, while he was on a business trip to Chile. She soon began a full-time literary career, and, in 1888, moved to New York. Her books, presenting liberated women and romantic melodrama, and her sexual candor, drew critical scorn for her work. She left New York in 1895, moving to England, where she was well received. She never remarried. In the 1930s, Atherton returned to California and soon became active in San Francisco society and civic organizations. In 1935, she was awarded an honorary doctorate in literature by Mills College. In 1937, she was awarded an honorary doctorate in law by the University of California, Berkeley. During more than sixty years as a writer, Atherton moved between the United States and Europe and between California and New York and New England,writing fifty-six books, thirty-four of them novels. In 1943, she became the first living author to donate manuscripts, correspondence, notes, and related papers to the Library of Congress. Gertrude Atherton died in San Francisco, California, on June 14, 1948, at age 90.


In a June 14, 1943, letter to Gertrude Atherton, C. Halliwell (“Charles”) Duell expressed his pleasure that she would be writing a book for The American Folkways Series, noting, “your contribution calls for the highest advance we have ever paid on one of these books.” Atherton signed an agreement with Duell, Sloan & Pearce on August 9 to write the book, then entitled “Northern California Country,” to be approximately seventy-five thousand words in length. The manuscript was due on or before January 1, 1944, but in a handwritten margin note on the agreement Atherton advised “earlier date possible.” She received an advance of $750 and was to receive a royalty of 14 percent on all copies of regular trade editions sold by the publisher in the United States at discounts of less than 48 percent from the catalog price. Shortly after the contract was signed, at her request the book’s title was changed to Golden Gate Country. She was well along with the manuscript by December 1943, and the publisher hoped to include the book in the Spring 1944 catalogue. Owing to a problem with her typewriter, she was unable to provide a carbon copy of the manuscript, leading Charles Duell to write in a February 28, 1944, letter, “When your manuscript comes we shall throw a cordon of police around it, as your warning of no carbon copy is quite a caution.”

The publisher received the manuscript in mid-April, but thought it needed considerable editing and should include additional material which would carry the book into the twentieth century. The manuscript was sent to Erskine Caldwell for his review. By mid-July 1944 the manuscript had been so heavily edited that it was necessary that it be retyped before it was sent to the printer. Atherton and Caldwell were to work out the final editing details, but in the retyping of the manuscript the final chapter and the final paragraphs of the preceding chapter were not retyped, being deemed by the publisher, and presumably by Caldwell, as an unsuitable climax. Charles Duell’s letter of October 19 explains, “We have two major points of criticism to make. The first is that the matters discussed in these sections will be too soon dated. The second point of criticism is that as a conclusion to your book the Redwoods, the Save-the-Redwoods League, and so on, receive attention out of all proportion to the interests ofthe general reader. It simply unbalances the book at a point where the over-all perspective is at its most important.” He suggested the deletion of the final chapter and the last paragraphs of the preceding chapter, ending the book with a separate paragraph, “San Francisco was thoroughly alive.” This was done, and those words end the text.

By March 20, sales had passed three thousand and by April 26 had reached five thousand three hundred. In a May 24 letter responding to Atherton’s concerns about the promotion of the book, Duell stated that the firm had made a special poster on Golden Gate Country which was sent “to all of the California stores at the time of publication,” but owing to wartime space rationing the San Francisco Chronicle was unable to accept an ad for the book until sometime in June.

The fourth printing of Golden Gate Country, in November 1945, was to contain several corrections requested by Atherton, but despite the best efforts of the publisher, the printer, American Book Stratford Press, failed to include them. By January 1946, the book had sold more than seven thousand copies.

Gertrude Atherton was eighty-seven when Golden Gate Country was published. In his review in The New York World-Telegram, Harry Hansen wrote,“How Erskine Caldwell came to ask her to do a book for his series of American Folkways I do not know, but obviously she was the logical candidate when he thought of San Francisco.”

Click here for more information on Series Americana and click here for more information on Fitzgerald’s other publication, The Rivers of America.

Typography Symposium

May 18, 2011 Leave a comment

On June 1-4, the Center for Book and Paper Arts at Columbia College Chicago is hosting its Typography Symposium. The first workshop titled, Nineteenth-Century American Type Designers, will be presented by Alastair Johnston, the editor of Nineteenth-Century American Designers and Engravers of Type published by Oak Knoll in 2009. Johnston will reveal fascinating anecdotes about how the type designers presented in the book worked and lived. This workshop is free to the public and will be a great chance to learn more about typography, type designers, and the background on such a fascinating book.

Other workshops include The Living History of Type, a panel discussion with Bill Moran, Alastair Johnston, and Clifton Meador, moderated by Paul Gehl, and Improvised Design in the Colonial Era, where pages from eighteenth-century American books will be recreated in a studio using type and ornaments.

Click here for more information on the symposium and registration.

A New Blog!

May 17, 2011 Leave a comment

Oak Knoll recently published The Kelmscott Chaucer: A Census by William S. Peterson and Sylvia Holton Peterson. The book locates and describes as many copies of the Chaucer as possible, reconstructing their history of ownership and supplying a narrative of each known copy that came off the press.

Now, to accompany this new publication, the authors have created a blog titled, The Kelmscott Chaucer. As the publication of their new book will undoubtedly bring even more copies into the open, the Petersons are using the blog to record new information and keep the book up to date. As an excellent venue for those interested in studying the Chaucer even further, the authors are welcoming additions or corrections to their Census and would love to hear your comments. Click here to check out the new blog!

Author of The Rivers of America and Series Americana shares her story

May 16, 2011 Leave a comment

Carol Fitzgerald, author of The Rivers of America: A Descriptive Bibliography and Series Americana: Post Depression-Era Regional Literature, 1938-1980, A Descriptive Bibliography, writes about the joy she experienced in researching and writing these titles.

Carol Fitzgerald

Who knew? Who could possibly have foreseen that the casual purchase at the Miami Book Fair in 1986 of The St. Johns: A Parade of Diversities by A.J. Hanna and Branch Cabell, a fifteen-dollar volume in the Rivers of America series, would be the seminal moment – and the beginning for what would become two major collections of Series Americana. This purchase would result in my writing two, two-volume bibliographies, both published by Oak Knoll Press in association with the Center for the Book in the Library of Congress. It’s a story that changed my life and helped to preserve a body of mid-twentieth century Series Americana defining a period of American literature through its folkways, history, geography, and its publishers, editors, writers, and illustrators, that might otherwise have been fragmented and lost as a literary treasure.

Writing a book and having it published can be a satisfying experience, especially when working with a respected publisher like Oak Knoll Press in partnership with the Center for the Book in the Library of Congress. But it was my research for the writing of first, The Rivers of America: A Descriptive Bibliography and, later, Series Americana: Post-Depression Era Regional Literature that I will remember and treasure. In addition to bibliographical information, I included in each book biographies of the authors, illustrators, editors, and cartographers, creating a story of each book covered in the two bibliographies. The joy of discovering obscure facts about the books or the authors and illustrators helped me write human stories of the men and women who wrote, illustrated, and edited the books covered in my work.

Carol Fitzgerald and Dr. Thomas D. Clark (author of The Kentucky in the Rivers of America Series) next to the Kentucky River

The individual books described were the foundation, but it was the people – the talent  – their excellence in their craft – that made the books a powerful part of the American literary scene in a time dominated by the Great Depression and three wars. My research led to correspondence with authors, illustrators, and sometimes their children and colleagues, and resulted in some extraordinary friendships that continue today. Of course, a good book is a good book, but behind even a good book there is a publisher, an author, an editor, and sometimes an illustrator or cartographer. Each plays an integral part in the success of the book, and, for me, a series of books. I wanted to tell the story of each in order to tell the story of the whole.

These thoughts pertain to more than twenty years of research and writing and the pleasures of seeing the publication of the two books that resulted. Oak Knoll Press and the Library of Congress had major roles in all this, and I extend my sincere thanks to all who worked with me in creating these two books.

Carol's grandchildren holding Series Americana after their school's annual spaghetti dinner. The book is in part dedicated to her grandchildren.

Click here for more information on The Rivers of America: A Descriptive Bibliography and click here for more information on Series Americana: Post Depression-Era Regional Literature, 1938-1980, A Descriptive Bibliography.