Archive for June, 2011

The Making of Aun Aprendo

June 29, 2011 1 comment

Aun Aprendo: A Comprehensive Bibliography of the Writings of Aldous Leonard Huxley by David Bromer is the most current and comprehensive descriptive bibliography of Aldous Huxley’s works every produced. Shannon Struble, the once Oak Knoll intern who helped Bromer prepare and publish the book, shares her story of researching many of Huxley’s publications. Read on to find out about her experiences.

David Bromer is an extremely dedicated collector of Huxley’s works, and by that I mean that he has been collecting books, pamphlets, newspaper and magazine articles, and even film scripts and LPs by Aldous Huxley for almost fifty years. Over the course of his years acquiring Huxley’s works, David realized that the bibliographical references on Huxley were woefully out of date. The only descriptive bibliography of Huxley’s works was compiled in 1939 (Huxley died in 1963), and the last bibliography, published in 1961, was little more than a checklist. Numerous supplements followed, but no one attempted to bring all this information together and combine it with original research until David began this endeavor over twenty-five years ago.

Finally, all of David’s work came to fruition in April of this year, with the publication of Aun Aprendo: A Comprehensive Bibliography of the Writings of Aldous Leonard Huxley. It is the culmination of many years spent visiting libraries when on vacation or attending book fairs around the world, maintaining a database, first on paper and then on the computer, and utilizing the services of employees of Bromer Booksellers who came and went over that quarter decade. This last part is where I came in.

I began working for David and Anne Bromer as the catalogue designer and webmistress at Bromer Booksellers in September of 2007. I was starting graduate school in Boston at Simmons College in their dual-degree History and Archives Management program, and I needed a part-time job to keep me from going insane from school overload. I had worked as an intern for two summers at Oak Knoll Books as a cataloger in the antiquarian books department, and when he learned that I was moving to Boston, the wonderful Bob Fleck sent my résumé to a few of his colleagues in the area. It so happened that Bromer Booksellers was hiring, and after one meeting, they hired me. I could not have asked for a more perfect job, and working on the bibliography only added to my wonderful experience.

I had been working for the Bromers for a few months when David and Anne first approached me about helping David finish his bibliography of Aldous Huxley. My joking response was, “As long as you include me in the acknowledgments.” Little did I know how much I would become involved and how much more my involvement would come to mean to me than a note on the acknowledgments page.

I started out simply trying to locate copies of books that David had been unable to examine so that we could include a description of the books in the bibliography. This expanded to writing the descriptions of books I found and then grew again to finding contributions that were previously unknown. Obviously, this required quite a bit of research online, offline, and everywhere in between, and I’m sure the Inter-Library Loan librarians grew to hate me and my requests to see obscure books about everything from musical theory to LSD.

The project proceeded in fits and starts once I began working on it. Sometimes I would have huge lists of books to locate, multiple inquiries out to booksellers, and the maximum amount of ILL requests in at the library, all at the same time. I learned a lot about librarianship, bibliography, and Aldous Huxley in that first little while. And I certainly learned the value of keeping accurate records, so that I didn’t have to retrace my own steps or ask the same question of the same bookseller I had spoken to a month ago. Then there was my other work, making catalogues, keeping our website up-to-date, and the day-to-day tasks that keep a small shop running. If I was involved with a new catalogue, Huxley was put on the back burner. And, of course, sometimes frustration made me set him aside for a little while as well.

Finally, in October of 2010, we “finished” the text of the bibliography. The reason for this qualification is best explained by David in his Author’s Note:

“This descriptive bibliography is the culmination of a half-century of collecting the writings of Aldous Leonard Huxley. The breadth of his pen convinces me that on the day this work sees print, it will be incomplete, and I will still continue to search for Huxley’s work. It is perhaps not possible to examine or know everything he wrote, but I will keep learning. Although more complete than any bibliography to date, the search continues.”

This is why the bibliography was titled “Aun Aprendo,” which means “I am still learning.” Huxley gave a commencement address with this title in 1951, and the phrase exemplifies his life. It also represents this bibliography and Huxley scholarship as a whole.

From October 2010 to April 2011, the Bromers, Phil Salmon, the manager of Bromer Booksellers, and I worked to publish Aun Aprendo. We knew early on that we wanted to publish it ourselves, but we might not have realized how much work would eventually go into completing this process. By the time we had gone through text edits, design edits, index edits, printing edits, and binding edits, we just wanted to be done. However, all that work, all the going back and forth with the people who helped bring David and Anne’s vision to reality, led to a finished product with which we could not be more pleased.

Phil Salmon, Shannon Struble, Anne and David Bromer

Now, four years after I began working on David’s then-twenty-two-year-old bibliography, with two master’s degrees under my belt and my name on the cover of the most current and comprehensive bibliography of Aldous Huxley’s works, I am just so happy and honored to have been chosen to work on something this important to David and Anne. This bibliography is David’s life’s work, and even after all the time and energy I spent on it in just four years, I have only seen a glimpse of how much David has put into this project. I am included on the acknowledgments page, but the trust and respect the Bromers have bestowed upon me by inviting me to work on this bibliography is all the acknowledgment I need.

-Shannon Struble

What awesome work, Shannon! Thank you for sharing. Click here for more information on Aun Aprendo: A Comprehensive Bibliography of the Writings of Aldous Leonard Huxley.

A conversation with ILAB President Arnoud Gerits

June 28, 2011 1 comment

The International League of Antiquarian Booksellers posted an excellent article on its President Arnoud Gerits, chronicling his career in books and bookselling. It provides an extensive overview of his journey as an ILAB member, his successes in bookselling, and even his disappointments. It reveals the relationship with his father in their book business, how his personal interests coincide with his book profession, and how he still treasures the chances he gets to meet other ILAB members, hold their books, and talk face-to-face.

Arnoud Gerits has been closely connected with the League for more than a decade. He joined the ILAB Committee in 1998, was editor of the ILAB Newsletter from 2002 to 2006, and became Vice President in 2008. As Secretary of the ILAB Breslauer Prize for Bibliography he supervised the 15th Prize in 2010 and will be responsible for the 16th award in 2014. During the 39th ILAB Congress and 23rd International Antiquarian Book Fair in Bologna the presidents of the affiliated associations elected Arnoud Gerits as the new President of the League – and welcomed him with standing ovations.

One Night in Amsterdam

It runs in the family: In 1993 both father and son sat at the conference table of the Presidents Meeting in Los Angeles. Anton Gerits as ILAB President, Arnoud Gerits joined the meeting as delegate of the Dutch Antiquarian Booksellers’ Association (NVvA).

“I have grown up in a rare book selling family. Books, reading, and the interest in history and politics were vital for us”, says Arnoud Gerits. He studied history and Dutch language and literature at the University of Amsterdam. In the 1970s most professors held their lectures about the Middle Ages. As he has always been a passionate reader with a special interest in history, he knew most books, facts, persons and epochs they were referring to in their lectures – and got bored. He took his degrees and thought about his future career. Then, one evening in Amsterdam, a friend celebrated the opening of his bookshop, and at the opening Arnoud Gerits met the owner of Athenaeum, one of Holland’s largest independent bookstores founded in 1966. The owner urged him to establish his own business. “And suddenly I knew: I wanted to become a bookseller.” The next day Arnoud Gerits called his father, who said:

“If you want to work in a bookshop, why don’t you work for me?” 

Click here to read the full article.

A new collection at Oak Knoll!

June 24, 2011 Leave a comment

Oak Knoll Books is very pleased to announce the acquisition of the reference library of noted binder and conservator, Deborah Evetts. She has decided to move from her Connecticut home back to New York where she will continue her activities.

Deborah Evetts is an internationally recognized book conservator and binder who has instructed and facilitated libraries, museums, collectors, and private individuals in book restoration and preservation. She has worked on Coptic manuscripts and bindings, autograph manuscripts, medieval illuminated manuscripts, and many other beautiful collections as the Drue Heinz Book Conservator at the Pierpont Morgan Library in New York. Her work as a bookbinder is showcased worldwide in institutional and private collections, and she has addressed various organizations and institutions on book conservation and other bookbinding topics. Some of her notable work includes the binding of President Kennedy’s note book for Jackie Kennedy, and the rebinding of 9th century De re culinaria manuscript of Marcus Apicius.

Click here to see the entire collection.

Click here for more information Deborah Evetts.

A review of Books as History on the Booktryst blog

June 21, 2011 Leave a comment

Check out a review of Books as History: The Importance of Books Beyond Their Texts by David Pearson posted on the Booktryst blog of Stephen J. Gertz.

If every book tells a story, every book has a story.

Until recently, a book’s text and its physical manifestation were indivisible, their stories intertwined. With the advent of ebooks, however, text is now independent of what we’ve come to understand as a “book,” a physical object with metaphysical content that, in its origins, was presented as scrolled, later bound, manuscript, and then, with Gutenberg, as bound leaves of print.

A day cannot go by, it seems, without an article tolling the death knell of the book, either heralding a new, golden age of information delivery and consumption, or as a mournful elegy. Soon, it seems, lovers of traditional books will be consulting mediums to reach beyond the veil and communicate with beloved books in the great hereafter. We’ll want to know how they’re doing, tell them how much we love and miss them, and express sorrow for not defending them heartily enough when they were still with us but struggling for their lives. We need comfort and consolation.

In the absence of David Dunglas Home, the 19th century Scottish spiritualist and medium, David Pearson, Director of Libraries, Archives, and Guildhall Art Gallery at the City of London, is here to say, It’s okay…

Click here to read the full review. Thanks for an excellent review, Stephen!

The British Library and Google digitizing 250,000 books

June 20, 2011 Leave a comment

Check out this interesting article from The Library Journal Blog. It discusses a new partnership between The British Library and Google to digitize 250,000 out-of-copyright books from the library’s collection. After the material is digitized, it will be available to any interested user through the library’s website as well as from Google Books. The project will include printed books, pamphlets and periodicals from 1700 to 1870. Click here to read the full article.

An excerpt from The Literature of Collecting

June 15, 2011 1 comment

The Literature of Collecting & Other Essays by Richard Wendorf explores the world of books, libraries, and the visual arts. He investigates the relationship between theoretical texts devoted to collecting and rich fictional texts that also take collecting as their focus. This excerpt comes from the chapter devoted to the origins of the Boston Athenæum. It discusses some of the earliest origins of the library.

An athenaeum was not, strictly speaking, a library (there were several of these in Rome, created both before and during Hadrian’s reign), but an athenaeum was certainly a site that contained a number of books. At one point Sidonius writes to a friend that there are “books in any number ready to hand” in the villa he is visiting: “you might have imagined yourself looking at the shelves of a professional scholar or at the tiers in the Athenaeum or the towering presses of the booksellers.” The rhetorical triplet speaks volumes, for it indicates that the Athenaeum was simply one of several places where substantial book collections could be found during the empire’s golden age. The central sources for such books—such scrolls, we should remind ourselves—would be formal libraries, either those that were privately owned (by Aristotle or Pliny, for example) or those that had been established for more public purposes (most notably by Pollio, Augustus, Trajan, and Hadrian). The earliest known remains of a library are to be found at Pergamum in Turkey, and although this library was erected as an adjunct to the sanctuary of Athena, the history of ancient libraries is actually quite separate from the establishment of Hadrian’s athenaeums. The properties of these early libraries are worth noting, however. In Pergamum, for instance, a large chamber was used for meetings and receptions, and three consecutive alcoves served as stacks for the library’s collection of scrolls. These scrolls would then be consulted in a long covered space located between the alcoves and the open atrium of the complex. A statue of Athena dominated this central public space, and busts of literary figures—including Homer and Herodotus—were placed on pedestals within the library. The three alcoves are thought to have held as many as 200,000 books, which is the number of scrolls Mark Antony was said to have taken from Pergamum as a gift for Cleopatra. The Romans embraced Greek culture as early as the third century BCE, and Greek texts remained a staple of Roman libraries almost wherever they were created. Perhaps the most important exemplar is Rome’s first public library, established by Asinius Pollio and the writer Varro in the Roman forum around 39 BCE. Here is Matthew Battles’s recent description of it:

“Following Caesar’s wishes, they built a library with two reading rooms—one for Latin books, another for Greek—decorated with statues of appropriate poets and orators. This is the pattern all subsequent Roman libraries take, from the great imperial repositories of Augustus and Trajan to the more modest public libraries and to the little collections of the provincial cities. It marks a strict departure from the Greek model, with its prototype at Alexandria, which had no reading rooms as such. The bilingual nature of the Roman library expressed the Mediterranean heritage to which Rome laid claim, while the emphasis on the reader’s experience gives proof of its republican origins.”

James Packer, reconstruction of the interior of the southwest library of the Forum of Trajan, Rome.

Part of Hadrian’s own library at Tivoli has been reconstructed at the Museo della Civiltà Romana, and it should not be a surprise for us to learn that the smaller part of it was Roman rather than Greek. With books arranged along the walls and accommodation for readers created in the center, these Roman libraries functioned much like modern reading rooms—and some of them were very grand indeed. A reconstructed view of one of the libraries in the Forum of Trajan looks very much like an imperial prototype for Anglo-American libraries in the nineteenth century. These, then, are the classical models for our modern institutions. Ancient libraries and athenaeums were both devoted to the preservation of classical learning, and both enjoyed considerable cultural status within the extended empire. Hadrian’s athenaeums in Athens and Rome were certainly well stocked with books, but they were primarily sites for instruction, composition, declamation, and performance. Roman libraries were heavily invested in Greek as well as Latin literature, and they were furnished with reading rooms, statuary, colonnades, and galleries and administered by a professional staff. Surely it is not entirely fanciful to imagine the ways in which our modern English and American institutions—with their classicizing architecture, galleries and busts, readings and lectures, and collections based on European as well as native sources—reflect the attributes and aspirations of these ancient establishments. It would be fanciful, however, to argue that these Roman libraries and academies enjoyed any kind of influence, direct or indirect, on the rise of the modern subscription library in England and America. What gradually evolved in London and Philadelphia, Newcastle and Newport, Liverpool and Boston, deserves a history of its own, even though the shadow of Athena (and Minerva) will never entirely disappear.

Click here for more information on The Literature of Collecting.

New exhibition on Baseball

June 9, 2011 1 comment

The newest exhibition at The Bookshop in Old New Castle includes baseball material from the personal collection of  the owner of the Old Bookshop of Bordentown. Materials include How to Play Base-Ball by Connie Mack, America’s National Game by A.G. Spalding, The Mickey Mantle Story by Mickey Mantle as told by Ben Epstein, and more. The display also includes an 1877 issue of “Base Ball News”  and the Slide Kelly Slide songster inspired by Mike “King” Kelly. This exhibition is for display only, but other books about baseball are available for purchase at the Bookshop. We hope to see you swing on by!


An Excerpt from Beautiful Bookbindings

June 7, 2011 Leave a comment

Oak Knoll has been very excited about the arrival of Beautiful Bookbindings: A Thousand Years of the Bookbinder’s Art by P.J.M. Marks. Now available, the book contains beautiful photography displaying the finest bookbindings of the last 1000 years. Celebrating over 100 bindings, it shows exquisite medieval bookbindings made of precious metals and jewels to the imaginative creations of contemporary bookbinders. Check out this excerpt displaying bindings from the family business of Mame in Tours, France, as mechanization began to unfold in the craft of bookbinding.


Selection of Mame bindings

As with many craft-based processes, the nineteenth century saw the mechanization of bookbinding in western Europe. Some firms came to resemble factories, and this was particularly true of the family business of Mame in Tours, France, which was also known for its publishing and printing activities. Traditional craft bindings continued to be produced, but most workers (including women) were employed from the cloth or cardboard covers and attached by means of endleaves and lining material. This was an inexpensive but colourful format, with gilt, coloured or glazed paper used in combination with lithographic prints to make an immediate visual impact. Such bindings have been likened to chocolate boxes and sweet wrappers, but they were popular enough, often being used for such items as Sunday school prize books. Unusually for the time, Alfred Mame (1811-1893) instituted pensions and profit-sharing schemes for his workers.

The nineteenth century gradually saw the emergence of binding designs that reflected the contents of the book, although traditional abstract or retrospective styles remained popular. An example is the gold-blocked brown calf binding of Don Quijote by Alphonse Simier, which shows the bust of a knight surrounded by cathedral-style motifs. The decoration, although elaborate, was achieved relatively quickly and cheaply, due to the use of engraved plaques (which can be employed to cover the whole space available when applied skilfully). The Simier workshop was famous throughout Europe, partly because its founder, Rene Simier (1772-1843), could turn his hand to different styles. He established his business in Paris in 1798, where his subsequent work found favour with the Emperor Napoleon and the Bourbon Kings, and he received the title ‘Relieur du roi’, which was passed on to his son, Alphonse. Both binder publicized the royal connection in the form of their trade signature, seen here at the foot of the spine (a French custom of the period). In the unlikely event that the viewer overlooked this, a printed trade ticket was pasted to the endleaf inside.

Right: France, late sixteenth century; Left: London, early nineteenth century

Throughout the nineteenth century, wealthy French and British bibliophiles were attracted to imitations of historic binding styles, particularly those of sixteenth-century France. Such bindings were certainly technically accomplished but—inevitably—they lacked the vitality of the original designs. The smaller binding depicted here was probably made in France as part of a travelling library for Pietro Duodo (1555-1611), Venetian ambassador to Henri IV. All the books were gold-tooled in the same way with Duodo’s emblem and motto, ‘Expectat non eludert’ (‘She whom I await with longing will not elude me’), but in different coloured goatskin according to the subject of the text. Theology, philosophy, law and history were in red goatskin, medicine and botany in citron and literature in olve (as seen here).

The bland appearance of the larger, nineteenth-century English work is not due to poor craftsmanship, for the binder, Charles Lewis (1786-1836), was acknowledged as the best London binder of his day. His natural skill responded to two stimuli: the vibrancy of the London trade fuelled by the many knowledgeable book collectors; and the influence of two figures, his father Johann Ludwig, and his apprentice master, Henry Walter. Both were Germans who emigrated to England to take advantage of the flourishing market. Lewis’s large workshop was patronized by the most demanding collectors, including the second Earl Spencer. The author, Brunet, had this copy of his book specially bound for Spencer’s librarian, Thomas Fornall Dibdin. The motto towards the tail edge of the front cover (‘Rosicrucius et amicorum’) alludes to Dibdin’s Bibliomania, in which Dibdin himself appears under the soubriquet Rosicruscius, ‘an ardent an indefatigable book-forger.’

Click here to find out even more about Beautiful Bookbindings and to view more pictures in a slideshow.

Education of Book Conservators

June 6, 2011 Leave a comment

Recently, we’ve been posting our thoughts on the future of the book. Check out this blog post from Jeff Peachey outlining the 2011 Annual Meeting of the Book and Paper Group, Library Collections Conservation Discussion Group, and the Models for Educating Library and Archives Conservators. Held last Thursday, the panel of representatives from three art conservation programs including Margaret Holben Ellis, New York University Institute of Fine Arts and the Morgan Library and Museum, Lois Price, the University of Delaware—Winterthur, and Judy Walsh, Buffalo State, discussed the future of the book through their ideas on the education of future book conservators. The panel discussed new education programs, curriculum, and opportunities various organizations are offering to facilitate and encourage those interested in becoming book and library conservators.

Click here to read more!

The Tough Life of a Bookseller in Spain

June 2, 2011 Leave a comment

Once a year, the Committee of the International League of Antiquarian Booksellers (ILAB) gets together to talk about the problems and challenges facing the League. This Committee consists of the officers of the League that actually do the day-to-day work of this international organization composed of 21 countries. The meeting falls half way between the Presidents Meeting and the Congress, with events held in alternating years in the fall of the year. For the last three years, the Committee meeting has been held in Gimenelles, a quiet hotel about an hour outside Barcelona.

I go to these meetings as a part of the “corporate memory” of the organization, as I had served on the Committee for many years including a four year stint as President.

The pictures might lead you to think that most of the meeting consists of fun activities surrounded by large meals and an unending supply of the local wine. But don’t be fooled. These laid-back times give all of us the perfect opportunity to talk about the future of antiquarian bookselling and what role the ILAB should play in the lives of the 2000 booksellers who are part of the League. In attendance were booksellers from the Netherlands, Austria, Germany, France, Australia, England, Denmark, and Tom and Heidi Congalton from the U.S. (Tom is Vice President). The main meeting was held outside in the yard under the trees, beginning at 10 in the morning and lasting until almost 7 at night. We discussed international tariffs and trade restrictions, the role of the book fair in our lives, our new meta-search engine on our web site, consumer protection, and many smaller issues. Outreach to the public and other booksellers via our new electronic newsletter and the possible establishment of a speaker’s bureau were part of our look into the future.

All this was done in the most congenial manner as we have come to know each other through our years of attending Congresses and our work on the Committee. We have truly become friends. None of us will forget my wife Millie leading the cheerleaders of the “Rest of the World” soccer team when playing the Italian team during our last congress in Bologna (we lost). She had organized cheerleaders from countries across the world including the wonderful Mrs. Nitta, wife of Mitsu Nitta of Japan (Yushodo) and had them all prancing along the sideline while waving home-made pom-poms.


Click here to view more pictures from the trip.

To learn more about the ILAB, go to