Archive for October, 2011

Monique Lallier and Oak Knoll author Don Etherington at the American Academy of Bookbinding

October 27, 2011 Leave a comment

Monique Lallier and her husband, conservator and Oak Knoll author Don Etherington, have been at the American Academy of Bookbinding this past week participating in the Intermediate/Advanced Fine Binding class. This class has taken books that were originally just an idea and turned them into objects of art. Check out the new post on the American Academy of Bookbinding blog that shows some of the students at work, their creative designs, and a couple shots of Lallier and Etherington.

Also, click here to learn more about Don Etherington’s book Bookbinding & Conservation: A Sixty-Year Odyssey of Art and Craft and click here for more on Monique Lallier featured on our blog.

A great opportunity for those who are just starting out in publishing

October 26, 2011 Leave a comment

“Today the book business stands at the edge of a vast transformation, one that promises much opportunity for innovation: much trial, much error, much improvement. Long before another half-century passes, the industry as I have known it for the past fifty years will have been altered almost beyond recognition.”—Jason Epstein

This was the opening quote projected on the screen at the Professional, Scholarly, & Academic Books Basic Books Boot Camp I attended this past Thursday in Philadelphia. I found this quote to be a quite inspirational beginning to my day full of publishing education. Sponsored by the Association of American Publishers, this boot camp was intended to provide a complete overview of scholarly publishing and all its facets. It was targeted for those with less than three years experience in the publishing industry, and since I have only been working at Oak Knoll for about a year a half, the Oak Knoll team felt I was the perfect candidate for this seminar.

As I arrived in Philadelphia, I started to make a mental list of what I really wanted to take away from the conference. Since my most important job at Oak Knoll is carrying out our marketing plans, I was hoping to gain some valuable insight in to how other publishers market their books. I also wanted to learn what we could do at Oak Knoll to better relate to our customers.

With only about twenty other people in attendance, the setting was very relaxed, friendly, and open. It wasn’t long after our first speaker John Jenkins, President and Publisher of CQ Press, began his presentation that I knew it was going to be a great day. In addition to John, the other presenters Gita Manaktala (MIT Press), Betsy Litz (Princeton University Press), Elizabeth Schacht (McGraw-Hill), Matt Conmy (Springer Publishing Company), and Molly Venezia (Rutgers University Press) spoke on topics including acquisitions, production, marketing, sales, and finances. Each listed the most important details for the various parts of the business, and while I found the each presentation fundamental to understanding publishing, I was most interested in Beth’s portion as it covered marketing. She stressed that creating a solid marketing plan for each book would allow each title to reach its full potential in terms of availability and awareness. She also showed me that the best marketers are good communicators who will stick close to the customer and understand what they need. This was a great point for me to consider in my own position as Publishing and Marketing Assistant

Besides the marketing portion, my second favorite part of the day was lunch! Not only because of the scrumptious sandwiches, salads, and cookies, but more importantly because of the opportunity we were given to solve a challenge that could potentially occur working in publishing.  We were broken into groups of three to five people and presented with a piece of paper that stated a problem of which we had to devise a solution. In talking to my group members over lunch, I realized that certain situations may sometimes look like “problems,” but in fact, are only excellent opportunities to use creative thinking and out-of-the ordinary concepts to overcome the predicament. At the end of the day, each group presented their solution to the speakers, who in return,  gave us their own input into how they might have handled the situation.

Overall, I was very impressed with how smoothly everything flowed, and how much information was able to be presented in one day. The book camp presented by the AAP was excellent and a great opportunity for those who are just starting out in publishing. Thank you to all the speakers and all the staff who had a part in organizing this awesome day! Hopefully, I will be able to take my new knowledge and put it in effect here at Oak Knoll.

As I am still learning how we can provide better service to our customers, I pose a couple questions to all you blog followers out there. How do you hear about new books? Where do you go to find information on new books? Is there something more we can do to make you aware of new titles we are publishing?

To share your thoughts, post a comment on the blog or send me a message at Thanks!

“I look forward to proving myself as a valuable asset and learning about book publishing”

October 17, 2011 Leave a comment

A few weeks ago, University of Delaware student Julie Becker began her college internship here at Oak Knoll. She has written a blog post about her first experiences in the publishing world.

I have to admit, I was pretty nervous on my first drive to Oak Knoll. I’ve turned thousands of pages full of mystery, suspense, and horror, but that was all inside of a book. Now, everything I’m doing here is non-fiction; the characters are real people, my assignments affect the entire company, and I won’t find out the ending until December.

However, I am confident that my time here will be rewarding and enlightening. I’ve been spending my first week proofreading, and I’m getting more out of it than I expected. Yes, I’m improving my editing skills, but I’m also learning about new genres. I’ve read best sellers, assigned reading for class, romance and mystery novels, and a few in between, but I can’t say that I’ve read much about the Grolier Club. Actually, I knew nothing about the Grolier club until I proofread a catalogue about books on the topic. I look forward to learning about many more books before I leave this internship.

I’m eager to create my own catalogues full of books using InDesign. As a University of Delaware senior majoring in English Professional Writing, I’ve been learning about Adobe programs in my classes, but have yet to put my knowledge to practical use. Oak Knoll will allow me to do so while also providing me with physical evidence of my work.

Oak Knoll has already shown me a glimpse of the professional world, and more specifically the publishing world, and I am already enjoying it all. I look forward to proving myself as a valuable asset and learning about book publishing.

I would like to thank everybody at Oak Knoll for this opportunity, and I look forward to all of the excitement that will follow over the coming months!

-Julie Becker

The story behind a new collection

October 11, 2011 Leave a comment

Read Bob’s story about how Oak Knoll acquired a new collection of titles expressing the craft of the book. The collection came from from Arnold Leibowitz, a lawyer in Washington, D.C.

Arnold called me up a number of months ago and said that he would like to sell his collection of high spot private press and illustrated books. His children had no interest in his books and he wanted to see them sold and provide money for his family. He had remembered selling me a small group of books on typography ten years ago and was happy with our dealings and thought that his collection would interest me. He also mentioned that four different auction houses had already been to see the books and made an offer to sell them at auction.

Upon arrival in Washington, Rob and I sat down with him and learned that he was an attorney with a niche market – his specialty was legal matters dealing with constitutional law in the different territories of the U.S. He had spent considerable time in Guam, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Island, and the American Samoa.

Then we carefully examined the 300 books in his library and discussed the differences between auction sale and outright sale to a bookseller. Auction houses can give estimates of selling price but, in the end, they can’t commit to a final price or even an actual sale of the item. Arnold wanted a completed deal with no possible surprises. The result of this discussion was the sale of the library to Oak Knoll. His lawyer training came to good use as he drew up the legal contract of sale spelling out in detail the somewhat complicated arrangement we had made. We loaded up the van and drove these beautiful books home.

The next morning I went to work early and checked my email. To my surprise there was an email from some unknown person in Washington, DC, asking if I was Robert D. Fleck and owned a business called Oak Knoll Books. He went on to say that he was a jogger and had just that afternoon found a binder in the middle of the road containing what looked like legal papers. He had left it on the stone wall surrounding the local church in his neighborhood. It was then that I remembered putting the binder on top of the van when loading up the books. I called Arnold and told him the story and he drove over and found the binder with his legal document still on the wall. This acquisition was meant to be.


Click here to see the Leibowitz collection.

Some Recent Reviews

October 6, 2011 Leave a comment

Check out these excellent reviews of books published or distributed by Oak Knoll Press that have been recently featured in some of the leading journals in the field of books.

Other People’s Books: Association Copies and the Stories They Tell

Other People’s Books: Association Copies and the Stories They Tell is the ultimate book about books: richly illustrated essays about famous association copies of rare books. Bibliophiles can only be grateful for such an artistically produced, scholarly, entertaining book on tell-tale copies that continues to be, in the digital half-world, still filled with devotion and awe for the printed book. —Pradeep Sebastian, The Hindu

Aun Aprendo: A Comprehensive Bibliography of the Writings of Aldous Leonard Huxley by David Bromer—

Aun Aprendo was obviously assembled with ease of use in mind. Pages are uncrowded and crisply presented, with generous spacing and margens. Collectors, librarians, and booksellers will find this work indispensible. It is unquestionably now the standard work on the publications of Huxley.—Brian Cassidy, Antiquarian Booksellers’ Association of America Newsletter

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

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…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

Books as History: The Importance of Books Beyond Their Texts by David Pearson

Even if you have read the first edition I highly recommend this revised one. —Sandy Cohen, Guild of Book Workers Newsletter

What he does, in eight lavishly illustrated chapters—is demolish the idea, current with the digital faithful, that physical books are passe, that they have been merely text all dressed up, now with no place to go. That book lovers will adore Books as History is a given, I believe. It’s a joy to behold, read, and digest. Stephen J. Gertz—Booktryst Blog

This chapter, like all of the others, is gorgeously illustrated with full-color images of bindings, bookplates, pages of print, pages of manuscript, dust jackets, advertisements, and book art; reading the captions alone would impress the unconverted. Pearson succeeds in providing a history of the book that is serious and though provoking without begin pedantic. In a perfect world, Books as History would be required reading for students of history, contemporary culture, literature, and library science. —Rebecca Rego Barry, Fine Books & Collections

Beautiful Bookbindings: A Thousand Years of the Bookbinder’s Art by P.J.M. Marks

The full-color photographs, especially the close-ups, are magnificent. Beautiful Bookbindings: A Thousand Years of the Bookbinder’s Art is a beautifully produced and printed art-book. The color photography is wonderful and the insights and occasional gossip fun. —Sandy Cohen, Guild of Book Workers Newsletter

Line, Shade and Shadow: The Fabrication and Preservation of Architectural Drawings by Lois Olcott Price

A labor of love for Price for over two decades, this work amply rewards those who have long awaited its publication. The abundance, large photographs by Jim Schenck compliment Price’s descriptive text. High praise goes to Price for clearly presenting a myriad of helpful solutions for a large array of materials and collections. It is nice to have information that was once missing, now all in one place. —Stephanie Watkins, WAAC Newsletter

The book is technical in its precision, full of excellent illustrated examples, and accessible in its straighforwardness. —L.E. Carranza, CHOICE

Congratulations again to Lois Olcott Price for being the winner of the 2011 Historic Preservation Book Prize!

Old schoolhouses still teaching us

October 4, 2011 Leave a comment

“The Good Education of Youth”: Worlds of Learning in the Age of Franklin by John Pollack is a collection of essays that details Benjamin Franklin’s projects for education as well as educational plans by and for Quakers, African Americans, women, and other populations of Pennsylvania from the colonial era to the early national period.

In June, Mr. Pollack gave a presentation to the Country School Association of America during their annual convention. His speech focused on the region’s old schoolhouses, explaining why they were built, who constructed them, and what can be learned from these historic buildings. He was willing to share some of his very interesting speech with us, below.

Newspaper advertisement

What’s remarkable about the diverse, rapidly growing region of the Mid-Atlantic colonies during the mid-eighteenth century is its culture of what we might call educational entrepreneurship. Eager teachers could place advertisements in the newspapers, like this one from the Pennsylvania Gazette, and simply set up shop (we don’t always know for how long or how successfully).

A more famous entrepreneur of this sort was Benjamin Franklin, who in 1749, after taking early retirement from the printing business and enjoying some impressive new wealth, set out to organize fellow citizens in a campaign to start a more elite school, an Academy that opened in 1751 and by 1755 became a college that we know today as the University of Pennsylvania.

Germantown Academy

The Academy’s eighteenth-century buildings are known now only through sketches, but one much like it was built just a few years later in Germantown and still stands: the Germantown “Union School,” later Germantown Academy. There is a community-centered and cooperative aspect to this school project that I would like to emphasize: residents of Germantown, both English and German, got together to raise the funds for this impressive building. Next to the central building are little houses for the English and German schoolmasters.

Mount Holly

Much like this, although on a smaller scale, is the remarkable Mount Holly Old School House, in Mount Holly, New Jersey. The school dates to 1759, and it too was not affiliated with any one religious or ethnic group: Quakers as well as non-Quakers contributed to the building fund. Its interior includes a large and somewhat puzzling hearth (how big a fireplace do you actually need?). The building was donated to The National Society of The Colonial Dames of America in 1951, and in the possession of the Society are two copybooks made by a student named Job Jones dating from 1764 and 1771, which may have been connected to the school.

All of these educational energies were only fanned by the American Revolution, which in its wake unleashed a torrent of reform ideas and avid reformers. One famous example in this region is Benjamin Rush, a doctor and scientist—but also an educational thinker. Rush wrote an ambitious program for a statewide “public school” system, from beginners to college, never adopted, and he was also was one sponsor of a progressive Young Ladies Academy, which operated during the 1780s and 1790s in Philadelphia. Big new schools like the Protestant Episcopal Academy sat in impressive buildings right down the street from the Congressional and state buildings that are now Independence Hall.

Quaker reformers continued their projects and started new ones, like the Aimwell School—a wonderfully evocative name—for poor female students, sponsored and run by three Quaker women. Other Quakers focused more attention on a “guarded education” at schools like the Westtown School, a Quaker boarding school still in operation on its original site in Chester County, where students studied botany on the grounds and where young women produced some stunning needlework, including “globe samplers.”

Wrightstown School

A whole new generation of community schools was also built. The “Federal School” in Haverford dates from 1797; it is today a well-preserved and active part of the Haverford Historical Society that welcomes every third grader in the school district for daylong programs. The region also saw an explosive new architectural form in the early nineteenth century: the octagonal school building. The oldest surviving example is Wrightstown School, in Bucks County, from 1802. Reformers welcomed these buildings as spaces that could hold more children, let more light enter, and be more efficiently heated thanks to their central chimneys.

My tour could go on into the nineteenth century, to touch on surviving academy buildings, Sunday schools, and so on. But I would like to conclude by posing a question: just what are we preserving when we preserve these places?

I was looking the other day at an old classic on old schoolhouses, Eric Sloane’s The Little Red Schoolhouse, first published in 1972. I regularly have consulted his wonderful sketches but haven’t spent too much time with the text. For Sloane these schoolhouses are spaces of nostalgia that allow him to meditate on a supposedly more tranquil, peaceful era of the past. I don’t share that idealized view of American history—our educational past, I think, was as conflicted and challenging in the colonial and early national years as it has been in the twentieth century and as it is today.

I think it is actually those challenges and conflicts that we can bring out when we educate people about these sites. We are, as I am sure you know, living through a time when the schooling systems have become a center of heated political battles. Perhaps it is the memories of community work, of citizens finding ways to cooperate in the construction of buildings, in the education of children despite obstacles, in the managing of pedagogical programs and experiments both simple and ambitious, that our sites can help to recall. And perhaps these little lessons can have some value in our own times, even amidst never-ending school reform projects and the din of competing arguments for and against them.

Thank you for sharing, John. Click here for more information on “The Good Education of Youth”: Worlds of Learning in the Age of Franklin.

Dr. Rosenbach and Mr. Lilly Reviewed

October 3, 2011 Leave a comment

Dr. Rosenbach and Mr. Lilly: Book Collecting in a Golden Age by Joel Silver was recently reviewed by Pradeep Sebastian in The Hindu Literary Review. Providing a brief summary of the book, Sebastian also explains why this book is thrilling for any bibliophile to read.

I think the enjoyment comes from the minutiae of book transactions that Silver knowledgably and engagingly describes in evocative prose: first reading about an individual copy in a catalogue or a bookseller’s description, the suspended-waiting while you decide, and then the rush from deciding you definitely want it no matter the cost, making the purchase, and finally getting the book in the mail or having the book dealer hand it to you.

The ritual is repeated with each new buy and the bibliographical pleasure derived is not from just the buyer-collector’s emotion but the emotion of the bookseller who acquires the hard-to-acquire copy, describes the book, prices it and then offers it to an individual collector who he knows might want it. Seldom have rare book transactions been written about with as much literary flair, controlled style, storyteller’s skill and scholarly passion.

Click here to read more of the review, and click here for more information on Dr. Rosenbach and Mr. Lilly. Thank you, Mr. Sebastian, for posting such an excellent review!