Archive for March, 2015

Recently acquired: two new collections of art and artists’ books

March 24, 2015 Leave a comment

Exciting news from Bob:

Two wonderful collections have found their way to the store. The first comes from Barrie Marks, the noted English ABA dealer. Barrie contacted me in the fall and asked if I would be interested in purchasing his reference library. I flew to England and packed the 116 boxes of books and had them shipped back to the US. More importantly, I had a chance to spend many hours with Barrie and his family and found kindred spirits.

Here is a biographical sketch we put together with Barrie’s help.

In October 1976, Barrie Marks commenced full-time sales of old, secondhand, and antiquarian books. This was his second career – from the age of 22 he had been a shopkeeper selling children’s clothes – and had him working from home at the age of 41.

He specialized in the illustrated book (including children’s books) and private press, and also had an interest in decorative arts, ballet, and all things visual. He loved reference material which he added continuously over the years. He was self-taught and learned the business from attending auctions and exhibiting at book fairs. Nearly all of his stock was purchased at either auction or from other booksellers. He liked to keep a low profile and was primarily a trade bookseller, but did have a number of supportive private buyers over the years. Barrie became a member of the ABA in 1982 and was unusual in that he never issued a catalogue, but liked to sell to visitors or by detailed quotes in letters and listings.

Barrie reading with his granddaughter Hannah

Barrie Marks reading with his granddaughter Hannah


And the second collection comes from Washington, DC. We have purchased the inventory of Joshua Heller Rare Books, Inc. (proprietors Jos and Phyllis Heller). This collection includes a wide range of artists’ books and private press books and the reference books to support it.

Joshua and Phyllis Heller

Joshua and Phyllis Heller


They were kind enough to write a statement to send their friends and ours.

After three decades in the wonderful world of books, we decided it was time to retire and felt that Bob Fleck of Oak Knoll would be the correct choice to take over our inventory. We know we can rely on a professional like Bob to handle this, and it has, indeed, proved to be a pleasure.

— Joshua and Phyllis

Tabernacle: Hole, Horse, and Hell-box (Circle Press, 2001)

Tabernacle: Hole, Horse, and Hell-box (Circle Press, 2001) from the Heller collection


While we’re still in the process of adding inventory, we’ve put together a sneak peek of the books from these two collections. See the links below:
Artists’ Books and Private Press from Joshua Heller
Books from the Reference Library of Barrie Marks


Twelve Days

March 3, 2015 Leave a comment

Twelve days: how long one must stay in California to do both the Pasadena Antiquarian Book, Print, Photo, and Paper Fair & the California International Antiquarian Book Fair. Doing the whole thing by yourself: priceless.

That’s right, boys and girls. I did the whole thing by myself. This was the first time I had done double fairs without my Dad and I was nervous going into the trip. However, I did take some comfort in knowing I would be getting out of the Delaware cold and into the lovely California weather.


Oak Knoll Press titles at the Pasadena fair



The whole booth


This year the shadow fair was in Pasadena and as was the case last year, it was held on Super Bowl weekend. Needless to say, while there were crowds on Saturday, Sunday was another story… Miniature books were popular, which is usually the case when we do fairs in California. This year, our Marketing Director, Bailey Kung, supplied me with 20 of her favorite miniature books and they sold extremely well. The group was made up of a variety of different presses and designers, featuring books such as The Devil’s Printer (Tarantula Press) and Voyager (Tabula Rasa Press), which was particularly interesting due to its holographic cover.

After the Pasadena fair, I needed to transport the books from the Los Angeles area to the Bay Area. Luckily, after taking advantage of a free upgrade at the local Avis, I was able to rent a Chevrolet Traverse which had more than enough space for the boxes and trunks.


Here’s how excited I was to fit all the books in the rental.

I had planned several stops along the way to break up the driving time.  The first was in lovely Laguna Beach, where I looked at an interesting collection comprised of pre-WWII Japanese related material. While most of the material was books, there were also some examples of feudal-age metallurgy and numismatics. After stopping at few other towns, including Yountville, the home of the famous French Laundry (owned and operated by Thomas Keller), I finally made it to this year’s home of the California Book Fair: Oakland.


The French Laundry

While skeptics were wary of a new location for the book fair (just like some were wary of Pasadena in 2012), the location was central, easily accessible from the BART, and in an area with an abundance of shopping and eateries. But the real test would be how well the committee marketed the fair. Judging from the number of people coming through, I’d say they did a great job. Friday had your typical range of high profile buyers as well as novice collectors, but Saturday and Sunday had bigger crowds than I’ve ever seen at an ABAA fair before. I also had some collectors that requested tickets to the show come up and introduce themselves to me over the course of the weekend. The aisles were constantly filled with attendees talking and walking, discussing with a smile the book that they had just bought, or listening to a dealer recount the provenance of one treasure or another.

As for me, my proudest experience was sending a copy of Marbled Papers by Karli Frigge home with a customer who was an avid collector of her work. Additionally, our publishing assistant, James McKinstry, did a wonderful job of selecting hot sellers from our publishing/distribution inventory. I sold every copy he packed of the latest Grolier Club exhibition catalogue, One Hundred Books Famous in Children’s Literature.


Oak Knoll booth at the California International Antiquarian Book Fair



Bibliophiles browsing


Overall, conducting two book fairs as a one man show is tiresome – try holding a conversation and writing up invoices at the same time, all day, for three days! But as the Oakland fair was winding down on Sunday night, I felt like I was completing a ritual; a “rite of passage,” if you will.  Even though the trip was stressful at times, by gosh was it worth it!

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