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Four Used Books and a Professional Journal Arrive in the Mail, June 1, 2021

July 2, 2021 Leave a comment

GUEST POST: by Oliver B. Pollak

            Writing non-fiction requires research, libraries, interlibrary loan, archives, museums, professional booksellers, online warehouse book aggregators, and patience.

            USPS Informed Delivery advised me Tuesday after Memorial Day at 9:51 am that I would receive five packages. The products of Oak Knoll Books, Abebooks and my over 52-year membership in the American Historical Association filled the overflow mail box with five volumes, 6 inches high, 2175 pages in length. Egads, what was I thinking, and that is the question. If the books had arrived individually on different days I would not have experienced the compression and simultaneity frisson that conceived this story. The decision to acquire these books reflects my interests.

The best wrapped package, from Oak Knoll Books, is on top. The wrapping and tape showed the human touch of Millie Fleck the widow of Oak Knoll founder Bob Fleck. The other packages were mechanically, perhaps robotically wrapped.

            I purchased  John De Pol and the Typophiles, A Memoir and Record of Friendships (New York: The Typophiles, 1998) by Catherine Tyler Brody to thicken my research about Neil Shaver of Yellow Barn Press in Council Bluffs, Iowa. Neil published my biography of his brother Elmo in 2002. Neil, with progressive macular degeneration, offered me his library. I’ve enjoyed the 1200 volumes. When we moved to Richmond in 2016 I thinned my 65-year accumulation but kept Neil’s “books about books” intact, not wanting to dispose of them while he lived; he died in 2019 at the age of 95. I turned 77 during the Covid 19 pandemic and started to “weed” the least likely of Neil’s books pertinent to my scholarship. The imperfect storied process of donating or selling books which later had to be purchased is an occupational hazard shared by many divesting scholars.

            I preserved Neil’s core books and ephemera; Yellow Barn Press imprints, and volumes revealing connections with his collaborators, illustrator John De Pol (1913-2004), and bibliographer and William Morris specialist Jack Walsdorf (1941-2017).

            Dismantling private libraries creates an association copy diaspora. Parsing keywords on Abebooks suggests the inventories in certain Oregon and New Jersey bookstores were beneficiaries of this trio. Signed and inscribed, bookplates and keepsakes reveals mutual projects, influence, esteem, respect, and friendship,

            James H. Fraser and Neil Shaver produced a festschrift in 1994, John De Pol, A Celebration of His Works for $225. I will visit a copy at the University of Santa Barbara 296 miles away. The De Pol search also lead me to Madeleine Stern’s 1963 book, We the Women: Career Firsts of Nineteenth-Century America, with woodcuts by John De Pol, reprinted by the University of Nebraska Press in 1996, confirming a lifelong adage, one thing leads to another.

            People of the Book, Thirty Scholars Reflect on Their Jewish Identity (1996), ed. by Jeffrey Rubin-Dorsky and Shelley Fisher Fishkin, came from ThriftBooks in Chicago for $8.16. It reflects my interest in Jewish intellectual history, how we become readers, book lovers and historians. I recently reviewed Conversations with Colleagues: On Becoming an American Jewish Historian (2019) with sixteen contributors, and am reviewing No Straight Path, Becoming Women Historians edited by Elizabeth Jacoway (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 2019) featuring twelve women historians of the South revealing the career trajectory twists and turns.  In March 2019 I started working on the history of the Institute for Historical Study founded in 1979 in the Bay Area, currently at 53,000 words, 166 single spaced pages. Struggling with organization these books gave me ideas. Most early members were women unable to secure tenure track appointments during the 1970s who became Independent Scholars.

            The Saul Brodsky Jewish Community Library in Saint Louis,  moving to a new smaller location, deaccessioned the book. Many titles had to be eliminated, especially fiction. No deletion records were kept on the computer or manually. Downsizing the collection took longer due to Covid.

            Louis Menand received the National Humanities Medal from President Obama in 2016. He gave a zoom talk for the National History Center and Washington History Center on May 24 on his new book The Free World: Art and Thought in the Cold War covering 1945-1965. He mentioned The Metaphysical Club: A Story of Ideas in America (2001), his Pulitzer Prize winning study of the relationships between Oliver Wendell Holmes, William James, Charles Peirce, and John Dewey. Menand’s descriptive power in the New Yorker competes with John McPhee for attention and affection. Discover Books in Toledo, Ohio delivered it for $8.21. On the first day I covered 63 of the 546 pages.

Three email letters in June from a Massachusetts public library explained weeding:

“The library deaccessions or weeds items according to our Collection Development Policy. Typically the most popular reasons an item is weeded is lack of circulation/community interest (meaning no one has borrowed it in a long time) or if the information is out-of-date and more up to date information is available.

It looks like it was deleted on April 30, 2021. Unfortunately our system doesn’t allow us to input a reason an item is deleted. I can tell you, the library acquired this book in 2012 and it was checked out 3 times but hadn’t been checked out since January 2017. This leads me to believe it was a lack of circulation that led to the book being weeded but it could also have been the condition of the item if that was poor (ripped spine, water damage, etc…).

Books that are in good condition are either given to the Friends of the…Public Library to be put in a library book sale or given to Better World Books….Book dealers and used book store owners are a common sight at library book sales so it was either purchased by a book dealer for resale from one of the library book sales or purchased from Better World Books. Unfortunately we have no way of knowing for sure which group individual books went to.”

I thank librarians and booksellers for explaining deaccession and acquisition processes. 

            The Flight Portfolio by Julie Orringer (2019) is a novel about Varian Fry. Prompted by viewing the PBS seriesimage-3 “Atlantic Crossing” I explored the activities of exiled Norwegians in London and Hans Roger Madol, antiquarian book dealer, journalist, diplomat, biographer of royals, and a friend of on my mother’s side of the family. He interviewed political exiles in London, and published The League of London in 1942 including interviews of Norwegian royalty, the prime minister and foreign minister, Trygve Lee, first United Nations Secretary General. Madol’s brother Berthold Jacob, a WWI veteran, pacifist, journalist and implacable foe of Nazi militarization placed Berthold’s life in jeopardy. Rescuer Varian Fry failed to save Berthold from Nazi clutches. Thus was I lead to a historical novel on Varian Fry’s rescue activities at Discover Books in Toledo, Ohio for $3.80.

            I read John De Pol first. Searching for a Shaver-De Pol-Walsdorf strategy I used post-its rather than mark up the book. I marked  Menand’s Metaphysical Club to facilitate the Institute for Historical Study project. I plucked “Using Proust’s Jews to Shape Identity” by Seth L. Wolitz from the thirty contributions in People of the Book. I can’t say when I’ll get to the 566 page novel on Varian Fry, perhaps on a sea cruise.

(GUEST POST: by Oliver B. Pollak)

Categories: Uncategorized

August 6, 2020 2 comments

hendrikvervlietWe received sad news today… Hendrik D.L. Vervliet, who authored four titles published by Oak Knoll Press, has passed away, peacefully and surrounded by his loved ones. Hendrik’s accomplishments in the fields of typography and printing are monumental, and his wonderful career greatly influenced book history. May he rest in peace.

Hendrik D.L. Vervliet worked until 1968 at the Plantin-Moretus Museum, Antwerp, and, from 1969 onwards, he served as Librarian of the University of Antwerp. He held the Professorship of Book History at the University of Amsterdam from 1974 up to his retirement in 1990. In 2011, he was honored with the Individual Laureate Award by the American Printing History Association for distinguished contribution to the study of printing history.

Pictured is a drawn portrait of Hendrik by Anne van Herreweghen.

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Interning from Home!

May 8, 2020 Leave a comment


An Update from Intern Kiersten Campbell

Hi all! I hope everyone is staying safe in this strange time we are living in. We are quarantined to our homes, schools have moved online, and most of the time, no one knows what day it is! I for one was not the happiest my last year of college is being spent in my living room in New Jersey. Lucky for us, Oak Knoll is open and providing us with the books we desire in these perfect reading days!  Even though I might not be in Delaware to assist Oak Knoll, I am so glad they have given me the opportunity to complete my internship from home.

Interning remotely can have its challenges, but in the end, the rewards are worth it. Even from home, I have been able to help out in engaging and fun tasks. I had the opportunity to proofread a manuscript for an upcoming publication. This was exciting for me, as it’s what I want to do one day. I also had the opportunity to contribute my own marketing ideas for the book. For our upcoming publication about Theodore Roosevelt, I assisted the Oak Knoll team in marketing research. It’s been really great to not only gain publishing experience, but marketing experience as well.

The greatest challenge, of course, is the distance in communication. Emails and phone calls are helpful, but nothing is the same as hands on learning and access to a mentor, someone with experience and knowledge. I miss being able to go to Oak Knoll in person, to see the multiple shelves of books, but in the end, working from home has given me a different kind of experience and lessons you can only get during this time. The circumstances may not be ideal or what I had imagined, but I am eternally grateful to Oak Knoll for this opportunity, and I will enjoy the remaining weeks I have to be a part of the team.

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Simon Loxley at Emery Walker’s House

March 3, 2020 Leave a comment

Simon Loxley, author of Emery Walker: Arts, Crafts, and a World in Motion (Oak Knoll Press, 2019), sent us the photo below. If you let your imagination wander, can you see a ghost in the corner of the staircase behind Simon?

“Arts and Crafts Hammersmith’s publicist Lucinda MacPherson took this picture of me in Emery Walker’s House a couple of weeks ago. Walker would have walked up and down that staircase many times…”

Simon is a graphic designer and a writer on design, typography and design history. He designed the Emery Walker’s House logo, and he designed and edited (2006-2016) Ultrabold, the Journal of St. Bride Library.

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Meet Our Spring Intern, Kiersten!

February 20, 2020 Leave a comment



Hi Everyone! My name is Kiersten Campbell and I am the newest intern to join the Oak Knoll Team! I am a current senior at the University of Delaware majoring in English with a minor in Advertising. During my time at UD I have had the opportunity to study a variety of literature topics, such as the depiction of women in literature ranging from Victorian women to Violent women, old British poems by John Donne, to even my favorite Harry Potter. I am from South Jersey, a small beach town called Ventnor City, where I love to spend my time with my family. When I am not powering through homework with my best friend and roommate, I enjoy watching romantic comedies, going out for a delicious bowl of pasta, and of course, Reading!

When considering my major in college and what I was going to do with my future, I always wished I could just read books for a living. Unfortunately, that job does not exist yet, so I went on to the next best thing, working with books! The publishing industry has been my goal since the start of college, so when I got an email from my school about an internship with Oak Knoll Books and Press, I knew it would be perfect for me. The moment I walked in and saw walls lined with shelves and shelves filled with books, I couldn’t imagine a better place to work. Add in the friendliest black lab and the rest of the Oak Knoll team, I fell in love. I am so excited to be working within these whimsical walls and to learn all about the publishing and book selling industry. I can’t wait to get started!

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A Short History of the Guild of Women-Binders

January 21, 2020 Leave a comment

Oak Knoll is proud to announce Special Catalogue 30: The Guild of Women-Binders!

Special Cat 30.COVER

Download a PDF of the catalogue HERE.

View all available titles from the catalogue HERE.


See below for a brief history of the Guild of Women-Binders…



The Guild of Women-Binders
“Finishing” (Tidcombe, 121)

During the latter half nineteenth century, the Arts and Crafts movement took flight in Britain as a reaction to industrialization and mass production. The movement was notably advanced by such luminaries as William Morris, T. J. Cobden-Sanderson (who coined the term), and Emery Walker, as well as authors such as Dante Gabriel Rossetti & John Ruskin, artist Edward Burne-Jones, and architect and designer Charles Rennie Macintosh. The focus on the decorative arts, independent of other attributes, became a trend that quickly spread to Europe, the Americas, and around the world, influencing everything from architecture and furniture to art, graphic design, and bookmaking. The Fine Press Revival begun by Morris would turn the book world on its head, and the resurgence of interest in the book as an object would begin, creating a need for artists & artisans.

Additionally, women during this time period were developing a foothold in industries where they had not before. Ainslie C. Waller states in her article from The Private Library (Autumn, Vol 6:3, 1983):

“The involvement of women in the Arts and Crafts movement has been divided by Anthea Callen, in her book on the subject, into four main categories: the working-class or peasant women who were organized and employed in the revival of traditional rural crafts; the aristocratic, upper- and middle-class women who were philanthropically engaged in the organization of rural craft revivals; destitute gentlewomen forced to make an independent livelihood from art-work; and the elite inner circle of educated middle-class women, often related by birth or marriage to the key male figures within the vanguard of the movement.”

Bookbinding, increasingly valued for its artistic contribution during this period, is one such craft that was becoming more open and available to women.  Numerous guilds, schools, and binderies began accepting women at an accelerated pace to help fulfill the role of the decorative binder. These organizations included The Guild of Handicrafts, St George’s Guild, the Royal School of Art Needlework, the Chiswick Art Workers’ Guild, and the Working Ladies Guild, to name a few. These organizations helped launch the lengthy and prosperous careers of some of the most successful and well-known female bookbinders of the time, such as Sarah Prideaux and Katharine Adams.

With bindings by women becoming both more numerous and more elegant, members of the Royal Court began to take notice. It was in 1897, for the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, that the Victorian Era Exhibition displayed multiple examples of bindings executed by women. The London bookseller Francis Karslake attended this exhibition and took interest in the bindings.



Frank Karslake (1851–1920) made his living through his passion for books and bookselling. He was an interesting figure, in that he started off as an apprentice for a notable London bookseller in his teens, married his wife, Martha McGregor, ventured out on his own for a few years, and then put bookselling on hold to migrate to California to start a fruit farm. It wasn’t until three years after that Karslake returned to London to take up bookselling again and to help found the Guild of Women-Binders.

The Guild was established in May of 1898 at 61, Charing Cross Road, in the same building as Karslake’s other bindery, The Hampstead Bindery. The bindery produced lavishly-bound books in the highest quality material for their clients and took on many different binders, such as Mrs. Annie S. MacDonald, Miss Marshall, Phoebe Traquair, Florence de Rheims, and Frank’s two daughters, Constance & Olive Karslake. In the early months and years of the Guild, women were required to be both designer and binder for a project. That production model eventually became more flexible, so that one person might design a binding for another to finish.

The Guild had four general rules for binders and the books bound in its name. Anstruther’s The Bindings of To-Morrow (1902) states:

“…first requirements in an embellished bookbinding is that it shall be satisfactory to the eyes…Next in order , although perhaps not in importance, may be set down fullness of material treatment. A book is– or ought to be – a thing of utility; an inviting , companionable, useful piece of property, to be handled and surveyed with pleasure…Thirdly, a binding should posses a character of its own, the individual volume or set being distinguished by special treatment from all its fellows…Lastly–and here a code for artistic ethics comes into operation–the design upon a book-cover, in order to qualify as a really efficient application of an idea, should be in correspondence with the nature of the book itself.”

Unfortunately, the Guild of Women-Binders lasted only six years, folding in 1904. This failure can most likely be attributed to Karslake’s requirement that the male staff, most likely from The Hampstead Bindery, work with the women, who were joining the Guild at an accelerated pace. While the standards for the bindings remained high, staff was stretched thin and less income was being generated.

Read more…

Categories: Uncategorized

Remembering Gayle Garlock

November 20, 2019 Leave a comment

On August 26, 2019, we lost Gayle Garlock, author of Canadian Binders’ Tickets and Booksellers’ Labels. In the course of that project several years ago, it became apparent that Gayle was increasingly unable to handle his end of the copy editing and revision process, and he was subsequently diagnosed with Lewy body dementia. He was, however, determined to see his study published, and we at Oak Knoll worked closely by telephone and email with Gayle and his wife Barbara to complete the book and see it through to publication in late 2015, to reviews that hailed it as “pioneering and truly impressive” (Papers of the Bibliographical Society of America).


Gayle was one of the first people with dementia to receive approval to die with medical assistance under Canadian Medical Assistance in Dying (MAID) legislation. A documentary about his case aired on CBC Radio on October 27, including the results of extensive interviews with Barbara and Dr. Stefanie Green, the head of the Canadian Association of MAID Assessors and Providers (CAMAP), who provided the medical assistance to Gayle. Gayle, Barbara, and Dr. Green agreed to the documentary because they wanted their story to reach those who might be helped by it, and so we include a link to the CBC page (click HERE) where a description and the broadcast itself can be found.

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The CODEX Foundation Symposium is available online!

October 23, 2019 Leave a comment
The CODEX Foundation symposium, The CODEX Effect and the Emergence of the “Third Stream” in the 21st Century, was held last weekend at the Grolier Club! The event focused on the influence of Peter Koch and the CODEX Foundation and the “Third Stream,” a new way of defining and thinking about the book as a work of art in today’s world. For a full description of the event, see the CODEX website here:, or watch the symposium online at the links below!
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Letterform Archive’s “Only on Saturday: The Wood Type Prints of Jack Stauffacher”

October 15, 2019 Leave a comment

Letterform Archive, a San Francisco-based non-profit center for preserving and sharing the history of the graphic arts, has just announced its third book Only on Saturday, “a stunning tribute to Jack Stauffacher, a letterpress printer, typographer, and designer whose elegant and innovative type treatments cemented his reputation as one of the best printers of the twentieth century.”

For more information and to back this project, see the Kickstarter here:


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Meet Interns Grace and Charlotte!

September 18, 2019 Leave a comment


Grace Buck

Hi, Oak Knollers! My name is Grace Buck and I am a current sophomore at the University of Delaware. I am currently pursuing an English major with a minor in Advertising. I am from Chester Springs, Pennsylvania where I also work as a waitress when I am not away at school. I adore writing, reading, yoga, and traveling, and I am absolutely thrilled to be Oak Knoll’s newest team member this fall!

Originally, I had applied to UD as a biology major. This was a surprising decision, to both myself and everyone who knew me. Though I loved the natural world and loved learning about it, my endless passion for reading and writing made it an uncharacteristic choice. Quickly, however, I realized that while biology may be a subject I enjoy learning about, it was not the field where I would find the most happiness and fulfillment in my future career. I switched to English, made an entirely new schedule of classes, and began my freshman year. Having this experience working at Oak Knoll is only making me more certain that I am on the path that is best for me.

I cannot remember a time where books were not an influential part of life; my mom would read me and my siblings stories on end before bed, and when I was old enough I began reading anything and everything I could get my hands on. Growing up in a household filled with people and pets, I would hide away any chance I could and throw myself into a book. Though life has certainly gotten busier, I still pursue an avid love of reading, with my GoodReads account potentially being more active than my Instagram.

Because the English major can lead to a fairly broad field, I found myself (and still find myself) faced with the decision of where it will lead me and one milestone of this decision was finding Oak Knoll books. I was always incredibly interested in the book publishing field and the creation of books, but had very little knowledge of what it entailed, and very little idea how to learn. In the spring of last year, I decided to additionally purse an Advertising minor, as I thought obtaining a deeper knowledge of the business and marketing world would help me understand what it takes to make and sell a product, namely, books.

When I received an email from the English department asking for applications for an intern position at a book publishing company that specializes in books about books, I thought it could not be more perfect. I am so incredibly excited to learn all that I can from this experience and am so grateful that the staff has been so wonderfully welcoming! I can’t wait to get started!

Charlotte Brown

Hello all! My name is Charlotte Brown, and I am a current junior at the University of Delaware. I am currently majoring in English. During my time at UD, I have studied a broad range of literature and other topics, such as British and American literature, as well as literature in relation to gender, advertising, film and film history, and several creative writing classes. In addition to my position as intern at Oak Knoll, I work part-time in the UD library, helping to digitally preserve historical documents. When I am not studying or scanning old books, I enjoy reading, writing, hanging out with friends, and a myriad of other activities.

Despite not knowing what exactly I want to do as a full-time career, thanks to the English major’s broad range of options, I always knew I wanted to work with books in some capacity. Books have always been a major part of my life: I started reading children’s books at a very young age, but quickly grew bored and moved on to higher-level reading material. It used to be that I would read so much that my mother would have to ban me from doing so until I got some actual work done. Now, unfortunately, I don’t read as often as I used to. I hope that while at Oak Knoll, I will learn the inner workings of how a store is run and how books are created and published, but I also hope that being surrounded by so many physical books will re-inspire me to continue reading as I once did.

When I received an email from the English Department that asked for applications for an internship position at a bookstore/publisher, I knew immediately that I wanted this position. I can’t wait to learn as much as I can from this experience, and I am so happy that everyone has been so kind and welcoming! I can’t wait to get started!

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