An Internship at Oak Knoll: Derek Frisicchio’s Experience

October 15, 2015 Leave a comment

Derek for BlogHello fellow Oak Knollers! My name is Derek Frisicchio and I am an English major concentrating in Professional Writing at the University of Delaware. I am aiming to gain a career in law, I was a summer camp counselor, and I know too much about ice hockey. So, after that introduction, let me tell you about my experience so far with Oak Knoll.

Upon hearing about the intern position at Oak Knoll, I knew that was the position to pursue in order to gain the experience I needed. I also wanted to be completely surrounded by books, and I got my wish once I was accepted.

When I first stepped in front of the Oak Knoll building on my first day, I was delighted to see how unique the building was, being 200 years old. I envisioned myself working at a unique company with a unique office. I wish I could use the word “unique” more to describe Oak Knoll, but then this post would just become white noise. In short, my experience at Oak Knoll, so far, is exactly what I wanted it to be: challenging, enriching, and enlightening.

At first, I did not know much about the bookselling market or industry or the booksellers. I really did not give the position a second thought. I considered booksellers as boring people selling books no one wanted anymore. However, after seeing what Oak Knoll had to offer and what it sold to its customers, I could see clearly that this business had a lot of potential.

The books here are more than compelling. Each time I am given the task to compartmentalize and organize the book shelves, I come across books that I want to take home with me. What is even more remarkable about the books they sell is how detailed and luminous the designs in the books are. Some of these prints look like they were made through some Adobe software, when in fact, they were hand-crafted by bright designers, some from centuries ago! It gives me joy to always discover new books on the most targeted and engaging of subjects. This I did not expect when I first walked into the office.

At first, I imagined myself sitting at a desk just numbingly creating documents every day. They would tell me what they wanted and I would give it to them. Fortunately, the employees at Oak Knoll wanted me to do more than mindlessly type away on my keyboard; they wanted me to learn.

As each day passed by, I learned new insights into not only bookselling, but management, advertising, and tailoring documents to specific audiences. Overall, interning is making me into a more knowledgeable individual in terms of the business environment; this was something I did not expect.

I have heard some really scary intern stories. Some of the people I’ve talked to who have interned elsewhere were merely running errands, getting coffee, even cleaning sinks! Although, I did change a few light bulbs here and there, the internship at Oak Knoll is much more than what they posted in the job description. The people here care about you, they want you to learn, and, most importantly, they want you to succeed!

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“Alice in a World of Wonderlands” Opens at the Grolier

September 29, 2015 Leave a comment


IMG_0077On September 15, the Grolier Club hosted an opening event for its current exhibition, “Alice in a World of Wonderlands: The Translations of Lewis Carroll’s Masterpiece.” Curator and General Editor Jon Lindseth presided, and he was joined by co-curator and Technical Editor Alan Tannenbaum, Lewis Carroll biographer Morton Cohen, and other Alice collectors and enthusiasts, as well as contributors to the accompanying three-volume work of the same title, edited by Lindseth and Tannenbaum and published by Oak Knoll.

Wine and hors d’oeuvres were served as the attendees examined the cases, which featured the original edition and related material, followed by editions and ephemera from all over the world, from the first translation in German in 1869 to the present day, representing 174 languages and all manner of interpretive illustration and designs. Over the floor case devoted to a small Disney display was a world map designed by Connie Brown, with a key to all the languages and locations where Alice has been translated and published up to the present, which was reproduced on the endpapers of the book.

Jon spoke about both the exhibition and the book, thanking (among others) the Morgan Library, Princeton University, and the Fales Library for lending items to the exhibit, as well as to Grolier Exhibitions Manager Jennifer Sheehan and her assistant, and to book designer Jerry Kelly, who was presented with an oversized ribbon in honor of his accomplishment.

The book started out as a catalogue for the exhibition, but over time grew to include the contributions of 251 volunteer writers. Your correspondent was reliably informed that this was the first Grolier exhibition in which the catalogue was itself a featured part of the exhibit, so important is it to Alice scholarship.

To learn more about the exhibition, go to: To find out about (or to order) the book, go to our web page listing.


Alan Tannenbaum and Morton Cohen


Jerry Kelly’s “distinguished award”


Translations in Carroll’s lifetime


The three-volume magnum opus

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Walk up to the Pop Up

April 23, 2015 Leave a comment

In celebration of UNESCO’s World Book, and Copyright Day, antiquarian booksellers from all over the world are hosting Pop Up Book Fairs on April 23, 2015. Members of the International League of Antiquarian Booksellers (ILAB) are bringing rare books, prints, manuscripts, and ephemera to unexpected places – train stations, brew pubs, rooftop terraces, and even boats! In addition to promoting the rare books, these events also act as fundraisers for UNESCO’s literacy projects in Africa. Each fair will display a large poster of an “empty bookcase,” and encourage visitors to fill it by purchasing symbolic book spines, with the money from each going directly to provide books to schools and libraries in South Sudan. Read more coverage of the fairs happening all over the world on ILAB’s blog.

Oak Knoll Books is hosting a Pop Up Book Fair in New Castle, Delaware, outside our shop in the old Opera House, built in 1879 by the Masons. Fellow booksellers Ian Brabner Rare Americana (Wilmington, DE) and Between the Covers Rare Books (Gloucester City, NJ) are also exhibiting.

We thought it would be fun to give you a little tour of New Castle and our fair so far. Enjoy!


Our journey begins at the Delaware River Wharf! That’s the Delaware Memorial Bridge, and New Jersey in the distance.

Read more…

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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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Rare Book Week West

January 23, 2015 Leave a comment

Oak Knoll is headed to California for the Pasadena Antiquarian Book, Print, Photo and Paper Fair (January 31-February 1) and the California International Antiquarian Book Fair (February 6-8 in Oakland). We have some discount tickets to give away for both fairs; see the end of this post for details.


The Oakland fair kicks off Rare Book Week West, an impressive array of special events dedicated to rare and finely-printed books. See the RBWW website for full details on the book fairs, auctions, presentations, and exhibitions. Although we won’t be attending, we recommend the CODEX Fair and Symposium (February 8-11), which showcases 100 fine press printers, book artists, and fine art publishers from all over the world, including many of our Oak Knoll Fest participants.

We’ve packed our trunks with all manner of books about books–papermaking, bookbinding, calligraphy, typography, printing history, book collecting– a number of finely printed private press books, a little mountain of miniature books, and a selection of new and bestselling titles from Oak Knoll Press. Plus, we’re excited to debut some wonderful books that we recently acquired from the collection of Michael Peich, professor emeritus at West Chester University and proprietor of the Aralia Press.

Peich is responsible for making West Chester a hub for poetry: he co-founded university’s annual Poetry Conference in 1995, was instrumental in the establishment of the Poetry Center in 2004, and helped secure a permanent endowment to support future poetry-related activities at West Chester. His Aralia Press, founded in 1983, and located in WCU’s F.H. Green Library, provided an opportunity to publish contemporary poetry, while teaching students the craft of fine printing.

Peich’s collection is full of lovely private press material from the 1970s to 2000, including presentation copies, a number of publications from the Toothpaste Press (predecessor of the Coffee House Press), and work from the San Francisco Renaissance poet William Everson (aka Brother Antonius), a conscientious objector and a fine press printer in his own right.

Click the images below to see what we’ll have at the fairs:


Book Fair Details

Pasadena Antiquarian Book, Print, Photo, and Paper Fair
January 31-February 1, 2015
Pasadena Convention Center
Pasadena, CA
Booth #106
We have a limited number of complimentary and discount tickets, available on a first-come, first-served basis. E-mail [rob (at)] to claim one.

California International Antiquarian Book Fair
February 6-8, 2015
Oakland Marriott City Center
Oakland, CA
Booth #600
We have a limited number of complimentary tickets, available on a first-come, first-served basis. E-mail [rob (at)] to claim one.

“A love letter to rare books” – revisiting To Put Asunder

January 15, 2015 1 comment


Academically, it gives a birds-eye view of where family law came from and how it developed to the point in its tradition as we know it today.

To Put Asunder is a “must read” for every practitioner who does not merely copy forms, but who practices law “to make a difference”—for clients as well as for self.

-Willard DaSilva, Family Advocate magazine*

Oak Knoll is pleased to announce that, in cooperation with the author Lawrence Stotter, we have significantly reduced the price of his legal history book To Put Asunder: The Laws of Matrimonial Strife (2011), from $150 to $95. We think you’ll find this a great deal for what one reviewer** called “a love letter to rare books and the history of family law publishing throughout history.”

To Put Asunder is a joy to behold: numerous full color illustrations, wide margins, and colored text are housed in an expertly-made binding, complete with ribbon bookmark. A recent review in Family Advocate magazine* declared, “From a visual perspective the book is a masterpiece,” and an earlier write-up on the AALL Spectrum blog** called it “one of the most visually appealing books I have ever read.”

In 2011, The New York Book Festival awarded To Put Asunder second place in its History division, a highly diverse, nationally competitive pool.


According to Stotter, To Put Asunder may well be the very first comprehensive Anglo-American literary history book written on family law in the twentieth century, or ever. It is the only book in print which provides an early history of family law publishing in both England and the United States prior to 1900, and it contains the first and only current bibliography on the subject since A Study of English Domestic Relations of Matrimony and Family Life, 1487-1653 (Chilton Latham Powell, 1917) and American Family Law and American Family History: A Bibliography (Institute for Legal Studies, 1984).

106293Family law has been overlooked academically – historically designated as “church law” rather than traditional common law, and therefore books such as Stotter discusses here are quite rare. The titles pictured on the dust jacket are, with the rare exception of a few antiquarian collectors and dealers, a reflection of books almost totally unknown to lawyers in general, and cannot be currently found in either public or traditional law libraries. These 16th and 17th century books, along with copies of nearly every English-language treatise on the subject published over four centuries, now reside in the Lawrence H. Stotter Collection at the Mortiz College of Law, Ohio State University.

In addition to bringing these rare books to light, Stotter draws attention to two little-known contributors to the field of family law, each of whom receives a chapter in the book. Henry Swinburne (England, 1551-1624) bridged the gap between ecclesiastical laws and English civil laws by writing in English rather than in the traditional Latin. Tapping Reeve (United States, 1744-1823)—whom Stotter considers the Father of American Law—established the first true law school in America, laying the foundation for legal structures in the United States and training many colonial lawmakers and justices.

It makes a great addition to any academic library with an emphasis on the history  of law or to any library with a strong collection of family law material.

– Lance Burke, AALL Spectrum blog**

Head over to our website to learn more about To Put Asunder, read an excerpt, and see the table of contents.

*  Willard DaSilva, editor emeritus of Family Advocate magazine, a publication of the American Bar Association. Review in Family Advocate. Summer 2014 (Vol. 37, No. 1).
** Lance Burke, reference/access services librarian, Elon School of Law. Review on AALL (American Association of Law Libraries) Spectrum blog.  Nov. 2011