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Some great reviews

August 1, 2012 1 comment

It’s been a while since we’ve showed off the great reviews our books continue to get, and we have quite a stack for you to read. We’ll post half today and half tomorrow. These reviews have been featured in some of the leading journals in the field of books.

Ernest Hemingway: A Descriptive Bibliography by C. Edgar Grissom

One of the most significant decisions on the part of Grissom and the publishers was to take advantage of the benefits of modern technology and include a DVD-ROM with over 2,000 color images of various details such as dust jackets, covers, dummy copies, copyright pages, pages of text, slipcases, spines, and frontispieces. These high quality JPEG images allow one to make in-depth comparisons between different copies and in so doing offer an interesting glimpse into publishing practices at the time.

A writer of such stature deserves a comprehensive bibliography of his literary efforts, and this is exactly what Grissom has compiled. It is a masterful work of careful scholarship that will from time to time need to be updates, yet as a basic bibliography of Hemingway’s canon, it may never be surpassed.

-John Roger Paas, Wolfenbutteler Notizen zur Buchgeschichte

If your pulse quickens upon hearing that a new edition or printing or state has been discovered, then you should stop reading this review and lay hands on this new bibliography. You will find C. Edgar Grissom’s Ernest Hemingway: A Descriptive Bibliography to be the welcome product of a persistent and inquiring mind. One gets the sense that he has chased the sometimes confounding details of his tome to their source—or else pursued them as far as we could have possibly followed ourselves, leaving us with a trustworthy reference tool that answers, but also asks, questions.

The details and depth of this volume delight. Hanneman’s work may have been foundational for two generations of Hemingway scholars, but the foundation of Grissom’s work is Grissom’s work. He began over again, as it were, and concentrated. A self-taught bibliophile, he spent a dozen years at this task. What has resulted is not merely a description of historical artifacts, although it is precise and painstaking in its description. Grissom has produced the narrative of Hemingway’s primary bibliography by first describing, then annotating, and finally supplementing his text with appendices and illustrations. He observes in his introduction “a properly conceived and executed single-author bibliography chronicles the author’s writing career.”

Judged only by the virtues of the comprehensiveness and thoroughness of Grissom’s bibliographical descriptions, his work is without question the new standard for Hemingway scholars.

-Albert J. DeFazio III, The Hemingway Review

 The American Antiquarian Society, 1812-2012: A Bicentennial History by Philip F. Gura

Philip F. Gura’s splendidly written bicentennial history is focused on an institution that has evaded fossilization. He describes the Society’s “evolution from a small library and cabinet museum started by local businessmen and scholars to an internationally renowned library and scholarly center”.

Gura’s chapters are full of such fascinating detail. They tell the tale of how, step by step, a provincial library became a mecca for scholars from all over the world.

William Baker, Times Literary Supplement

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

The eclectic, sensitive choice of materials makes this collection more interesting than similar works. The chapter content consists largely of illustrations of the bindings in full, and close-up. By Elizabeth Hunter, these photographs are stunning and evocative, encouraging the reader to pore over them for hours.

The work is beautifully printed on quality paper and solidly bound with a lovely dust jacket.

This is a worthy volume for study by scholars and students, and for the coffee tables of discerning laymen.

-G. E. Gorman, Australian Library Journal

This is the kind of book that even non-bibliophiles will look at and go: Wow. You can imagine then how much more of a delight it is to the connoisseur of the printed book, the lover of fine bindings.

This sumptuously illustrated book on bookbinding is also informed by fine scholarship. Most books on the subject of bookbinding tend to be either pretty pictures without the scholarship or scholarship (usually technical) without the nice pictures. By intelligently and deeply drawing from both, Beautiful Bookbindings becomes not just the most exciting, but also the most illuminating, introduction to the art and craft of fine bindings.

-Pradeep Sebastian, The Hindu

 I Classici che hanno Fatto L’italia: Per un Nuovo Canone Bio-Bibliografico degli Autori Italiani by Fabrizio Govi

I Classici is a superb reference to be consulted repeatedly for its pithy insights.

Bibliophiles with knowledge of Italian undoubtedly will take delight in perusing this colossal accomplishment and identifying their own favorites.

-Madison U. Sowell, SHARP News

The Kelmscott Chaucer: A Census by William S. Peterson and Sylvia Holton Peterson

This meticulously documented and handsomely designed volume obviously belongs in most of the research libraries of the world concerned with fine printing, but it should be held more broadly than just in institutions whose acquisitions are guided by that subject interest.

They have created a fascinating survey of the major collectors of the period and the extended provenance of these volumes.

-Printing History

 A History of Longmans and Their Books, 1724-1990: Longevity in Publishing by Asa Briggs

This is a social history, anecdotal and familiar, of seven generations of a grand publishing house.

There are good reasons for adding the volume to a personal or institutional library, beginning with the fact that a well-designed and well-made book is always worth holding in one’s hands.

-Melvyn New, The Scriblerian

Dr. Rosenbach and Mr. Lilly: Book Collecting in a Golden Age by Joel Silver

It is another example of the fine printing and book design for which the Oak Knoll Press has a now well-established reputation. A word of praise for the outstanding dustcover with its excellent photos of Rosenbach and Lilly is appropriate.

Joel Silver writes in an engaging, readable style addressed to the ordinary reader. The result is pleasing in all respects and makes a gift to delight any booklover.

-R. L. Cope, Australian Library Journal

 Historical Scripts from Classical Times to the Renaissance by Stan Knight

Historical Scripts is an essential reference book for anyone sincerely fascinated by the history of Western letters.

-Paul Shaw, Codex

Books about Books Part 8: New Partnerships Emerge

August 13, 2010 Leave a comment
Robert Cross of St. Paul's Bibliographies (on right)

Robert Cross of St. Paul's Bibliographies (on right)

The end of 1992 also saw the start of a long process of publishing with St. Paul’s Bibliographies, the English company owned by Robert Cross that I had mentioned previously. We had established contact with Robert a number of years before and stocked his titles in our New Books Department. He had started St. Paul’s in 1979 after a distinguished career in the publishing field. Robert knew everybody worth knowing in the English publishing scene and proved quite adept at seeking out dormant rights for important bibliographies from other publishers. He often took those bibliographies and found that special breed of authors known as “bibliographers” and got them to revise an older bibliography or provide a new one. This was quite a feat as the royalty payments for such small print run books often added up to the equivalent of only pennies an hour for all the time spent in doing the bibliography. I believe bibliographers deserve a special place in heaven for their unselfish efforts.

Robert had established the Winchester Bibliographies of Twentieth-Century Writers series with me as co-publisher in 1992 and taken on the publishing of the Publishing Pathways series, which had strong and continuing sales. We saw each other quite frequently on business but always with social times together and developed a mutual respect and friendship. He had been using one of Fred Ruffner’s companies, Omnigraphics, to distribute his titles in America and I suggested to him in early 1993 that the Cross-Fleck relationship had reached the point where Oak Knoll should take on these books as part of a distribution arrangement. The idea was suggested to Ruffner through Cross’s contact at Omnigraphics, Jim Sellgren. The idea was met with favor, and the entire inventory of books was shipped to Oak Knoll under a partial purchase and partial consignment arrangement in October 1993.

First distribution title for The Caxton Club

First distribution title for The Caxton Club

We published eight new titles in 1993 and seven in 1994. I found a new way to increase our publishing program—distribution for other organizations. In late 1994, we were asked by the Caxton Club of Chicago to help sell copies of their Club History as part of our publishing list. We worked up a very straightforward contract with our attorney. Oak Knoll would not pay any of the production costs, but would hold inventory of the book and pay the Club 40% of the retail price of the books when we got paid (all discounts to booksellers and distributors came out of our share).

Based on the success of this deal, I decided to see if other organizations might be interested. There are many organizations that want to produce manuscripts by their members but do not know how to market a book or sell into the library market. Selling to this market was a specialty of Oak Knoll, so it made perfect sense to offer this service along with advice on retail price, print run, and production costs.

The American Antiquarian Society elected us their distributor in August 1995, the Bibliographical Society of America in May 1996, the John Carter Brown Library also in May 1996, the Library of Congress (selected titles) in June 1998, and the Bibliographical Society of the University of Virginia in January 1999. Since then we have signed up the Manuscript Society, the Typophiles, Catalpa Press, the Bibliographical Society (selected titles), and many other organizations. These distribution deals have increased our publishing list to over 1000 titles of which only about 300 are Oak Knoll Press publications. Booksellers and distributors love this arrangement, as they can deal with one business instead of fifty when fulfilling orders for customers.

Check back next week for more from Books about Books!