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.
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.
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
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
The Silent Scream: Political and Social Comment in Books by Artists edited by Monica Oppen and Peter Lyssiotis presents 77 works through which poets, writers, and artists expressed their opinions on relevant issues of their day. The books collected here reflect the social climate of their time and have survived revolutions, invasions, and World Wars. Take a look at this excerpt from the book that examines the work of the first book artist, William Blake.
America: A Prophecy
‘Washington spoke; Friends of America, look over the Atlantic sea;
A bended bow is lifted in heaven, & a heavy iron chain
Descends link by link from Albion’s cliffs across the sea to bind
Brothers & sons of America, till our faces pale and yellow;
Heads deprest, voices weak, eyes downcast, hands work-bruis’d,
Feet bleeding on the sultry sands, and the furrows of the whip
Descend to generations that in future times forget.’ p.5: 6-12
William Blake was the first book artist. As a poet, engraver and printmaker he had the skills to produce his own books. The books, in some cases mammoth Works rich with his ideology, political opinions and raw enthusiasm come at us like a tidal wave. They are full of poetry, vision, passion and a deeply human take on the world. His primary intention was to educate and enlighten his readers with an ideology that was both personal and radical, steeped in dissenter Christian philosophy that was current in Europe and Britain at the time. Blake wanted to connect with an audience, which, however, didn’t materialize until after his death. To understand his work by reading a single book is not possible. It is, however, important to place him at the beginning. The core of his work rests in his republicanism and his strong sense of social justice.
In 1788 Blake first experimented with relief etching, a printing method that would give him full artistic control over the production of his books. He wanted to cut his production costs; be free of publishers and printers. His wife Catherine became his partner in production. But the risk he took by becoming so independent was that he stepped too far beyond the publishing norm of his time and consequently had to struggle to sell his books and find a readership.
America: A Prophecy was published in 1793. The specific subject is the American War of Independence, also known the Revolutionary War. The war deeply affected Blake and many like-minded Britons, who were supporters of the American cause. George III was unpopular and his decision to go to war with the American colony only heightened the anger of the populace against him. By and large, the Britons considered the Americans to be their brothers so their outrage was more intense, and some even considered it to be a civil war.
However, Blake does not slick to historical facts, and historical figures such as Washington, Franklin, Paine, George III (whom he does not name) rub shoulders with characters from his own developing personal mythology, in particular Orc and Albion, who are his personifications of revolution and England. This cast of characters becomes more comprehensible when we understand the book’s theme is actually revolution and the struggle of an oppressed people against a tyrannical ruler. It was a subject Blake had dealt with before in earlier works; among them The French Revolution (a book that was never published) and Gwin, King of Norway which was published in his first edition of poetry, Poetical Sketches. America is now grouped in a trilogy know as the Continental Prophecies, with Europe: A Prophecy, which heralds revolution on the Continent and The Song of Los, which predicts revolution in Asia and Africa. Grouped together in this way there is a suggestion that Blake was ‘letting King George know’ that the global wave of revolution was sweeping ever closer and the king should sit up and take note.
The Delaware Center for Contemporary Arts: good exhibition space, spacious presentation media room, beautiful warehouse-esque architecture; all traits of this building that I have never ventured to before. My girlfriend, being a volunteer for Big Brothers/Big Sisters, loves taking her little sister Jessi to the DCCA as it rotates exhibits monthly and, since 2008, has offered free admission. After seeing it for myself, I can see why Jessi likes it.
Oak Knoll was lucky enough to attend the exhibition and symposium titled The Book: A Contemporary View. Each talk was extremely interesting, providing intriguing ideas and concepts from artist Buzz Spector and librarian Mark Dimunation, as well as many others. The exhibition that was in conjunction with the talks was unique and offered a concept of turning a physical book into a work of art that antiquarian dealers, such as Oak Knoll, have only been able to scratch the surface of.
When the symposium was over, I actually wanted more as I was having such a good time.
Click here to check out the exhibition description online.
Click here to see a list of artists’ books from Oak Knoll.