Posts Tagged ‘Bob Fleck’

Pictures from Overseas

May 17, 2012 Leave a comment

As promised, Bob has been taking pictures of his trip as he can. And here they are!

At Claude Cox Books…

…with Tony Cox

On board the ferry to Amsterdam

The cabin

A nice view…

…and a nicer view!

In Amsterdam

At Ton Kok’s shop

New Books from New England

May 10, 2012 Leave a comment

Bob shopping around a store.

Book hunting. It’s what we have to do from time to time to keep in stock hard-to-find items for catalogues. I don’t know if our dedicated followers (YOU!) have been paying much attention to our recently acquired stock lately, but we have been on a type specimen and illuminated facsimiles binge. My father and I recently got back from a trip to New England, making rounds at some local bookstores and picking up a couple collections on the way. It has become quite fun adding new titles to the lists for our upcoming Special Catalogue #19 and Catalogue #300. Even after  36 years in business, we do run into books that, believe it or not, we have never had before. One book that we came back with was, while not incredibly expensive, incredibly interesting. It’s a type specimen foldout by the French type foundry Deberny & Peignot titled Les Cochins from 1914. We were so surprised to find that this one hasn’t ever been in our system, as we have had other Deberny & Peignot titles before, but it certainly is nice to add one more. It’s so new it is sitting on a cart waiting for an image as we speak. You can view the book online here.


An Overseas Adventure

May 9, 2012 Leave a comment

One of the joys of being an antiquarian bookseller is the experience of traveling overseas for business. I left last night for what I estimate is my 75th trip overseas. This trip will include time in England, the Netherlands, and Hungary. Hungary is the newest country to become a member of the International League of Antiquarian Booksellers, and they have invited the Committee that manages the business of the League to have their Spring meeting in Budapest. Even though I’m long retired from being President of the League, Presidents of Honour are still invited to the meetings for their feedback, so off I go.

I’ll keep you posted about England and the Netherlands as well, as I’m visiting lots of interesting bookshops while there and will experience the England-to-Netherlands ferry for the first time.


Rob is an Associate Member of the ABAA

February 23, 2012 Leave a comment

Some of you have probably seen my recent interview with Nate Pedersen on the Fine Books & Collections blog. I just wanted to add that I am now an official Associate Member of the Antiquarian Booksellers’ Association of America! It is truly an honor to belong to a society that has affected me throughout my entire life. I would like to thank the members of the ABAA, as well as Tom Congalton for writing an excellent letter of recommendation. Most of all, I’d like to thank my father. Without him, I wouldn’t have been introduced into the bookselling career.


An “Ephemeramystery” by Oliver B. Pollak

February 22, 2012 Leave a comment

An article recently posted in the Criss Chronicles of the University of Nebraska at Omaha.

“Who are Helmut, Deborah and Hope? – An Ephemeramystery” by Oliver B. Pollak[1]

A Saturday in October 2011 found me in the library selecting books for the Spring semester. I took a break and sat on the black leather chairs opposite circulation, next to the new book display. The distinctive binding and paper of Women Bookbinders 1880-1920 by Marianne Tidcombe (Oak Knoll Books and British Library, 1996) reached out to me.

I surmised that Marvel Maring, an inspired bookbinder, ordered it.[2] In the book lay a 4 by 6 inch note dated June 19, 2001, from Helmut to Deborah, mentioning Hope, lamenting the sale of his “library.”

Who were Helmut, Debora and Hope? Book sleuth juices flowed. Within less than a second google disclosed that the letterhead address, 173 Riverside Drive, belonged to Helmut Nathan Friedlaender (1913-2008).[3] Five obituaries in the New York Times and Independent (London) described a financially and culturally accomplished life.

Helmut, son of a Berlin lawyer, fled Nazi Germany in 1933 and arrived in New York via the Netherlands, Italy, and Switzerland where he earned a doctorate in administrative law at Lausanne University. He commanded English, French, German, Greek, Hebrew and Latin. He learned international arbitrage in London.

Helmut, financial adviser to philanthropist William Rosenwald, the second son of the Sears and Roebuck chairman, served as a director of Ametek, a manufacturer of precision instruments and small electric motors for over 50 years. Other corporate positions included the American Securities Corporation, Western Union International, and the first easterner on the Union Stockyards of Omaha board.

He served and contributed to the Council of Fellows of the Morgan Library, the Grolier Club, President’s Council of the New York Public Library, President’s Council of the Center for International Studies at NYU Law School, Friend of the Parker Library in Cambridge, England, Oxford’s Bodleian, who awarded him the Bodley Medal in 2005 for supporting the publication of a six volume, 3,000 page, catalog of Bodliean incunables.

Marvel ordered the book and Danielle Simpson in purchasing identified the seller as Yankee Peddler Books. I talked with YPB customer service representative Karla Meyette, a 31 year employee. The invoice dated September 15, 2011 indicates a cost of about $60. She speculated that it could have been a publisher return resold to YPB. YPB inspects the books its sells for any defects, this passed through. How does a new book contain a personal letter?

The Harvard Library Newsletter, no. 1032, June 2001, announced the hiring of Hope Mayo who had worked for Christie’s, and as Helmut’s part time librarian from 1992 to 2001. Her 1974 Harvard doctorate in medieval history clearly qualified her to curate Latin manuscripts and incunables.

Friedlaender started collecting in 1970, at the age of 57. A visit to London’s famed antiquarian book dealer Bernard Quaritch spurred his passion for medieval illuminated manuscripts and incunables, moveable type books published before 1500 –“cradle books”- were his babies, and he had the money and acumen to pursue them.

The lavishly illustrated, two volume, hardbound Christie’s catalog listed 559 lots, some containing as many as 258 volumes. I requested the catalogue through Interlibrary Loan and then purchased it for $19 including shipping through abebooks.

The sale occurred on April 23-24, 2001. On the first day 172 out of 185 lots sold, ranging from $666,000 for Ciceronis Officia et Paradoxa (1465), to $3,525, for Speculum Exemplorum (1487), for a total of $8,433,500. Fortunate purchasers acquired ten medieval illuminated manuscripts and 117 incunables. Later books were in English, French, German, Greek, Hebrew, and Russian.

The second day 255 lots netted $914,291, 118 went unsold. The four volume Golden Cockerel Press Canterbury Tales sold for $41,125, and the 11th edition 32 volume Encyclopedia [sic] Britannica went for $212.

Literary icons included a 15th century Boccaccio manuscript, estimated to bring $10,000 to $15,000, fetched $47,000. The next day a 1934 printing of  Decameron went under the hammer,[4] and Milton’s Paradise Lost  brought $47,000.

Enlightenment works included the 35 volume Diderot Encylopédie which brought $138,000, Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire by Edward Gibbon ($76,375), and legal works by William Blackstone ($17,625). Economists David Ricardo and John Maynard Keynes brought $14,100 and $1,998 respectively. Keynes’ 1936 General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money sold the second day.[5]

American classics included Benjamin Franklin ($22,325) and Henry David Thoreau ($4,700). Charles Babbage ($18,800) the designer of the difference machine, an early mechanical computer and Frederick Winslow Taylor’s, The Principles of Scientific Management (1911) represented emerging technology.

Judaica and Hebraica included Spinoza, several Passover Haggadahs and works by Zionist Theodor Herzl. Helmut’s interests in print included the fine presses Aldine, Ashendene, Doves, Golden Cockerel, Grabhorn,[6] Roxburghe Club and Yolla Bolly. An almost complete set of Bird & Bull works, about 120 items, went unsold as did 258 volumes of The Book Collector. Five hundred-forty Grolier Club publications garnered $28,200.

Helmut enjoyed seeing his collection in a two volume printed catalog. A Dutch and Swedish bidder fell on hard times and Helmut repurchased part of his old collection at a discount.

The sale of his collection introduced a new bibliophilia chapter. He started a collection of Baedekers, early travel guides, originating in 19th century Germany. He would enter a book store asking “Have you any Baedekers?”[7] Following his death 67 volumes “chiefly” from his estate were auctioned by Swann’s Galleries on April 21, 2009.

Hope Mayo’s publications include the Introduction to Morgan Library Ghost Stories (1990) with wood engravings by John De Pol,[8] “Olomouc, not Herzogenburg – A group of Gothic Blind-tooled bookbindings reattributed,” in the Gutenberg Jahrbuch (1994), One Hundred Books Famous in Medicine (Grolier Club, 1995), and an Introduction to Marbled and Paste Papers, Rosamond Loring’s Recipe Book (2007).[9]

Bob Fleck at Oak Knoll Books identified Deborah.[10] My Thursday, November 3, 2011 email to Bob went unanswered. I called him on Tuesday, November 8 at 11:30 CST, he was at lunch. I reached him at 12:15. Four or five months earlier Bob purchased about 1,000 books from Deborah Evetts, the Pierpont Morgan Library Head of Rare Book Conservation, who moved into smaller Manhattan quarters. Her pristine Women Bookbinders, went back into stock. Yankee Peddler contacted Oak Knoll Books, a publisher and used book dealer. Oak Knoll sold an ostensibly new book, actually previously owned, to Yankee Peddler who sent it to UNO.

In 2000 a conference celebrated the opening of the Bernard C. Middleton Collection of Books on the History and practice of Bookbinding. The proceedings, Bookbinding 2000 (Rochester Institute of Technology, 2002) included “Coptic Bookbindings at the Pierpont Morgan Library: Their History and Preservation” by Deborah Evetts, and “Women Bookbinders in Britain Before the First World War,” by Marianne Tidcombe.

As to the 80-word note, Helmut scribbled letters for his secretary to type.

[1] Marvel Maring, Danielle Simpson, Les Valentine, Karl Johnson II, Bob Nash, Hope Mayo, Deborah Evetts, Bob Fleck, Karla Meyette, abebooks, WorldCat, and Mark Walters at Interlibrary Loan, assisted in this project.

[2] Your author managed UCLA library bindery repairs in the late 1960s.

[3] My cousin, Inge Halpert, left Vienna in 1941, earned her doctorate at Columbia University where she was a Professor of German, lived at 445 Riverside Drive.

[4] As a teenager Rockwell Kent’s illustrated edition introduced me to erotica. I have five English editions.

[5] Keynes a member of the British delegation at the 1919 Versaille Peace Conference demonstrated his dissent in his prophetic Economic Consequence of the Peace (1919), of which I have a copy.

[6] I have a 1938 Grabhorn Press leaf book with a page from Caxton’s 1482 Polychronichon.

[7] I traveled in Scotland in 1995 using a late 19th century Baedeker.

[8] Your author acquired a collection of John De Pol’s work from Neil Shaver.

[9] In 2010 I attended a Newberry Library exhibit, “Norma Rubovits: The Art of Marbled Papers and Fine Bindings.”

[10] I reviewed  Robert D. Fleck’s Books about Books: A History and Bibliography of Oak Knoll Press (2008), NCB News (Spring 2009).

Reprinted with permission of Criss Chronicles, University of Nebraska at Omaha, where it appeared in January 2012.

“Happy Birthday Dear Bob, Happy Birthday to You!”

February 2, 2012 2 comments

Bob thought he was going into his son Rob’s office to look at some books, but little did he know he would be greeted with some taco take-out, a whole bunch of cupcakes, and his entire Oak Knoll staff singing happy birthday!

In celebration of Bob’s birthday this Saturday, we decided to throw a small birthday party right here at the office. We put up our special birthday banner, ate too much food, and of course enjoyed some light-hearted conversation.

Happy Birthday to the man who has continued to write the story of Oak Knoll since its founding in 1976 (not to reveal too much of his age!). Here’s to another year of health, happiness, and good books!



Interview of Bob Fleck

January 30, 2012 Leave a comment

Check out this interview of Bob Fleck that reveals his history as a bookseller and Antiquarian Booksellers’ Association of America (ABAA) member. He talks about the history behind Oak Knoll’s founding, his work and relations with the ABAA, various committees on which he has served, his travels and love for the social aspect of the ABAA, and much more. He also examines the challenges of bookselling and offers advice for those who are interested in starting a business just as he did.

The interview is part of an effort by ABAA member Michael Ginsberg to cover members’ personal histories as well as their involvement in the rare book trade. Click here to watch the interview.