Posts Tagged ‘Bob Fleck’

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.



Resolutions of the Oak Knollers

January 12, 2012 Leave a comment

Oak Knoll is excited to kick off 2012 with a set of New Year’s resolutions. We have each taken time to think of ways we can improve over the next year, and we wanted to share our ideas with you. Check out what we plan to do in the upcoming year.

Big Bob’s New Year Resolutions (President and Owner)

Ah, there are so many that I should have made but didn’t. At least I haven’t broken any of them yet.

I need to learn to smile when a person is standing in my book store and asks “Do you buy books?” I guess they think that my books breed with each other in the late evening hours.

I need to learn to smile when the phone caller asks me the value of a book that has been in the family for decades but they can’t remember the full title or author. Bless Jim Hinck and as now I can just recommend that they visit that site.

I need to learn to smile when the person on the phone says that the book must go out that day, as it is a birthday present for his or her husband/wife/child in two days hence. Nothing like advance planning!

But wait – I’m actually smiling all the time because I have the greatest group here at Oak Knoll and have loved being a bookseller for 35 years. I smile when I come to work – how many people can say that?

Rob Fleck (Antiquarian & Library Sales)

Last year, we purchased two exciting collections from two long-time Oak Knoll customers. These collections helped make 2011 a great year for us and for you, our customers, by adding many important and rare books to our inventory. Our main goal for 2012 is to branch out to individuals or institutions that have collections that they would be willing to part with. We hope that 2012 will be the year of collection acquisition for Oak Knoll. It’s actually all very exciting to me! Send me an email at if you have a collection that you’d like us to see.

Laura Williams (Publishing Director)

This year I would like to discover more manuscripts and encourage more potential authors to write new books on the history of the book. We are particularly interested in new manuscripts on bookbinding, book collecting, printing, and typography, but please feel free to propose any project that could be considered a “book about books.” If you have a manuscript or a book idea, please check out our website and send me an email at I look forward to hearing from you, so don’t hesitate to contact me! I also plan to continue on the tradition of being the Oak Knoll party planner (or as Bob calls it “the Oak Knoll social butterfly”), as it’s one of my favorite roles here at work.

Danielle Burcham (Publishing and Marketing Assistant)

It’s been almost two years since I started working at Oak Knoll, and I have learned quite a bit since my first day! While at first it seemed like it took all my time just to learn the ins and outs of the book business, this year I plan to really focus my attention on expanding our audiences. This means finding new businesses and individuals who would have an interest in our books but haven’t yet heard of us. I hope to find more organizations and journals who would like to review our books, and I plan on using our social media platforms to facilitate this. If you haven’t hopped on the social media train yet, what are you waiting for? Follow us through facebook, twitter, and our blog. There is a lot to learn about us just through these sites alone!

James McKinstry (Cataloguing, Photography
& Customer Service)

While I will continue to maintain my responsibilities cataloging books, taking photographs (in our new and updated style), and providing customer service, I also plan to use my research skills to help our publishing department. I will explore library holdings and assist libraries in finding titles to add to their collections, while also finding new groups who might have an interest in our titles. I may even get more involved with our shipping department, helping to pull and pack books. I guess you could say I have my hand in a little bit of everything that goes on here at Oak Knoll.

Jeanette Sikes(Orders, Invoices, and the “Work Grandma”)

Considering that I was raised in the image of Mary Poppins, (you know, “Practically Perfect in Every Way”), I failed to see the need for any New Year’s Resolutions. Fortunately, my colleagues quickly disabused me of that notion, so here I sit pondering my role at Oak Knoll and trying to understand how I can make your interactions with us the best possible. First of all, I will put a smile on my face before answering the phone. I once read that this simple action carries through in your voice, making it more welcoming. I will also try to remember if it is morning or afternoon, although I don’t seem to have much luck with that as frequent callers can attest. Yes, I’m the one who says Good…with a long pause…before the next words are out of my mouth.  Maybe, I should just say “Hello?”

All kidding aside, each one of us here understands that without the support and patronage of our bibliophile friends, Oak Knoll would be no more than a memory. We come to work every day enthused and convinced that we will either help one of you find that long desired treasure, get the newly required text book for your latest class, or finally see your name in print as the author of a scholarly text. So, bring on 2012! We welcome it and you with smiles on our faces.

The Oak Knoll 2011 Christmas Party

December 21, 2011 1 comment

Last night, Bob and Millie Fleck were gracious enough to have the entire staff of Oak Knoll Books and Press to their home for the annual Oak Knoll Christmas Party. The evening began with plenty of wine of course, and many good appetizers including dill dip and bread made by Danielle, beef and cheese dip made by Jeanette, a buffalo chicken dip made by Rob, and a cauliflower dip also made by Rob. For the main course, Millie baked meatballs, Bruce brought pasta salad, and Laura prepared a Caesar salad.

After we were all stuffed from the many tasty snacks, we headed into the living room to sing Christmas carols and exchange presents. Jeanette’s husband Ken added a really special treat to the night by bringing his keyboard and playing some beautiful Christmas songs. While some were too shy to sing, we all had a great time listening to our favorite carols so wonderfully played. We even got truly into the Christmas spirit by taking turns reading pages from the classic poem by Clement Moore The Night Before Christmas.

A fun and entertaining night, we are all thankful to Bob and Millie for opening their home to us. It was a great opportunity to spend time with each other outside of work and celebrate this beautiful season!

Bob’s Speech: Tales of Collectors and Their Library Beneficiaries

November 10, 2011 Leave a comment

Bob recently gave a presentation at the University of Delaware titled “The Gift that Keeps Giving: Tales of Collectors and Their Library Beneficiaries in America.” The speech covered many collectors including A. Edward Newton, Thomas Winthrop Streeter, Arnold Leibowitz, Josiah Kirby Lilly, Jr., Thomas J. Wise, and more. Bob also discussed the responsibilities required by the collector in choosing a library to support his or her gift and the responsibilities of the library in encouraging collectors. Below are some photographs taken from the event, given to us by Susan Brynteson from the University of Delaware. Thanks, Susan!

It looks like a great evening was had by all! If you’re interested in learning more about Bob’s speech, click here to view his slide presentation, or click here to see the text of his speech.

Bob will give speech at University of Delaware

September 28, 2011 Leave a comment

On Wednesday, October 26 at 4:30pm,  Bob will give a presentation titled “The Gift that Keeps Giving: Tales of Collectors and Their Library Beneficiaries in America,” at the Reserve Room of the Morris Library at the University of Delaware. The presentation will be held in conjunction with their exhibition, “A Decade of Donors 2000-2010.”

Bob’s speech will highlight books, letters, manuscripts, photographs, printed ephemera, artwork, and other items that have been donated to Special Collections over the past ten years, as well as discuss some serious and not so serious tales of collectors and their gifts to libraries. The UDaily wrote an article about his upcoming speech including a brief biography of Bob and Oak Knoll Books and Press. Click here to read the article

How Oak Knoll acquired the Indian Type collection from Arivind Patel

August 8, 2011 Leave a comment

Arivind Patel owned a type foundry in India and occasionally bought books from Oak Knoll. About six years ago, I received a beautifully hand-written letter from him with an enclosed catalogue of his books. His letter stated that he was getting along in years and now wanted to sell his collection. I looked over the catalogue and found some interesting items, in addition to the more common books on typography and printing. If the collection had been located in the United States, I would have offered to come view the books and make an offer. But what was I to do with a collection in India and the great potential for condition problems? After pondering over the collection for a week or so, I wrote back to him and said that in all fairness, I could not make him an offer without seeing the books, and they weren’t going to be worth enough for me to visit him in India. Off went the letter, and I placed the catalogue in my files, along with its brothers and sisters in the archives of collections never bought by Oak Knoll.

Fast forward five years – then the phone call came. “Mr. Fleck – the books are now in New Jersey, as my grandfather sent them to me for you to view.” My son and I drove to look at the books, made a fair offer, and now here they are in our collection. Although there was some damage, most had been preserved because they were wrapped in clear plastic to keep the insects away. In addition to the collection, there were a number of letters from all others who corresponded with him about type and specimens. The letters went to an institution, and I am sure he will be pleased to see his material go out to other collectors.



Click here to view the collection.

Bob follows up on his Grolier Club presentation

April 13, 2011 1 comment

Remember that talk I was going to give at the Grolier Club as part of a panel discussion on collecting books in the digital age? My title and first picture declared “Good News! The Book is Dead.” After shocking the audience into silence with the title, I proceeded to explain why books as three-dimensional physical objects have a life unto themselves and why libraries have a responsibility to preserve and conserve them. The three talks and the panel discussion were filmed, and we shall give you a link to it when it becomes available. Rob Fleck, who was in the audience, was told there is a life for booksellers in the 21st century and believed it!