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
Me: “Good morning, Oak Knoll, how may I help you?”
Caller: “Hello, yes, I’m wondering if you buy books.”
This is the typical start of a conversation with someone interested in selling parts of their collections to us, and my reply is always the same:
Me: “We wouldn’t be in business if we didn’t buy books! What kind of books are we talking about here?”
Working at Oak Knoll, the frequency of people looking to sell part, if not all, of their collection to us has increased recently. Usually the amount of books in question don’t exceed a few boxes worth, but every now and then we come across a unique scenario that really blows us out of the water.
One such collection was from a fellow ABAA dealer from Chevy Chase, MD called Nina Matheson Books. Nina Matheson had been in bookselling for years, running her bookstore out of a two bedroom apartment at 4701 Willard Avenue, and had just recently come into contact with another large collection of books she needed to clear some room for. Fortunately for us, she was going to part with her collection of books about books, as well as her interesting group of poetry books. After hearing this (and seeing the collection for ourselves), we decided to purchase it, and went down to Chevy Chase to visit her. On the way, we picked up a monstrous 26’ U-Haul truck. Some of you are probably thinking ‘overkill’, but I was thinking ‘precaution’.
We ended up parking it in a spot on the street that was available parking until 4pm, thinking we would be out of Maryland by then (I won 2nd place in estimation at a science fair when I attended New Castle Middle School, and unfortunately my skills in that area had faded away as we ended up leaving much later than that).
When we finally did arrive at her shop, we started packing up the books into boxes and labeling them either books about books or poetry. Slowly but surely we got the first room packed up completely, then the second. Upon starting the third and final room, it was getting close to 4 o’clock, so I wanted to make sure that I could park the truck in the loading dock for easy loading of the books. However, I didn’t take into account the other truck that was scheduled to be there until 8p.
The spot that I was in was ‘no parking between 4 to 6’, and all the other spots on the street were ‘no parking’, period. This wasn’t looking good. After asking around for other places to park (to no avail) I decided to take a chance and park near the loading dock where we could start loading as quickly as possible. Bailey, James, and I became close acquaintances with the maintenance elevator as we had to load all 6,200 packed-up books into the truck.
Luckily it went by quickly and we were on our way back to Delaware, but not before stopping at a local Mexican restaurant for some quesadillas and margaritas!
The next day, the whole Oak Knoll staff (including the boss, and my father, Bob) had to unload the boxes into the shop. Half of the boxes went on the second floor to be priced immediately and half went into the basement. Unfortunately the only way to get the massive amount of boxes that we had on the truck into the basement was through a trap door in the alley beside the building. We had our Publishing Director, Laura Williams, stand on an unsteady piece of wood, which was a lawsuit waiting to happen, to guide the boxes down. Luckily no one died and we had it all unloaded in just over an hour.
Read Bob’s story about how Oak Knoll acquired a new collection of titles expressing the craft of the book. The collection came from from Arnold Leibowitz, a lawyer in Washington, D.C.
Arnold called me up a number of months ago and said that he would like to sell his collection of high spot private press and illustrated books. His children had no interest in his books and he wanted to see them sold and provide money for his family. He had remembered selling me a small group of books on typography ten years ago and was happy with our dealings and thought that his collection would interest me. He also mentioned that four different auction houses had already been to see the books and made an offer to sell them at auction.
Upon arrival in Washington, Rob and I sat down with him and learned that he was an attorney with a niche market – his specialty was legal matters dealing with constitutional law in the different territories of the U.S. He had spent considerable time in Guam, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Island, and the American Samoa.
Then we carefully examined the 300 books in his library and discussed the differences between auction sale and outright sale to a bookseller. Auction houses can give estimates of selling price but, in the end, they can’t commit to a final price or even an actual sale of the item. Arnold wanted a completed deal with no possible surprises. The result of this discussion was the sale of the library to Oak Knoll. His lawyer training came to good use as he drew up the legal contract of sale spelling out in detail the somewhat complicated arrangement we had made. We loaded up the van and drove these beautiful books home.
The next morning I went to work early and checked my email. To my surprise there was an email from some unknown person in Washington, DC, asking if I was Robert D. Fleck and owned a business called Oak Knoll Books. He went on to say that he was a jogger and had just that afternoon found a binder in the middle of the road containing what looked like legal papers. He had left it on the stone wall surrounding the local church in his neighborhood. It was then that I remembered putting the binder on top of the van when loading up the books. I called Arnold and told him the story and he drove over and found the binder with his legal document still on the wall. This acquisition was meant to be.
Click here to see the Leibowitz collection.
Oak Knoll Books is very pleased to announce the acquisition of the reference library of noted binder and conservator, Deborah Evetts. She has decided to move from her Connecticut home back to New York where she will continue her activities.
Deborah Evetts is an internationally recognized book conservator and binder who has instructed and facilitated libraries, museums, collectors, and private individuals in book restoration and preservation. She has worked on Coptic manuscripts and bindings, autograph manuscripts, medieval illuminated manuscripts, and many other beautiful collections as the Drue Heinz Book Conservator at the Pierpont Morgan Library in New York. Her work as a bookbinder is showcased worldwide in institutional and private collections, and she has addressed various organizations and institutions on book conservation and other bookbinding topics. Some of her notable work includes the binding of President Kennedy’s note book for Jackie Kennedy, and the rebinding of 9th century De re culinaria manuscript of Marcus Apicius.
Click here to see the entire collection.
Click here for more information Deborah Evetts.