Late last month, I conducted the first of several trips to various libraries and institutions planned for our fiscal year 2012–2013.
Destination: Washington D.C.
Starting off early in the morning, I began my drive down to the Hotel Harrington. Driving on the nightmare known as the Washington Beltway was surprisingly pleasant and I made great time. With some time to spare, I freshened up and started my walk, past the White House, towards George Washington University’s campus where I met with Brad Sabin Hill, curator of the I. Edward Kiev Judaica Collection at the Gelman Library. After showing me around the beautiful top floor of the library, we discussed future exhibitions that will be occurring at the library. Afterwards, we took a break for a late lunch at a lovely French bistro (my favorite cuisine) and parted ways shortly thereafter.
It was then time for some fun and, since I’m a huge basketball fan, I decided to take the plunge and attend a Washington Wizards game. Luckily enough for me, I got to see the Wizards win their first game of the 2012-2013 season (they should pay me to attend the games now). Afterwards, I had a late dinner at Graffiato, which is the restaurant owned by Top Chef Winner Mike Isabella. I was really interested in going to this restaurant, not for Isabella or Top Chef, but because Isabella’s cookbook Crazy Good Italian was co-written by my favorite food blogger Carol Blymire. If you like food, you would love her current blog Alinea at Home, as well as her past blog (and 2007 winner for best food blog), French Laundry at Home.
The next morning I met with curator of the Rosenwald collection at the Library of Congress, Dan De Simone. I had never been to the Library of Congress before, so I was pretty excited. He gave me a VERY detailed tour of the Rare Books Collection, as well as the numerous exhibitions that they had displayed. If you haven’t been to the LoC, I highly recommend going, as it is certainly a beautiful building, inside and out. After our relaxing lunch, he gave me a copy of his Seven Perspectives of the Woodcut and personally inscribed it as a memento of my first visit to “the big house (LoC).” After saying our final goodbyes, we parted ways and thus ended my adventure in Washington D.C.
Carol Fitzgerald is the author of the Oak Knoll publication Series Americana: Post Depression-Era Regional Literature, 1938-1980, A Descriptive Bibliography. The book highlights thirteen series of American regional writing published between 1938 and 1980, focusing on various American landmarks including seaports, forts, trails, and folkways.
Now, Fitzgerald has donated her collection of books related to the thirteen series highlighted in Series Americana to the Library of Congress. Also including original correspondence, documentation, and copies of research materials, the collection will be housed in the Rare Book and Special Collections Division. This donation and collection represents the importance of preserving our nation’s history and culture.
Click here to read more about the donation, and click here to find out more about Series Americana: Post Depression-Era Regional Literature, 1938-1980, A Descriptive Bibliography. Carol Fitzgerald is also the author of Rivers of America: A Descriptive Bibliography.
Carol Fitzgerald, author of The Rivers of America: A Descriptive Bibliography and Series Americana: Post Depression-Era Regional Literature, 1938-1980, A Descriptive Bibliography, writes about the joy she experienced in researching and writing these titles.
Who knew? Who could possibly have foreseen that the casual purchase at the Miami Book Fair in 1986 of The St. Johns: A Parade of Diversities by A.J. Hanna and Branch Cabell, a fifteen-dollar volume in the Rivers of America series, would be the seminal moment – and the beginning for what would become two major collections of Series Americana. This purchase would result in my writing two, two-volume bibliographies, both published by Oak Knoll Press in association with the Center for the Book in the Library of Congress. It’s a story that changed my life and helped to preserve a body of mid-twentieth century Series Americana defining a period of American literature through its folkways, history, geography, and its publishers, editors, writers, and illustrators, that might otherwise have been fragmented and lost as a literary treasure.
Writing a book and having it published can be a satisfying experience, especially when working with a respected publisher like Oak Knoll Press in partnership with the Center for the Book in the Library of Congress. But it was my research for the writing of first, The Rivers of America: A Descriptive Bibliography and, later, Series Americana: Post-Depression Era Regional Literature that I will remember and treasure. In addition to bibliographical information, I included in each book biographies of the authors, illustrators, editors, and cartographers, creating a story of each book covered in the two bibliographies. The joy of discovering obscure facts about the books or the authors and illustrators helped me write human stories of the men and women who wrote, illustrated, and edited the books covered in my work.
The individual books described were the foundation, but it was the people – the talent – their excellence in their craft – that made the books a powerful part of the American literary scene in a time dominated by the Great Depression and three wars. My research led to correspondence with authors, illustrators, and sometimes their children and colleagues, and resulted in some extraordinary friendships that continue today. Of course, a good book is a good book, but behind even a good book there is a publisher, an author, an editor, and sometimes an illustrator or cartographer. Each plays an integral part in the success of the book, and, for me, a series of books. I wanted to tell the story of each in order to tell the story of the whole.
These thoughts pertain to more than twenty years of research and writing and the pleasures of seeing the publication of the two books that resulted. Oak Knoll Press and the Library of Congress had major roles in all this, and I extend my sincere thanks to all who worked with me in creating these two books.
Click here for more information on The Rivers of America: A Descriptive Bibliography and click here for more information on Series Americana: Post Depression-Era Regional Literature, 1938-1980, A Descriptive Bibliography.
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.
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!