My first look at the famed Kelmscott/Goudy press owned by J. Ben Lieberman was in March of 1997 when I was invited by his son, Jethro, to buy many of the books in Ben’s library. There it was, standing in all his historic beauty, in a separate room. I knew all about this legendary press from Neil Shaver (Yellow Barn Press)’s The Liberty Bell on the Kelmscott Goudy Press, authored by Ben in 1996. I bought all the books along with the 20-some four drawer file cabinets that contained his detailed correspondence with fellow printers and his extensive files on all aspects of printing history and modern technology. The file cabinets went en masse to the University of Delaware who have organized them for interested scholars. The press was not for sale.
Now fast forward to March 2013 when I got an email from Jethro asking me if I would be interested in purchasing the remaining books that they had kept out from the 1997 sale. Rob and I went to New York and went through the books in detail and bought them (see the collection on our website). These were the books that had been kept out of the first group as they had more sentimental value to the family. And there standing beside the bookcases during our entire visit was the famous Kelmscott/Goudy press that I had seen 16 years earlier. When Jethro told me that he was retiring and wanted to move, I asked him what was going to happen to the press. It was to be sold! I lusted for the opportunity to be part of the sale of that press and told him that I thought it would bring a hefty price because of all the sentimental value attached to it. It was not to be. Jethro decided to let Christie’s handle the sale and they did a great PR job.
Standing this week in the atrium of Christie’s Rockefeller Center gallery, the press — a thing of dark, Dickensian iron musculature — looked like a rough guest who had shown up for tea. The great platen, with its clawlike flanges, was suspended at rest. But a glance at the pistons above made clear how much force that platen could exert on the paper and printing plate below.
-from the New York Times article that ran the day before auction
The press has just sold for $233,000, a spectacular amount, but then how can you determine a value for such an emotionally stimulating piece of antiquity? And I got to touch it!
Here’s the listing on the Christie’s website. The press’s new home will be at the Cary Graphic Arts Collection at RIT, where curator Steven Galbraith promises it “will have an active life… not simply as a museum artifact, but as a working press accessible to students, scholars and printers.” Read RIT’s press release about the acquisition.
Ahh, the University of Delaware, my ol’ alma mater. Though I’ve maintained a relationship with UD through Oak Knoll’s connection to the Morris Library, I never thought that I would be back there, standing up in front of a class to give a speech.
Stella Sudekum, a business student, had asked my father if he would be interested in speaking to her Entrepreneurial class about starting and running his own business. He had a schedule conflict and asked if I wanted to give the talk instead. Since elementary school, I have always had a fear of public speaking. It wasn’t a ‘if I get up in front of a class I’ll hyperventilate’ feeling, but a fear nonetheless. That is why it was surprising when I said yes. Was it my subconscious wanting to overcome the fear of public speaking? Even after the talk, I still don’t know, however I’m still glad that I did it.
Now that I was excited to do it, it came time to prepare for zero hour. Practicing in front of a mirror is the traditional method of preparing for a speech, however I felt walking up and down the hallway was much more helpful. I only had a couple of weeks and I wanted to make sure I didn’t cut any corners in getting myself ready. It was through practice that I became comfortable with what I was going to be talking about.
When the day finally came, I parked my car and headed over to Gore Hall (where I had many classes myself). The class had two speakers that day, and luckily (or unluckily for my nerves) I was the second to go. What I thought that was going to be Rob Fleck fumbling over his words actually turned into a very detailed, organized, and energetic presentation about the history of Oak Knoll and where I was going to take it in the future. The presentation started off with my father’s education and the start of Oak Knoll Books & Press. The second half of the presentation focused on the exciting part: where I wanted to take the business in the future. Obviously we are in a digital age, and to focus on how to sell physical books (not ebooks, yet!) is a challenge in today’s world. However, I feel that there will always be a need for a physical book. To my surprise, I received many insightful questions regarding bookselling, publishing, Oak Knoll Fest and how to print books by hand.
Overall, it was an extremely gratifying experience and it seemed to spark an interest in bookselling among the students in the class. Perhaps some of them in the audience will join the ABAA someday!
Here’s a video of the presentation. (Apologies in advance for the sound quality, especially at the very beginning. It gets better!)
On my first day as an intern at Oak Knoll, I wasn’t so sure about working in a 200-year-old building for a company that published “Books about Books”—a slogan, however catchy, which seemed to indicate academic droning.
Through these three months of interning, my first impressions have proved wrong: the books are interesting and working in this beautiful building was one of my favorite parts of the job.
And as my time here draws to a close, I must conclude that my internship was definitely not boring; it was challenging, interesting, and even fun. I can’t believe how much I’ve learned through this experience. I’m leaving here with invaluable skills, more than I learned in any college class, about editing, proofreading, public relations, and the ins and outs of the publishing industry. Things that would have taken me hours before Oak Knoll, like writing and formatting a press release, I can now do with my eyes closed. Even updating a webpage doesn’t seem half as scary as it did before.
Through the valuable feedback from Laura, James, and Danielle, I also learned a great deal about my own strengths and weaknesses—something that will serve me well as I prepare to enter the real world.
There are many things I will miss about working here. The beautiful old building, the comfortable routine that I’ve established, my little desk, but most of all I’ll miss the people.
I want to thank the other Oak Knollers for everything they have done for me. Thank you for teaching me awesome tricks with InDesign, for giving me constructive feedback that helped me grow as an editor and writer, and for being so understanding when I made mistakes. But most of all I would like to thank you all for making me feel like a part of the Oak Knoll family. I will truly miss this special group of people.
It’s funny that people always think an English degree will get you nowhere in life. As an English major, I have always felt that my career options were overwhelmingly broad. As several of my professors have said, “Everyone needs someone who can write well.” Through my studies as an English major in the University of Delaware’s professional writing concentration, I have met writing professionals from many different fields—technical writing, editing, blogging, journalism— all of whom do very different things day-to-day.
One of the most appealing paths to me has always been publishing. In the media portrayals I’ve seen, a publisher is like a god, deciding which books live or die—and who wouldn’t want to be a god? Before I came to Oak Knoll, I also took a publishing class where I learned that there is a lot that goes into editing and publishing a book, magazine, or other publication.
Through my internship here, I hope to learn as much as possible about editing and publishing and to determine whether or not I am suited to a career in either of these fields. I also want to practice my skills in editing and proofreading as well as to enhance my knowledge of InDesign, Photoshop, and other programs.
So far, I’ve enjoyed applying my editing skills to Oak Knoll’s manuscripts and catalogues. It’s exciting to have the chance to work with material that’s going to be published into a real book that people will actually buy and read. It’s great to feel you have helped to create something so concrete.
Hopefully I prove myself useful to the kind folks here at Oak Knoll, who have given me this wonderful opportunity.
I can’t believe this semester has flown by so quickly. It feels like just yesterday that I was frantically looking up the directions from the University of Delaware to Oak Knoll for my interview, and now I have done that drive twice a week for about three months.
I have become used to my routine of coming to Oak Knoll on Mondays and Wednesdays and being greeted by Laura with a list of tasks. I have become used to Danielle approaching me with flyers to edit, to James leaving me a stack of books to photograph, and to everybody else who has given me advice and support.
What once seemed scary to me, like editing a picture in Photoshop or creating a flyer in InDesign, is now simple, easy, and fun. A long manuscript may still be daunting, but I can now approach it with confidence because I know that I am capable of completing the assignment. I have even completed the most frightening task of all: creating a page of a website. I’ve learned about Adobe Dreamweaver at UD and never felt comfortable with the coding. When I was asked to make a website for St. Paul’s Bibliographies, I was eager to use the skills I learned in class to accomplish a task on the job.
While learning the ins and outs of book publishing, I learned as much about myself as I did about Oak Knoll. I have always recognized my passion for writing, so working in editorial seemed like the obvious choice. However, after creating a flyer and completing some marketing research, I realized that I also enjoy the sales and marketing aspect. I will certainly not close the door on editorial, but I now realize that I have more than one door open for me.
I want to thank everybody at Oak Knoll who has made this internship valuable and fun by assisting me with my assignments, being friendly, and trusting me with tasks other than fetching coffee and filing papers. I am sad to leave Oak Knoll , but happy to have had this fulfilling experience. My ultimate goal is to work in book publishing at home in New York, and I will always credit Oak Knoll for starting my career.
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!
A few weeks ago, University of Delaware student Julie Becker began her college internship here at Oak Knoll. She has written a blog post about her first experiences in the publishing world.
I have to admit, I was pretty nervous on my first drive to Oak Knoll. I’ve turned thousands of pages full of mystery, suspense, and horror, but that was all inside of a book. Now, everything I’m doing here is non-fiction; the characters are real people, my assignments affect the entire company, and I won’t find out the ending until December.
However, I am confident that my time here will be rewarding and enlightening. I’ve been spending my first week proofreading, and I’m getting more out of it than I expected. Yes, I’m improving my editing skills, but I’m also learning about new genres. I’ve read best sellers, assigned reading for class, romance and mystery novels, and a few in between, but I can’t say that I’ve read much about the Grolier Club. Actually, I knew nothing about the Grolier club until I proofread a catalogue about books on the topic. I look forward to learning about many more books before I leave this internship.
I’m eager to create my own catalogues full of books using InDesign. As a University of Delaware senior majoring in English Professional Writing, I’ve been learning about Adobe programs in my classes, but have yet to put my knowledge to practical use. Oak Knoll will allow me to do so while also providing me with physical evidence of my work.
Oak Knoll has already shown me a glimpse of the professional world, and more specifically the publishing world, and I am already enjoying it all. I look forward to proving myself as a valuable asset and learning about book publishing.
I would like to thank everybody at Oak Knoll for this opportunity, and I look forward to all of the excitement that will follow over the coming months!