The Book Fair in Pasadena… and the End of an Era

This past weekend saw the 53rd California International Antiquarian Book Fair held in Pasadena. We gave Vic and Samm a few questions to ruminate on while experiencing the fair and their responses don’t disappoint! This fair was also a bittersweet occasion as our Master & Commander Vic Zoschak Jr. ended his two year tenure as President of the Antiquarian Booksellers Association of America (or the ABAA) while there. See how they felt about the state’s biggest book fair below!

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Q: So another year, another ABAA fair! How did you two feel going into this 2020 Pasadena Antiquarian Book Fair (or the 53rd California International Antiquarian Book Fair, to be precise)?

V: Actually, we took a beating at fairs in 2019, so there was a bit of trepidation as we approached this first one of 2020.  Nevertheless there never was any question as to whether we would exhibit, as it’s the ABAA California fair, and I want to support our local chapter’s efforts.

S: As Vic mentioned above, our fairs in 2019 were rough to say the least. I, too, was a bit “on edge” about how things were going to go – after all, book fairs can make or break your month, or even your season. Luckily though, this book fair – first of the new year – was a great start!

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Q: What all did you focus on bringing this year? How were sales?

V: There were two themes for the fair: celebration of the vote for women, and Ray Bradbury.  We focused on the former, and everything found in our booth had some connection to women, be it as author, illustrator, character, printer, owner, or whathaveyou.

Happy to report sales were steady throughout the weekend, though without that one [or more] blockbuster transaction that would have propelled us into the ‘excellent fair’ category.  But compared to 2019 fair results… night-n-day.

S: I would say our booth was 90% items by women – which we really enjoyed putting together as a tribute to this year’s fair theme, celebration women’s suffrage. Though of course we could not leave out our main man, Charles Dickens, and found a way to incorporate him into our mix as well!

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Q: How would you say this Pasadena fair equates with previous Pasadena fairs?

V: Better, see above.

S: Once again, I must agree with Vic. It was better. We also tried something new this year –  as we had two main, lighted display cases – which while beautiful can also make people feel a bit too timid when it comes to inquiring about an item. Therefore, we also had several boxes of items in mylar sleeves out in our booth. People seemed much more intrigued by this concept as they were able to flip through and pull items out and touch them in a more accessible manner. I truly believe this helped make our booth a bit more “shoppable”. 

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Q: How would you say it holds up in comparison with the Oakland fair? Obviously the Oakland fair is a bit easier for us, but in terms of customers and purchases is there a markable difference?

V: Well, this a difficult comparison…  I think our Pasadena booth location this past weekend contributed significantly in our results.  Our Oakland location was not so positioned.  We’re hopeful for 2021 this changes, especially since, in 2021, John Knott & Tavistock Books plan to have adjoining booths, where we’ll open things up & have a larger, more visible footprint in the aisle.

S: Yes, a comparison between the two is a bit tough as, especially for us locals the Oakland fair is much easier!  We are able to bring more items… and I can sleep in my own bed (huge plus)!

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Q: Samm, how was this Pasadena fair for you? This is your second ABAA fair, right? What was your favorite experience down in Southern California?

S: Set up went relatively quickly, so I had some free time to go to the norton simon museum with a colleague!  sometimes its good to break away for a bit.  but overall the fair was good, met and chatted with several new institutions about what collections they are building and how we can assist.  there were some critiques i was hearing from others but i felt it was a really nice fair and a lovely time down in Pasadena!

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Q: Vic, how did you feel heading towards the end of your Presidency of the ABAA? Did that play any part in this fair?

V: Yes, my term as President concluded with the ABAA’s Annual meeting this past Sunday morning.  As President, I feel like I personally experienced aspects of Einstein’s Theory of Relativity [as I understand it], which is to say, the two years went by in a blink of an eye, but some days dragged on interminably!  lol

My successor is Brad Johnson, in whom I have unwavering confidence that he will successfully meet all the future challenges the Association may face.  And let me again, in this forum, give a shout-out to Brad, who tremendously surprised me with a parting gift…  a San Francisco Giants jacket!*  OMG, I was blown away.  Brad, thank you!

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Q: What’s next on the agenda for you both? Perhaps some to catalogue, we hope!

V: To be honest, I’m not sure what I will do with the time I regain in my schedule…  maybe catch a few more Giants games while sporting my wonderful new jacket!  :)

S: And while Vic is enjoying those Giants games, I will be working on a catalogue! Also, if you find yourself in the area next month, please come and see us at the Sacramento Antiquarian Book Fair on Saturday March 28th!

Thanks, you two! Samm is right… onto the next!

Some more photos from this year’s fair:

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                                        President out. (Cue mic drop.)

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This week in the book world…

This week is Children’s Authors and Illustrators week! In honor of the writers and artists who helped shape our lives, and will continue to shape the lives of children all over the country, we’d like to bring some awareness to five of the most beloved, or most inspirational, award winning children’s books of all time. (Along with hefty advice to immediately run out and read all three!)

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The Undefeated by Kwame Alexander and Kadir Nelson

We begin our list with the 2020 sweeper (as it has already won the 2020 Caldecott Medal, is a Newbery Honor Book, and winner of the 2020 Coretta Scott King Illustrator Award) – The Undefeated by Kwame Alexander and Kadir Nelson. This poem highlights the reality of slavery and its traumas – the power of the civil rights movement and “determination of some of our country’s greatest heroes” (redtri.com). “Kids will not only get deeper insight into an integral period of our nations history but learn the words of change makers like Martin Luther King, Jr. and Gwendolyn Brooks.” This book, intended for ages 6-9, will no doubt change the worlds of many – as it should us all.

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Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak

How could we ignore a classic like Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak? Originally published in 1963, the title won the Caldecott medal for its illustrations in the following year. And who could blame the decision committee? The book’s striking illustrations will stay with most of us for the rest of our lives. It has since been adapted for the stage and the screen, but we think we speak for us all when we say that the original is our personal favorite.

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Green Eggs and Ham by Dr. Seuss

It is hard to choose a single Dr. Seuss title to add to our list, as so many are household names (at least here in the United States). We choose Green Eggs and Ham because it is considered one of the best-selling children’s books of all time. In fact, though published in 1960, at the turn of the 21st century the book was still considered one of the top 4 children’s books of all time. We attribute this to the catchiness of Seuss’ phrasing, the typically colorful and fun illustrations, and the fact that it has single handedly taught entire generations how to say no to food they hate. Oh wait… was that just my own experience?!

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Number the Stars by Lois Lowry

Number the Stars is a historical work of fiction detailing the lives of ten-year-old Annemarie Johansen and her best friend, Ellen Rosen in Nazi Denmark. This gripping tale follows the escape of Ellen and her family from Denmark, as Ellen poses as Annemarie’s late older sister in a terrifying and emotional ordeal. Not only does this story pull you in, it also serves to educate our youth on the Holocaust. It was the 1990 recipient of the Newbery medal for authorship, and we couldn’t agree more – it is one of the best.

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Officer Buckle and Gloria by Peggy Rathmann

Now we don’t mean to switch from one end of the spectrum to the next (serious -> funny, I mean), but our last choice has got to be Officer Buckle and Gloria – a dog tale that stole the hearts of many when it was published in 1995. The rather droll Officer Buckle goes from school to school teaching safety demonstrations to children. Unbeknownst to him, his new partner, the police dog Gloria, begins acting out the safety rules behind his back. Buckle becomes very offended when he finally realizes the reason for his success, but despite a brief break from the demonstrations Buckle learns to appreciate Gloria in all her hilarity. Honestly – it’s a hilarious tale and the winner of the 1996 Caldecott medal. Can’t argue there, can you? Check it out – we promise you won’t be disappointed!

 

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In Honor of Jackie Robinson

Today is baseball legend Jackie Robinson’s birthday, and being the serious fans we are about the sport (and by “we” I mean Vic – just check out the amazing amount of baseball related items we have in stock), we thought to bring some attention to this amazing athlete and activist and take a look at what he brought to the game… so to speak! Here are ten personal facts you might not have known about this amazing man.

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1. Jackie Robinson was born in 1919 in relative poverty in Cairo, Georgia. He was the youngest of five children, and, his father leaving his mother just a year after he was born, he ended up being raised by a single mother… no small feat, especially at that time.
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2. Jackie Robinson’s middle name is Roosevelt! The former president Theodore Roosevelt died just 25 days before his birth, and his middle name is how his parents honored the distinguished politician.
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3. Robinson and his family moved to Pasadena, California early in his childhood, and it is while at school in Pasadena that his athletic abilities were first noted… mainly by his family! Robinson’s older brothers convinced him to take sports seriously, seeing his skills were unparalleled.
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4. Jackie’s older brother Matthew, or “Mack” was himself an Olympic medalist! In the 1936 Summer Olympics Mack won the silver medal in track and field. He broke the 200 meter world record but so did gold medalist Jessie Owens. Mack was one of the brothers mentioned above that convinced Jackie to take athletics seriously.
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5. While attending John Muir High School, Robinson played five sports and lettered in four: football, basketball, baseball and track. He also played on the tennis team!
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6. In 1939 Robinson enrolled in UCLA after a couple years at Pasadena Junior College. During his time at UCLA, Robinson became the first student to win varsity letters in four sports – the same he’d been playing for so many years. Clearly even into his twenties Robinson was still excelling at every athletic activity he tried his hand at.
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7. During his years at PJC and UCLA, Robinson created a stir a couple times when standing up for himself and others in the face of racism. While an acting second lieutenant in 1943 having been drafted after the outbreak of WWII, stationed in Fort Hood, Texas and a member of the 761st “Black Panthers” Tank Battalion, Robinson was taken into custody after refusing to move to the back of an army bus when traveling around the base. The absurd and highly racist legal proceedings following this incident kept Robinson from being deployed overseas with his battalion, and definitely played a major role in his interest in civil rights activism for the rest of his life.
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8. In early 1945, Robinson was offered $400 a month to play major league baseball on the Kansas City Monarchs team. Though he was a fine player, Robinson was disheartened by the level of disorganization involved in the negro leagues of baseball. He was signed shortly thereafter to Brooklyn’s international league’s farm team – the Montreal Royals. Robinson suffered an unbelievable amount of comments and attacks in his rise in the leagues – more than most as he attempted to do what African Americans had not yet been afforded the opportunity to do. He played so well with the Royals that in 1946 he was drafted to the Brooklyn Dodgers… and in 1947 he became the first black athlete to play Major League baseball in the 20th century.
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9. Just a few short years later, Robinson was chosen as the National League MVP in 1949. A year later, Robinson starred in a biographical film of his life, titled The Jackie Robinson Story! This film focuses on the abuse and hurdles Robinson faced, and depicts the baseball star with a calmness that other Hollywood stars might have killed for!
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Jackie Robinson draws his family close to help him blow out a birthday candle in 1954. Jackie and his wife Rachel had 3 children and he was definitely a family man!

Jackie Robinson draws his family close to help him blow out a birthday candle in 1954. Jackie and his wife Rachel had 3 children and he was definitely a family man!

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10. In 1955, Robinson helped lead his team, the Brooklyn Dodgers, to their World Series win. He had been with the team for a decade, and this win was his ultimate feat. The following year the Dodgers also won the National League pennant. In December 1956 Robinson was traded to the New York Giants, but he never played a game for the team. Robinson retired from the game in January of 1957. In 1962, Robinson became the first African American to be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame.
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We chose not to include Robinson’s baseball stats and figures… as those are easily found online and also because what we wanted to bring attention to was not only his talent on the field, but his amazing life. Robinson overcame more difficult situations and hurdles than you or I could ever imagine – and for that, and for his inexhaustible efforts as a civil rights activist, we thank him and honor him on his birthday. Happy Birthday, Jackie Robinson!

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Brothers to All

Quick! Think about the most famous pair of brothers you know of. What names came to mind? I bet for at least 50% (after all, we are all bibliophiles here, are we not?!) of us, the names that popped into our heads are most commonly associated with folk tales, fairy tales… or just “tales”, if some of them are a bit too… grim… for your taste!

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Jacob Ludwig Carl Grimm and Wilhelm Carl Grimm were born just a year apart in Hanau – part of the Holy Roman Empire at the time and present day Germany. After Wilhelm was born in 1786, they would have three more surviving siblings (with one older). The family moved in 1791 to the countryside – a move which the two young boys were exceedingly fond of, loving everything about country life. Unfortunately the family was plunged into despair in 1796, when the family Patriarch, Philipp Grimm, died suddenly of pneumonia leaving the large family poverty stricken and struggling to make ends meet. The family was supported by their mother’s father and sister, and their grandfather made quite an influence on the boys’ lives. He constantly reminded them to be industrious and hard working. The boys were able to go away to school as teens, paid for by their aunt, where despite being looked upon as lower class by the rest of the students, they were able to graduate at the top of their classes. The two brothers remained very close throughout their schooling, despite having different temperaments – Jacob being more introverted and Wilhelm more playful and outgoing, though oftentimes ill. 

grimm1The two attended the University of Marburg together, where they tried to study law. I say “tried”, because here the brothers once again met adversity due to their reduced social status. Treated as outcasts, without the benefit of receiving financial aid or stipends as some of the wealthier students received (explain THAT one, if you can), the brothers once again turned to each other for comfort and worked hard in their studies. It was at the University of Marburg that the pair first became interested in medieval German literature and more simplistic, romantic ways of writing that the modern day seemed to have forgotten. This interest in folklore and poetry and traditional “German” culture influenced the brothers for the rest of their lives. They wished to see the unification of the over 200 principalities into a single, unified state, and spent much of their time with their inspiring law professor Friedrich von Savigny and his friends. It was through these romantics that the Grimm brothers were introduced to the literary beliefs of Johann Gottfried Herder – a German philosopher who felt that literature of the area should revert back to simplicity, and focus more on nature, humanity and beauty. The boys credited their devotion to their studies in Germanic literature and culture as a saving grace in a dark time – outcasts amongst their peers. Wilhelm himself wrote, “the ardor with which we studied Old German helped us overcome the spiritual depression of those days.”

grimm2The brothers did not immediately turn to transcribing Germanic folklore for the masses. As they were solely responsible, as the oldest boys (primarily Jacob) of the family, for their sibling and mother’s livelihood (because that’s what they needed… more stress), Jacob accepted a job in Paris as assistant to his once-professor (von Savigny). On his return to Marburg he gave this post up to take a job with the Hessian War Commission. Their circumstances remained dire – as it seemed almost impossible for Jacob to support them all on his own. Food was often scarce and the brothers suffered emotionally. In 1808, Jacob found a more appropriate (to his interests) job as the librarian to the King of Westphalia, and soon after went on to become the librarian in Kassel, where the two boys had attended their gymnasium (high school, for all intents and purposes). Jacob supported his siblings once their mother passed away, and he even paid for Wilhelm to receive medical attention that year to seek treatment for respiratory problems. After Wilhelm’s recovery, he joined his brother as a librarian in Kassel. 

The original title page and frontispiece of the first set of Grimm's folk tales. This frontispiece was illustrated by the brothers' younger brother, Emil.

The original title page and frontispiece of the first set of Grimm’s folk tales. This frontispiece was illustrated by the brothers’ younger brother, Emil.

It was around this time that the men began to collect folk tales from others. Initially they collected them in a haphazard manner – not realizing the great wonder they began to lay their hands on. They used their positions as librarians to accomplish their research, and began to publish in 1812. Their first volume of 86 folk tales, called Kinder- und Hausmärchen, was published when the brothers were merely 26 and 27 years old. They published several books and collections until 1830 – not only on Germanic folklore but of Danish and Irish folk tales, Norse mythology, and began work on a Dictionary. The brothers stayed quite busy and enjoyed their positions – their work becoming so well-known that they received honorary doctorates from the Universities of Marburg (along with their original diplomas), Berlin and Breslau. 

grimm4After being slighted for a job promotion, the brothers eventually moved to Göttingen where they became professors of German studies at the University (Jacob also as head librarian), and continued to write and publish works on Germanic folklore, mythology and country tales for a few years. The brothers moved to Berlin in their later years, working at the University of Berlin and also editing their German Dictionary, which would become one of their most prominent works. 

Because of the brothers Grimm, we have several tales written down today that might not have been, otherwise. To the brothers we can attribute (at least in transcribing) versions of Snow White, Rapunzel, Little Red Riding Hood, Sleeping Beauty and Rumplestiltskin. One of the best qualities of their writing is that the brothers found a way to make the tales accessible and readable by adults (at first the stories contained their original graphic violence and sexual implications, which were slowly and painstakingly edited in a way to make the stories accessible to children), while retaining their folkloric qualities and symbolism. Though the brothers did not author the stories – but rather listened, read and researched them all until they were able to grow a collection of over 211 tales – they provided arguably the most extensive fount of Germanic folklore to date… and to them we are eternally grateful. 

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Tis the Season to Read Merry!

The 2019 Christmas Season is upon us, bibliophiles. We’d like you to take some time out of the busy practices of the holiday season and take up a Christmas tale or two… some quiet time amidst the chaos is just what the Doctor ordered! Here’s a mini rundown on some of the most beloved Christmas stories of all time. Happy Holidays! 

Our 1902 Elbert Hubbard published holding of A Christmas Carol! See it here.

Our 1902 Elbert Hubbard published holding of A Christmas Carol! See it here.

A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens

This story, written by our main man Charles, was first printed in 1843. For a story to still have such relevance today, that seems quite a long time ago! It follows the Christmas Eve adventures of Ebenezer Scrooge, a mean-spirited miser who is visited by three ghosts that in turn show him his shortcomings and his unfortunate future should he not shift his attitude and his focus in the present. We highly recommend this tale (though we also assume everyone reading this blog has most likely read A Christmas Carol before!), as it is a wonderful story for all ages.

 

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The Little Match Girl by Hans Christian Anderson

This 1845 “Christmas story” I have some reservations about including here (since I don’t want to bring our party down) – but it is a popular tale this time of year! It is a beautiful story, well-written as only Anderson can write, but we must warn you in advance… if you’re looking for a heart-warming happy ending, maybe stick with A Christmas CarolThe Little Match Girl follows a dying young pauper’s reflections on her hopes and dreams and teaches us the moral of being kind and charitable to those around us, especially during the holiday season when we have so much and others have so little. My advice? Read with cocoa, not wine, and have a box of kleenex handy. <3

 

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How the Grinch Stole Christmas by Dr. Seuss

I kind of feel like this story needs no introduction (but neither did A Christmas Carol I suppose and yet we introduced that). How the Grinch Stole Christmas is a quaint tale of a young man who in his hardships realizes that you can’t burglarize department stores on Christmas Eve and feel good about yourself afterward, and therefore learns the value of paying for your Christmas gifts instead of stealing them.

Psych! Just seeing if you’re paying attention. How the Grinch Stole Christmas is a children’s story published in 1957 about a mean, green recluse living up on a mountaintop who hates everything Christmas – unlike the tiny town below his home. Through the art of trying to spoil their happiness, Mr. Grinch learns how to love… and how to love Christmas to boot!

 

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The Gift of the Magi by O. Henry

One of my personal favorite Christmas tales, this short story was published by O. Henry in 1905, and follows a young couple struggling to afford the perfect gift for their spouse on Christmas Eve. This tale of selflessness always touches the hearts of those who read it – and is a great one for remembering that the art of giving gifts is not to show how much we have and can give away, but to share our love for others by the giving of ourselves. Read it… we promise you won’t be disappointed!

 

 

Photo courtesy of Yale University

A Letter from Santa Claus by Mark Twain

Now I’m not entirely sure we can call this a Christmas “story”, per say, as it is literally a letter, but we will include it anyway in the spirit of the holiday! In 1875 American author Mark Twain answered his 3 year old daughter Susie’s letters (by way of her mother and nurses) to Santa Claus with one of his own, signing off as jolly old St. Nick. In the letter, which will make you feel warm and fuzzy all over, Santa Claus/Mark Twain sends his love to little Susie and apologizes profusely for not being able to obtain every single gift her heart desired – making up an elaborate reason as to why it wasn’t possible. He gives detailed instructions for his visit (threatening a servant named George with his own mortality a couple times, but that’s neither here nor there), and the entire letter is absolutely full of the warmth and love of parents around the world who sneak out in the middle of the night to place presents under the tree and keep their little one’s imaginations alive. You parents out there won’t be disappointed. Read his letter here.

That’s all for now! So let us just say have a wonderful holiday and don’t forget to take a moment to appreciate some of the wonderful, heart warming stories written about this season of giving. It’s never too late put down a gift and pick up a book!

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Happy Holidays from Tavistock Books

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The Beginnings of Tavistock Books

For those of you who don’t know, we deal in many genres of antiquarian materials. However, one of our specialities – and even our shop’s name – come from a wildly famous author who we happen to adore… Mr. Charles Dickens. As the author is very often associated with the holiday season, we thought now might be a good time for a little Q&A with our President, Vic Zoschak Jr., on his love of Dickens and the beginnings of Tavistock Books. Enjoy!

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Tavistock House, London.

Q: Vic, could you take our recent followers on a mini journey as to our shop name? I remember getting the question of whether or not your last name was Tavistock!

tavistock2Yes, over the years, I’ve often been referred to as “Mr Tavistock”, but the name actually, rather than being my surname, has a [small] Dickens connection…  back in the late 80s, as I contemplated opening my own business, I cast about for a name that would reflect my firm’s interest in Dickens, but didn’t want to be too overt in that regard..  you know, nothing like “The Old Curiosity Book Shop”, or anything like that.  So, long story short, I settled on Tavistock, the name of Dickens house in the 1850s, which was situated on Tavistock Square.  

Q: So why Dickens? He is obviously a world-famous writer of course, but what about his writing spoke to you, and what made you want to name your store after his house?

Well, back in the mid-to-late 80s, while living in Sacramento, I was in a reading group that read, as one of our books, Dickens’ Pickwick Papers.  While I personally don’t consider that his best novel, what that reading did do was spark an interest in the author himself.  And in pursuit of knowing more about the man, I [luckily] happened across what I consider to be the best biography of Dickens, Edgar Johnson’s Tragedy And Triumph.  On reading that biography, I found Dickens to be a fascinating individual, a genius, which precipitated my dive into that gentle madness known as book collecting.  I collected Dickens from the mid-80s until I opened my shop in July 1997, at which point I used my personal collection to stock the Dickens’ Corner here at 1503 Webster Street.

Q: What is your favorite of the Dickens novels and why? Favorite character in any of them?

Favorite novel is Hard Times.  Many of Dickens’ novels required “32 pages of letterpress” every month, and so often, like in Pickwick Papers, there are literary diversions therein to fill up space….  I don’t see that in Hard Times.  It’s spare, it’s lean, it’s all about the facts.

As to characters, like many, I’m partial to Mr. Micawber, the lovable impecunious fellow from David Copperfield.

Q: Is it true that you refuse to watch Dickens-related cinema? Interesting choice! What are your thoughts behind that decision?

True.  Dickens’ words call up a mental image of each & every character he’s created.  I found that when I watched a film interpretation, my mental image of a given character, e.g., Nicholas Nickleby, engendered by Dickens’ prose was replaced by the individual cast by whatever director was filming whatever version of Dickens’ works.  In comparison, I found I preferred Dickens’ version.  FWIW, he would only allow images approved by him, and as such, they are truly Dickensian.  

Q: And last but not least… who was your favorite ghost in A Christmas Carol and why?

Ah, tough question Ms P!!  I think I’ll go with the “Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come”.   With these visions, Scrooge realizes his future can change.  That’s powerful stuff, knowing one can change one’s future.

And you know what, Ms P – it’s been a few years since I’ve read this popular novella. I think I’ll revisit it this season… it’s time.  

~ Happy Holidays ~

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Today we are Thankful for… William Blake!

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Copyright Learnodo-Newtonic!

Happy Thanksgiving to our fellow bibliophiles! We thought we’d start off this day of giving thanks for a world-famous English poet, artist and printmaker with a brief history of his early life. Despite the fact that this renaissance man was largely unrecognized for his talents in his time, today he is considered one of the foremost artisans of the Romantic Period. William Blake’s prophetic art and poetry are both moving and inspiring – and for that we honor him this Thanksgiving – which also happens to be his birthday!

NPG 212; William Blake by Thomas PhillipsWilliam Blake was born on November 28th, 1757 in Soho, London. He was the third of seven children (though two of his siblings died in infancy). Though his family were English dissenters, it did not stop Blake from being baptized and having a thorough biblical education – knowledge which would prove to be quite inspirational in his work later in life. Blake’s artistic side surfaced when he began copying drawings of Greek antiquities given to him by his father. It was through these copies that Blake was first introduced to works by Michelangelo, Durer and Raphael. By the time Blake was ten he had completed his formal education and was able to be sent to a drawing school in The Strand – where he not only read and avidly studied the arts but also made his first foray into poetry.

blake6At the age of fifteen, Blake was apprenticed to an engraver in London and upon his completion of his apprenticeship became a professional engraver at twenty-one. The following year, Blake became a student at the Royal Academy where he studied over the years and submitted works for exhibition. Though he disagreed with the views held by the headmaster of the time and favored more classical art rather than the popular oil paintings of the age, Blake used the years to make friends in the art world and perfect his own skills. He printed and published his first collection of poems, Poetical Sketches, around 1783, and opened up his print shop with fellow apprentice James Parker in 1784. Blake began to associate with radical thinkers of the time – scientists, philosophers and early feminist icons like Joseph Priestly and Mary Wollstonecraft. Blake spent the 80s experimenting with different kinds of printing, finally moving onto relief etching in 1788. Relief etching (also called illuminated printing) would be a medium Blake would continue to use in printing his works throughout his life. In this medium, color illustrations were able to be printed alongside text. Blake has become well-known for his illuminated printing, but throughout his life he was also known for his intaglio engraving – a more standard process of engraving at the time.

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All of these processes are wildly interesting, of course – but perhaps better explained by simply showing some of the most famous of Blake’s sketches and illustrations. His poetry and text almost always contain spectacular imagery and mythological symbolism, which were even further highlighted by his beautiful images. He was an artist, a free thinker, a poet, a radical, a spiritual man, and a devoted husband – among many other things! On this Thanksgiving, we’d like to bring recognition to him and wish him a happy birthday.

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From our 1922 holding of The Drawings and Engravings of William Blake, edited by Laurence Binyon and Geoffrey Holme. See it here!

From our 1922 holding of The Drawings and Engravings of William Blake, edited by Laurence Binyon and Geoffrey Holme. See it here!

For more information on William Blake, we recommend visiting our colleague John Windle’s William Blake Gallery where you can find blogs related to the author and various prints and books for sale both online and in person in San Francisco. We highly recommend a visit!

Happy Thanksgiving, bibliophiles!

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