Happy Anniversary… To Us!

Just yesterday, Tavistock Books celebrated its 30 year anniversary. 30 years in business. 30 years in this wonderful, insane business we call the antiquarian book trade. We are nothing short of proud, and grateful for all of your support over our many years!

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We were able to throw a little shindig at Tavistock Books’ main residence – 1503 Webster Street in Alameda, California (where we have been located for the last 22 years of our full 30). Samm and Vic made sure there were snacks and champagne galore! A big thank you to many of our bibliophile friends for their encouragement – and for the turn out! We had a steady stream of visitors all day and are so happy to not only call them our colleagues, but our friends as well.

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I don’t believe anyone could have put it better than Chris Lowenstein of Book Hunter’s Holiday (ABAA), “It is a pleasure to see someone be successful in this business for 30 years – especially someone who shares that success with others all around him through his mentorship and kindness. He has been mentoring me for the past 12 years and I wouldn’t still be in this business without him! Congratulations to Vic Zoschak and to Tavistock Books.”

Hear, hear!

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The American Anniversary of the (American) English Language

Many men born in the states during and after the revolution were more die-hard Americans than any of the foam fingered MAGA supporters we see today. After all, they were the children of the revolution… either they or their fathers fought hard to ensure our country’s freedom, and they weren’t about to let us forget it. They used whatever skills they had – political? They wrote the Constitution. Physical? They fought in battles. Academic? They wrote Declaration of Independence, or essays on our rights… or a dictionary of the American English language. Today we’d like to discuss one such man – who wrote the first American dictionary. With its over 70,000 entries it was more conclusive than ever before, and included words specific to America.

We may be young… but we invented the word “hickory.” So there.

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Noah Webster was born in 1758 in West Hartford, Connecticut. His father, though a farmer by trade, was at the same time a deacon of their local church, captain of the town’s small militia, and a founder of the local book society (which later because the local public library). Though his father did not have extensive educational knowledge, Webster (Sr.) did have a thirst for learning, comprehension, and understanding. His wife began teaching her son to read and write at a young age, and after attending small, dilapidated schools in the region and using a private tutor, and after his father mortgaged their family farm to pay the tuition fees, Noah Webster was able to enroll at Yale College when he was 16 years old… during the height of revolutionary unrest, and he continued studying during the Revolutionary War.

After graduating from Yale, Webster began teaching, then quit to study law, and finally passed the bar exam in 1781. One can imagine it was trying times to be finding a job and earning a living, what with the Revolutionary War still raging on. He began a small private school in Western Connecticut that he closed shortly thereafter, then he wrote essays for local papers praising the Revolution, and then he opened yet another school, but this time for the wealthy of New York. It was at this establishment that he began work on his first “speller” – a grammar and reader for use in elementary classes. The revenue from this first venture is what enabled Webster to spend the next years working on his infamous dictionary.

webster1Webster married Rebecca Greenleaf in 1789, and as she was of good breeding (man, I don’t get to use that phrase often enough) he was able to join higher levels of society in Connecticut than he had been. (They would later have 8 children, but that is neither here nor there.) Due to his beliefs in the revolution and conviction in America’s greatness, one Alexander Hamilton loaned him $1,500 in 1793 to move to New York and become the editor for the Federalist Papers.  For the next few decades, Webster spent much of his time being one of the most profuse authors of the time, especially when it came to political reports, but also in regard to textbooks and articles across the board.

Over these years, Webster focused on one specific way he personally could help his beloved new country. He wanted to promote an American approach to educating our children, and wanted to “rescue our native tongue from the ‘clamour of pedantry’ that surrounded English grammar and pronunciation.” He said that the English language had suffered the British aristocracy’s approach to spelling and pronunciation – an outdated and elite way of speaking and teaching. He eventually began work on his lifetime’s achievement… The Webster Dictionary.

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In 1806 Webster published the first attempt – A Compendious Dictionary of the English Language – the first actual American dictionary of its kind, but knew immediately it was not enough. He continued working on his opus. He learned somewhere between 26-28 languages in evaluate their importances and meanings, and connected with people around the east coast of the new America in order to gather words and meanings from around the “country.” At the tender age of 70, Webster published his dictionary in 1828. Though at first it only sold 2,500 copies, and Webster ended up re-financing his home to pay for a second edition… we all know the eternal significance his dictionary would play on us all… as the Webster (now Webster-Merriam, after rights were granted to the publishing brothers in 1843) Dictionary is still used in schools and households across the United States today.

This week we celebrate its publication (as the copyright was registered by Webster on April 14th, 1828) and the lasting impact it has had on America… just as Noah Webster wished it to.

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Credit: University of Washington libraries.

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Happy Birthday to the Most Irritating Houseguest Charles Dickens Ever Had

Hans Christian Andersen was born in Odense, Denmark, on the second of April, 1805. As a small child, Andersen’s father read to him Arabian Nights - thus introducing the young child to both classic literature and what one might deem a “fairy tale”. At the age of 14, he moved to the capital to become an actor – and though he was accepted into the Royal Danish Theatre… once his voice changed the school advised him to focus instead on becoming a poet… a suggestion that he later turned into authorship.

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Fairytales seemed to be part of Andersen’s literary journey from the beginning, as several of his early stories revolved around tales he heard as a child himself. By the age of 30, Andersen was already writing profusely and showing his work. In fact, in 1833 at the age of 28 he had already received a small travel grant from the king of Denmark to travel through Europe and log the stories he found there. And, well… write he did!

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Andersen is most well-known for his fairytale translations, no one can deny this fact. In 1835 he published the first two installments of his Fairy Tales, with the second installment arriving only two years later. Unfortunately, his collection which included tales such as The Princess and the PeaThumbelinaThe Little Mermaid, and The Emperor’s New Clothes did not sell well at first. Part of the problem was in the translations of these well-known stories. Andersen’s ability to write did not cover his lack of innate foreign language skills.

After honing his skills and continuing to publish fairy tales for ten years, Andersen finally had a breakthrough in 1845 after his translation of The Little Mermaid appeared in Bentley’s Miscellany (a periodical). Soon after, his story was published in a few volumes following its reprint, including Wonderful Stories for Children. A review of the story was published in The Athenæum in London in February of 1846, and the review sang its praises as “a book for grandfathers no less than grandchildren, not a word of which will be skipped by those who have it once in hand.” Andersen became a king of fairytales (of sorts) and would continue translating and publishing them until 1872.

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During his heyday of publishing fairytales from around the Europe, Anderson published various travelogues that he had written during his many journeys abroad while accumulating stories for his collections. Though his travel journals do approach the subject matter in a similar way to his contemporaries’ travel journals, singularly he used his own strengths to expand the style to meet his own requirements. He combines factual evidence and graphic/detailed reports of his experiences with more reflective and meditative verse on various concerns, including his authorship, the issue of timelessness,  and the essence of works of fiction in the travel writing genre. His travelogue In Sweden even contains local fairy tales! (The man just didn’t know how to take a break…)

In 1847 a most happy occurrence happened for Andersen – he traveled to England for the first time and enjoyed resounding success among his fairytale fans. Andersen was able to meet one of his idols, one Charles Dickens, at one of the many parties of a Countess of Blessington. Both authors resonated on certain levels – they were both immensely popular (though Dickens more so, of course), and both took the time to portray citizens of the lower classes in their works. A decade later, Andersen visited Dickens at Gads Hill Place, Dickens’ home – a visit which unfortunately turned into an over-extended stay of over five weeks. Dickens and his family were dismayed that their Victorian politeness allowed a man, even one as highly respected and liked as Andersen, to overstay their welcome by so long. (Read our blog on the extended stay here.) Eventually Andersen had to be asked to leave, and Dickens stopped communication with the author, much to Andersen’s confusion.

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When Andersen turned 67, he took a tumble out of bed and unfortunately was never able to recover from his injuries. Andersen developed liver cancer shortly thereafter and died surrounded by friends (having never married). He was internationally esteemed at the time of his death, and to this day his name immediately recalls international fairytale stories to all of our minds! Happy Birthday to the king of fairy tales, Hans Christian Andersen!

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A Sacramento Update in Honor of Samm’s One Year Anniversary!

This past weekend’s Sacramento Antiquarian Book Fair marks Samm Fricke’s one year anniversary with Tavistock Books. Some of you loyal blog followers might remember that Samm joined us in panic mode just two days before the fair last March, and we were just as lucky to have her then as we were to have her at this – her third Sacramento Book Fair! We sat down with her to pick her brain on her feelings now versus one year ago, so enjoy this little Q&A on Samm’s experiences at this fair!

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Q: So Samm! This Sacramento Book Fair this past weekend marks your one year anniversary with Tavistock Books. How does it feel? 

SF: I must say it feels pretty good! All in all I think I am getting a handle on things. I am feeling more and more comfortable in my book skin each day, and also learning something new each day!

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Q: What was your favorite thing about this Sacramento Book Fair, and how is it different from your favorite aspects one year ago?  

SF: Hmm, my favorite thing? Haha! Probably the simple fact that is was the Sacramento Book Fair!  The last two fairs we exhibited at (Pasadena and the Oakland ABAA fair) were huge and stressful, so it was quite nice to come back to a less chaotic fair and see some familiar faces.  Some of those faces I of course saw in Oakland and Pasadena, but without us all being so hyped up it was nice being able to relax with my colleagues and fellow bibliophiles! That being said, I also loved that I could actually say I had two Sac fairs under my belt!

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Q: What do you think your most important lesson was this year and how did you go about learning it? Did Vic teach you? Did you make a mistake? (No joke, my first week I dropped a book that Vic had just spent hundreds of dollars having the binding redone on. Both boards snapped off and I had a mini heart-attack. Vic was at a Giants game. C’est la vie.) 

SF: (First of all, haha Margueritte! That is my worst fear!) There have been so many lessons, and still so many lessons I have to learn!  Vic teaches me everyday – “let me show you” and “have I mentioned this bibliography?” – are some of most common phrases I hear each day! I have, of course, made mistakes here and there, its a learning curve! Thankfully none of my mistakes have lead to him going bankrupt or losing items in his collection… yet! Kidding! Within my first week, I was taking photos and bumped the books behind me. One fell. My heart skipped about 3 beats while I saw Vic look over.  Thankfully, however, it was an inexpensive book and nothing was damaged (unlike you, Margueritte!). But I won’t lie – I thought I was going to die.

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Q: What are you most excited about moving forward in the book trade? 

SF: Like I mentioned a year ago, I just want to continue learning new aspects of the book trade. There is always something new, even with the old! And yes, you can quote me on that one.

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We are so happy to have you on board, Samm!

Here’s to the next Sacramento Antiquarian Book Fair!

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Happy World Poetry Day from the Tavistock Team

Happy World Poetry Day!

Though Tavistock Books is not known for our poetry books, we do have a selection for you on this most auspicious of days. See our list by Samm here! In the meantime, we thought we would share some our favorite poems with you… one poem from each of the Tavistock team members. Enjoy our favorite reflective verses as much as we do, and don’t forget to silently (or loudly) thank your favorite poets on a day like today!

Perhaps its even time for you to jot a few of yours down…

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From Vic Zoschak: The Road Not Taken by Robert Frost

An oldie and a goodie! The Road Not Taken is commonly acknowledged as one of the most well-known and popular poems ever written… and for good reason! It was published as the first poem in Frost’s collection Mountain Interval, in 1916. At the time it was considered extremely poignant, as the onset of WWI meant that plenty of soldiers held this poem dear as they enlisted and went to war. Others claim that it is one of his most misinterpreted poems, stating that it does not simply “champion the idea of following your own path” but that it also hints with irony at that idea or possibility. Here it is…

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;
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Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,
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And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.
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I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
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*****

From Samm Fricke: LOVE: Is a Human Condition by Nikki Giovanni

Samm has gifted us with the knowledge of  writer, activist, educator, and queer icon Nikki Giovanni (born in 1943). “From her altogether magnificent 1975 collection The Women and the Men comes a beautiful and unusual prose poem about the dualities with which we must live and the human conceits which we must relinquish in order to truly know love.” And we must agree with online writer Maria Popova’s description of this free prose poem. Love: Is a Human Condition is a work of art, by one of America’s foremost contemporary poets, a force of nature still publishing poems today. See for yourself…

An amoeba is lucky it’s so small … else its narcissism would lead to war … since self-love seems so frequently to lead to self-righteousness …

I suppose a case could be made … that there are more amoebas than people … that they comprise the physical majority … and therefore the moral right … But luckily amoebas rarely make television appeals to higher Gods … and baser instincts … so one must ask if the ability to reproduce oneself efficiently has anything to do with love …

The night loves the stars as they play about the Darkness … the day loves the light caressing the sun … We love … those who do … because we live in a world requiring light and Darkness … partnership and solitude … sameness and difference … the familiar and the unknown … We love because it’s the only true adventure …

I’m glad I’m not an amoeba … there must be more to all our lives than ourselves … and our ability to do more of the same …

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From Margueritte Peterson: If by Rudyard Kipling

If has been a personal favorite of mine since I was quite a young girl – my family being fans of Kipling for many reasons (not, though, for his cultural views). I recited this poem in middle school and to this day still have it memorized. It was written in 1895, as an “evocation of Victorian-era stoicism—championing self-discipline, which popular culture rendered into a British national virtue and character trait.” (Wayback Machine). For me, though? It gives me courage. And in all honesty… I can’t help but share this reading of my favorite poem by Michael Caine.

If you can keep your head when all about you   
    Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,   
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
    But make allowance for their doubting too;   
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
    Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or being hated, don’t give way to hating,
    And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise:
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If you can dream—and not make dreams your master;   
    If you can think—and not make thoughts your aim;   
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
    And treat those two impostors just the same;   
If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
    Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
    And stoop and build ’em up with worn-out tools:
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If you can make one heap of all your winnings
    And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
    And never breathe a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
    To serve your turn long after they are gone,   
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
    Except the Will which says to them: ‘Hold on!’
*
If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,   
    Or walk with Kings—nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
    If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
    With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,   
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,   
    And—which is more—you’ll be a Man, my son!
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Happy World Poetry Day, all! 
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New Acquisitions for Your Viewing Pleasure

The recent fairs have given us a fair amount (pun intended) of new inventory! As we haven’t posted one in a while we thought it might be nice to give you an in-depth look at some of our latest and greatest… though there are many more ready to go home with their new owners! Check out our website’s categories for more info on these and other awesome titles.

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We would be remiss in sending our hometown book fairs love without beginning this blog with one of our favorite local finds! DeWitt’s Guide to San Francisco was published in 1900, and is illustrated by nearly 20 engravings! The city guidebook lists tourist sights, hotels, restaurants, banks, businesses, churches, clubs, schools, etc. Love San Francisco? Perhaps you should see what has changed in the last 118 years! See it here.

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This cabinet card photograph depicts three young girls, most likely of the Utes tribe, where they resided in the southern end of Colorado. The photograph itself is circa 1890s, when the town of Rouse, Colorado (now a ghost town) was home to, what was in 1888, the largest coal mine in the state. View this amazing piece of 19th century photographical history here.

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This 1890 edition of The Care of the Sick has a beautiful gilt illustrated binding – and is a solid Very Good copy of this handbook for Nurses, detailing care for the ill both at home and in the hospital. You love nursing material as much as we do? Check it out here!

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We also have a pretty spectacular collection of children’s series books – Nancy Drews, Tom Swifts… Hardy Boys? All can be found on our website and on our shelves! Some series books are not quite so well known as these, however… like this copy of The Bobcat of Jump Mountain. Part of the Boys’ Big Game Series, this title was published in 1920 and our copy still has its original dust jacket! Did we mention it is signed and inscribed by the author, the year of publication? See it here.

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Now this may look like nothing special, but in fact these two volumes make up a first US edition of Oliver Twist… and we would be remiss Dickens specialists indeed if we did not include one of his titles in this list! Now certainly Oliver Twist needs no description to provide its storyline or enforce its importance… so let’s just say that this rare set is not often offered in the trade. See it here.

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Kind of a strange leap from our classic main man, but here offered as well is a 1941 1st edition of rogue author Henry Miller’s The World of Sex. Bibliographers Shifreen & Jackson have speculated that the 3 states of the first [ours given priority] runs of this work may each have had a run of 250 copies. This first state binding is increasinly uncommon, especially in its original jacket – as ours is! Expand your horizons here.

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And while we’re on the subject, here is another fun find from the fairs! We almost feel like the mid 20th century Gilbert Vitalator requires no explanation except for their own marketing! With this vibrator attached to your fingers… “…you’re ready for the thrill of your life. Press your fingers against your body on the spot you wish to massage, and flip the switch. Things happen quickly here, but they can be explained slowly. The Vitalator sets up a vibration which travels to your finger tips and flows through them to your body. But it is not merely a vibration. If you had a pencil in your fingers, set to paper, it would be tracing tiny ovals with lightning rapidity. This rotary movement – this “Swedish massage” action – in the secret of Vitalators superior benefits.” Woohoo! Can be used by men and women, apparently. See this funny body massager here

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This poem, Dickens in Camp was written by Bret Harte shortly after Dickens’ death in the 1870s. Published in a fine press edition in 1923 by John Henry Nash in a run of only 250 copies… and it is signed by the famous publisher! Check out this wonderful tribute to our main man here.

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This Red Cross WWII campaign promotion poster advertises Toys for Kiddies – an initiative where patients in military hospitals designed and created handmade toys for children in homes and orphanages at Christmastime. With the materials provided by the Red Cross, apparently the men spent months making and competing to produce the most creative children’s toy of the season. See this 1940s broadside here.

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Last but not least, we offer as a tribute to the wonderful OZ themed California fair just a couple weeks ago this beautiful 1st edition, 1st printing of Frank L. Baum’s The Woggle – Bug Book, inscribed by the author to one Ruth Bailey Ingersoll in 1905 – the year of its publication. Said by bibliographer Bienvenue to be “remarkably difficult for collectors to find, particularly in good condition. … the large book is one of the most delicate and ephemeral of all Baum’s publications”, we are lucky enough to offer a very pleasing Very Good copy of this unusual early Baum title here at Tavistock Books! Check it out here.

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We hope you’ve enjoyed this brief list of some fun new items on our shelves! Stay tuned throughout the rest of book fair season to see more of them.

 

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A Q&A with ABAA President Vic Zoschak and Tavistock Books’ Samm Fricke on the Recent California Fair

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What were you most excited about for the Oakland ABAA fair? 

Samm: Having everyone in town on our “turf” to invite to the shop and seeing all the international dealers!

Vic: The ending…?  Seriously, it had been a long 10 days for us, what with the Pasadena fair the weekend prior, and boy, by the end of Sunday, my dogs were barkin’, let me tell you!

What was the theme of this year’s California ABAA fair and how did it present itself at the fair? 

Samm: The theme of this years fair was OZ. There was a large collection of rare Oz items in the room. A lot of dealers also brought some things from their Oz collections that were dispersed around peoples booths… there was a touch of Oz or Baum almost everywhere if you looked hard enough!

Vic: The OZ theme was very well presented, though we’re sorry to say the OZ things we brought, we also brought back to the shop! But nevertheless, it was an exciting theme, and I saw some wonderful material in the genre throughout the room.

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Were there any special events you two attended that you’d like to make note of for us?

Samm: We did not make the poker benefit as we were exhausted.  I personally did not make the talk put on by the Womens Initiative as I was finally taking time to browse the booths.  I snuck in for a brief minute to see Vic’s talk and take some photos.  He had a large turn out and looked super comfortable up on stage.  Some people who attended his seminar even came and browsed the booth and told him that they very much enjoyed his talk.

Vic: One that perhaps deserved more press I’d like to mention here: the Northern California Chapter’s “Young Book Collector’s Prize.”  The award was won by a nice young man from La Jolla, Matthew Wills.  His collection, “Anti-Confucian Propaganda in Mao’s China”, was on display in the room.  This award, and the many young people who submitted entries, indicates to me that book collecting is alive & well  with the next generation.

Vic, did you speak at this year’s fair? 

Samm: He did!  “Whats a Book Worth?” and “Book Collecting 101” were his two seminars.

Vic: Samm’s right, I did, though it was my ’Swan’ song so to speak, as Laurelle Swan, Swan’s Fine Books, will take over for me come 2021.  Yes, pun intended!  :)

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How was the attendance at the Oakland fair? 

Samm: The turn out was the best on Saturday I think.  The rain was a bit lighter.  Friday was a dreary day, but people still came out.  Overall, a good turn out I thought, but I don’t have another ABAA fair to compare too!

Vic: Both were of modest proportions for us in Oakland, though I thought the promoter did well getting people through the door.  But we had few sales to the general public, so, for whatever reason, the material we brought failed to resonate with them.  You win some, you lose some.

Which fair was better overall for Tavistock Books – the Oakland fair or Pasadena fair – in terms of buying, selling and fun?  

Samm: In terms of buying I would say Pasadena. In terms of selling and fun I would say Oakland.  The fun and selling go hand in hand I think as we had our “Shin-dig” which was great and we sold some items at that too!

Vic: This a tough call…  our energy levels were higher in Pasadena, and I didn’t have ABAA responsibilities while in Pasadena [in Oakland, I had a Board of Governors meeting, as well as the Association’s Annual meeting].  That said, it’s always a pleasure to see colleagues, and perhaps share a meal.  While in Oakland, groups of us did get out to both Wood Tavern & Chez Panisse, two of the top East Bay restaurants.  And yes, Samm is correct, we bought way more in Pasadena [for details, watch our forthcoming Wednesday morning lists!].

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Is the Oakland fair still as much of a draw as it has been since the year they moved it from San Francisco?  

Vic: Here in California, to be honest, our biggest attendance detriment is the proximity of the New York book fair [early March].  The ABAA leadership is acutely aware of this situation, and hopes, in future years, to introduce more of a calendar separation between the two events.

How did your pre-fair Tavistock Books shindig go?  

Vic: Given it’s last minute nature, we think it went well!  We did have a number of colleagues say they’d already had commitments, and therefore weren’t able to make it. Samm & I agreed to do it again in 2021, and ‘get the word out’ much earlier that year.

Samm: It was fun!  We had a good turn out – maybe 15 people or so filtering in and out! Sold some items! People drank our drinks and ate snacks and talked books!  What could be better?

What did you both learn at this year’s fair that you might not have known before it?  

Samm: I suppose I learned that you can never truly know what will sell. You don’t know what booksellers will want, which collectors will be there etc. It can be a guessing game. But having a website to shop and storefront helps. So you may not make a sale at the fair itself but you can offer those other options to make a sale at a later date!

Vic: I’ve done enough of these fairs over the last 30 years that the one thing I’ve learned is that no one fair is like any other!  It’s like rolling dice, you just hope a 7 comes up.

And last but not least… Vic, what is different about being president of the ABAA at an ABAA fair?  

Vic: Interesting question Ms P, for this is the first ABAA fair at which I’ve exhibited since becoming the Association’s President.  What I found is that knowing I’m the President, ABAA colleagues came over to chat about diver Association matters, which is a good thing.  To properly do my job as President, I need to know how members stand on different issues.  For those that took the time to do so, I thank you.

And that's a wrap, ladies and gentlemen!

And that’s a wrap, ladies and gentlemen!

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