Welcome to the Biennial Reference Book Workshop with Tavistock Books (For All You Lazies Who Didn’t Sign Up)

1. Hooray! Another Reference Book Workshop! Who attended and how was the vibe of the event in your eyes?

This was like the 11th or 12th I’ve hosted this workshop since the first in 2001.  Due to space constraints, I limit registration to 7, which was attained this year shortly after the announcement but relatively late cancellations dropped us to 4 folk that actually attended.  Diane Black, Holly Chaffee, Zayda Delgado & David Guest.  Zayda a librarian at the beginning of her career at UC Riverside; the other 3 individuals are booksellers with varying degrees of experience in the trade.  This a typical mix of workshop attendees as the workshop is designed to help new[ish] booksellers who may not be familiar with the standard rare book bibliographies & references, but can also be useful to rare book librarians who need to know those works, as well as collectors just embarking on their collecting journey [though usually collectors have an interest in just one of the 4 subject areas].

I think the day went ok…  as I explain to all at the beginning of the workshop, it’s designed to just be a survey, and exposure thereto, of those basic references in four primary subject areas [English & American Literature, Americana, Childrens & Early Printed Books] which one will need in the daily course of business as a generalist antiquarian shop.  Which is to say, I know the divers volumes will begin to all ‘run together’ by the end of the first segment.  The challenge for me, as host, is to somehow be able to ascribe some aspect of uniqueness to each & every one such that the volumes retain their individuality.

I’ll leave it to the participants to say how successful I was at that effort!

2. How did this past Saturday differ from previous workshops?

Not much different really…  people ask questions, different paths are taken during the course of the day, other areas are explored.  Two of the individuals were from Nevada, so during the Americana section, I added a few Nevada refs that I thought they should know.  One thing I did note… during breaks all 4 individuals were scouring the shelves of the shop, to a degree more detailed than I had noted in the past few workshops.  True book people!


The lunch group at Alameda’s Katsu Sushi House!

3. What is your favorite part of the day?


As you can imagine, I’m the primary talker during the day, and it can be a bit draining…  so at lunch, which I host, it’s a chance for the participants to chat with each other, with me, with Kate, and perhaps discuss other topics of interest, with those topics not necessarily being entirely relevant to the day’s subjects.  While we do introductions at the beginning of the day, lunch a time where we have an opportunity to say more than “Hi, my name is …. and I’m here to learn ….”.  So I get to find out more about the folks that have joined me for the day, while listening, not necessarily talking.  I find it relaxing & collegial.

4. What is the most useful part of the workshop for newbies? Or, would you recommend this workshop for newbies, over, say, RBS or CalRBS?

I’m not sure I can point to a specific aspect as ‘most useful’, as that is determined by each attendee, and as such, can be different for each individual.  I can say that when I hold up a certain reference book, and introduce it with “This reference book made me $5000” the booksellers usually perk up & pay attention.

Which segues into one aspect of the workshop I try to continually emphasis…  the web has lots of useful information available, but it has yet, in my experience, to supersede the reference book library.  In my opinion, it still takes both to successfully run a generalist antiquarian business.

While I wouldn’t recommend this workshop ‘over’ RBS or CALRBS, it does have the advantage of being 1 day, vice 5, and the cost is minimal, e.g., there is no entry fee, as I give the class gratis.  That said, I do tell people this the beginner version of Joel Silver’s week long ‘Reference Sources for Researching Rare Books’, and I encourage them to attend his class [RBS L-25] if they found mine interesting and/or useful.  Tavistock Books even offers a scholarship* to his class.

* here’s a link to the RBS Class description: <http://rarebookschool.org/courses/library/l25/>

**  a link to info regarding the Tavistock Books Educational Scholarship to L-25 (scroll to the bottom): <http://rarebookschool.org/admissions-awards/scholarships/>

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5. Kate’s opinion – this was your first Reference Book Workshop, right? Was there anything that you learned that you didn’t already know, even having been working for Vic for the last year? 

This was indeed my first reference book workshop, of any kind, and I’m glad I got to sit in on it. Despite the fact that I’ve had access to both Vic and his stellar reference library for over a year now, and am even in the process of inventorying that library, I learned plenty on Saturday. I haven’t yet handled all of the kinds of material that would require using each of the references Vic discussed with the class, for one thing — as with any bookshop, certain kinds of books are more likely to come through the door than others — so some reference titles were entirely new to me. Also, the workshop offered a chance for me to think critically about some of the references I only had a glancing familiarity with, and about bibliographic research in general. For instance, does McKerrow’s Dictionary of Printers & Booksellers, 1557 – 1650 cover instances of surreptitious publications? What exactly is the difference between Worldcat and OCLC? How can a bookseller research works by authors that might be un- or underrepresented in traditional “dead white men” bibliographies? And what makes a bibliography authoritative, anyway?

Not all of my questions were answered, naturally, but many were, and I’m happy to have food for thought. Plus, the attendees were great: interested and interesting people, and all, like me, simply trying to educate themselves about professional research materials and standards in the trade. So I can say, with absolute conviction, that it was the best reference book workshop I’ve ever attended/ eavesdropped on. And luckily for me, I get to pester the instructor any day I want from here on out . . . 

Closing remarks by V…

Finally, this may have been my last workshop….  they take a lot of energy, and I’m not the spring chicken I used to be.  Though on saying as much to Kate as we were cleaning up, she inquired, “How many times have you said that now?”  After a moment’s reflection, I replied “After each of the last 3.”  She just smiled.


Happy 170th Anniversary to the Smithsonian Institution!

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In 1829 an English chemist and mineralogist name James Smithson died. This, in and of itself, should not have influenced the United States in any grand way… but it did! This English chemist, born in Paris and the illegitimate song of the 1st Duke of Northumberland donated all of his lifetime of earnings and his own inheritance to Washington, D.C. and the United States… despite never having been there. What came of this scientists idea of “an establishment for the increase and diffusion of knowledge among men”? Less than 20 years later the Smithsonian Institution was founded in Washington D.C. as an establishment that promoted further knowledge and learning for all men. In his will, Smithson dictated that his funds be left to his nephew and the nephew’s family… or in the event that the nephew had no surviving heirs, to the United States of America for a very specific purpose. 

A young Smithson from his days at Oxford.

A young Smithson from his days at Oxford.

James Smithson was born Jacques Louis-Macie in Paris, secretly, on an unknown date. He eventually became a naturalized UK citizen, and even studied chemistry at Oxford’s Pembroke College. After graduating from Oxford, Smithson considered himself somewhat of a nomad – he traveled extensively throughout the UK and Europe and published many papers on his findings. His “findings” covering all manner of topics – from the art and science of coffee making to the use of the scientific substance calamine in making brass. He studied other scientific topics over his lifetime, more to do with his chosen field of chemistry (like the make-up of human tears and snake venom!) Smithson was independently wealthy from an inheritance from his mother, and though he stayed quite busy throughout his lifetime in his studies, never had a career or a paying job. However, his travels did not diminish his wealth and at his death he was still very well-off. Smithson died in Italy in 1829. Six years later, his one and only nephew, Henry Hungerford, died, leaving no heirs. In his will, Smithson dictated that in the event that his nephew died without heirs, [Smithson] then bequeath the whole of [his] property… to the United States of America, to found at Washington, under the name of the Smithsonian Institution, an Establishment for the increase and diffusion of knowledge among men.”

Screen Shot 2016-07-20 at 1.12.09 PMThe United States was unaware of Smithson’s plans until his nephew passed away in 1835. The news was sent to President Andrew Jackson, who informed Congress of their lucky gift. A committee was set up almost immediately to begin planning the Smithsonian Institution. The funds from Smithson’s estate over the next few decades eventually totaled up over $562,000 (the money arriving as gold sovereigns in almost a dozen boxes, alongside Smithson’s personal belongings and scientific findings) – a total almost equivalent to $15,400,000 today!

In February of 1847, the Board of Regents (those put in charge of overseeing the new “Smithsonian Institution”) approved the seal for the institution. The institution opened that year and has remained an unbelievably popular establishment for research and knowledge ever since. These days, taking young children on field trips to the Institution (which has since expanded into a combination of 19 museums and galleries – all but 3 of which are still located in Washington, D.C.) is a common practice, as the collections include over 138 million artworks, artifacts and specimens. The Smithsonian Institution Libraries hold 2 million library volumes – and their Archives hold 156,830 cubic feet of archival material! Talk about an impressive library… the Smithsonian is an American institution with a wonderful history. Happy 170th Anniversary to the Institution!

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“You will do foolish things, but do them with enthusiasm.” A Look at Colette – Scandalous & Beloved French Writer

I readily admit that I am a fan of the badass literary woman. Give me Anais Nin, Marguerite Duras or Virginia Woolf any day – women who tell it like it is, who aren’t afraid to examine deep parts of the psyche, of feelings on sex, attraction, anger… any and all of the above. It is no surprise, then, that when I first read works by Sidonie Gabrielle Colette (best known by simply “Colette”), I immediately was attracted to her matter of fact statements on such taboo (at the time) subjects, and the lyrical quality of her prose. Today being the 62nd anniversary of her death, I thought it high time a blog was written about this amazing female literary giant. 

Screen Shot 2016-06-30 at 10.53.20 AMSidonie-Gabrielle Colette was born in January 1873 to a tax-collector/war hero (bet you didn’t think such a combo was possible…) and his young wife in the French region of Burgundy. Though at Colette’s birth the family was significantly well off, by the time she was able to attend school the family’s wealth had diminished substantially and she was only able to attend public school until she was 17. Though public school was not the ideal, it was still a reasonably substantial education for a girl in her social standing at the time. Shortly after leaving school, she married a well-known author of the day Henry Gauthier Villars (known as “Willy”) when she was 20 and he was 14 years her senior. Willy convinced her (as she later recollected) to begin writing, and her first four novels featuring the coming-of-age of her heroine Claudine were published under his name. The novels, (in English) Claudine at School, Claudine in Paris, Claudine Married & Claudine and Annie, were immensely popular and gathered significant wealth for Colette and Willy. Willy, a member of the avant-garde scene in Paris at the time (and apparently a bit of a libertine, as it were), introduced Colette to the artists and writers in Paris and encouraged her sexual explorations (even lesbian affairs) as fodder for her writing.

Screen Shot 2016-06-30 at 10.49.34 AMUnfortunately when Colette and Willy separated and divorced in 1910, all of the royalties and rights to her Claudine novels were under his name, and therefore not in her power to use (or even have access to). Once the divorce was finalized, Colette spent many years touring around France working on the stage – sometimes impersonating her own character Claudine in new sketches. She spent this time in a series of relationships with other women, most notably her stage partner Mathilde de Morny (who was called “Missy”). They lived together openly for many years, though had to tone down their openness when an onstage kiss between the two caused a riot in 1907. It was during this time that one of her most famous novels The Vagabond was published, detailing a world where men rule all aspects of women’s lives. After her relationship with Missy ended in 1912, Colette married the Editor of the journal Le Matin – Henry de Jouvenel. In 1913 a daughter was born, and, finally settled down, Colette was once again able to devote herself to writing.

Our 1936 1st ed  #146 / 175 copy of Quatrieme Cahiers de Colette, SIGNED by Colette! See it here>

Our 1936 1st ed #146 / 175 copy of Quatrieme Cahiers de Colette, SIGNED by Colette! See it here>

Beginning in the 1920s Colette entered a most prolific writing phase of her life, and used her real-life experiences in her relationship with Jouvenel to write her next scandalous book Cheri - the story of a courtesan entering into a love affair with a significantly younger man, then devastated when the man takes a wife his own age (Colette was, at that time, having an affair with her sixteen year old stepson Bertrand de Jouvenel!). Her marriage to Henry ended in divorce in 1924, and she married her third (and final) husband Maurice Goudeket (sixteen years her junior) in 1925.

As The Vagabond helped establish Colette as a writer (remember, she received no credit for her earlier novels), her next novels (Cheri included) looked at subject matter often considered taboo in polite society – sexuality, married life, women’s struggles, prostitution – all are represented in some way in almost all of Colette’s writings. By 1944, Colette was already frequently esteemed as France’s greatest female writer – and only then did she publish the work that she would be best-known for in the future! In 1944 she published Gigi – a tale of a young girl being groomed to become a courtesan for a wealthy businessman and breaks with tradition and decency by marrying him instead! A few short years later it was made into a film, and then in 1951 adapted into a stage production, with the little-known Audrey Hepburn as the title role – handpicked and cast by Colette herself.

Screen Shot 2016-06-30 at 10.51.29 AMCrippled by arthritis, Colette gradually lost her health and well-being, and passed away on August 3rd, 1954. She was the first French female writer to be awarded a state funeral – no small feat – and was laid to rest in Paris’ famous Pere-Lachaise cemetary, her contributions to literature and female authorship never forgotten!


The Lost Generation: Expatriates Living in Paris in the Roaring 20s

Once upon a time, there was the Roaring 20s. There was plenty of jazz, shorter skirts and illegal booze all over the place.

The End.

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Just kidding! 

I could never stop a 20s blog with that – not when it is one of my favorite periods! (In an “I would live then only if I could live as Dorothy Parker” kind of way.) The 1920s saw an explosion of color and creativity all over the world, but no place more so than one of Vic’s favorite places in the world… Paris, France. Paris was the heart of the avant-garde movement – the center of the bohemian creative culture – and therefore it drew artists, authors and forward thinkers from all over the world… especially the United States. 

Stein and Alice B. Toklas in her Paris sitting room - second home to many of the Lost Generation.

Stein and Alice B. Toklas in her Paris sitting room – second home to many of the Lost Generation.

It was Gertrude Stein (today is, by the way, the 70th anniversary of her death), prominent literary “hostess” and celebrated figurehead of the 20s literary & artistic movement in Paris, who first thought up an expression for these expatriates living in Paris – “The Lost Generation.” It came to be a well-known phrase and widely used throughout those considering themselves part of this movement. Some of those people included members of any number of artistic circles at the time – Modernists, Dadaists, Expressionists, Surrealists, Cubists… all could be found in Stein’s sitting room at one time or another, asking her impression of their paintings, their films or their chapters. Today we’d like to look at some of the members of this “Lost Generation!”

The British Library hit the nail on the head in its online publication on the American writers living in Paris in the 20s when they said that “On the face of it, the sobriquet of ‘Lost Generation’ seems an odd collective description for a group of writers and artists who were among the brightest flowering of American literary talent yet to emerge on the international stage.” A very true statement – as “Lost Generation” implies a group of people either not recognized for what they are, or without a true home. Both of these statements were not true – they were very much welcome in Paris (as far as “homes” go) and they were recognized as the (often scandalous) trendsetters that they were. 

Some members of the Paris culture captured together... James Joyce, Ezra Pound, Andre Breton & Tristan Tzara some of those pictured!

Some members of the Paris culture captured together… James Joyce, Ezra Pound, Andre Breton & Tristan Tzara some of those pictured!

Stein was one of the first to emerge on the Paris scene, moving there in 1904 with her brother Leo (who hoped to pursue art) after abandoning her medical studies at Johns Hopkins University. Stein was there at the perfect moment – just in time to see every expatriate from all over the world move to Paris to pursue alternative lifestyles! Edith Wharton (one you perhaps did not know was part of the expatriate scene) arrived in 1906 and later on wrote The Age of Innocence in Paris. In the 1910s more and more artists and authors relocated, including Tristan Tzara (the Romanian-born father of Dadaism) and Andre Breton (French-born father of the shocking Surrealist movement and friend/student of Tristan Tzara). In the 1920s an influx of American born authors arrived, including many of the most well-known authors to date! F. Scott Fitzgerald & Ernest Hemingway were staples during the Parisian Roaring 20s (Hemingway used to have Stein proofread and edit his work – did you know that?) both setting several novels in this wild and artistic era. Other authors included James Joyce (Sylvia Beach of the Shakespeare & Co. Bookshop first published his novel Ulysses when no one else would), Sherwood Anderson, John Steinbeck, William Faulkner, poet Ezra Pound, visionary author Franz Kafka, poet and author T. S. Eliot were all prominent figures in the 1920s. The 1930s would also prove to be an illustrative time for authors in Paris as writers like Henry Miller and Anais Nin joined the circle and offered their own unique and remarkable literary talents to the world. 


One of Picasso's 1920s works done in Paris.

One of Picasso’s 1920s works done in Paris.

And this is just the authors! Artists included many of the real “greats” such as Picasso, Modigliani, Braque, Cocteau and Duchamp, music geniuses like Igor Stravinsky and Erik Satie were worshipped in parallel next to Cole Porter! This was truly a time of greatness – so much in every field contained in one city. The most striking certainty of this “Lost Generation”, however, is that despite their wild and tumultuous lifestyles, constant partying and detestation of the restrictions and constraints demanded of Victorian and early 20th century life, their work (in all aspects – writing, art and music) shows an astonishing range of depth, profoundness, clarity and sincerity not often found in one sitting.


Some Books-on-Books Titles That Might Be Missing from Your Reference Library

Do you ever wonder what the most useful reference books are for your collection? Whether you are a bookseller, a librarian or even just a customer, it is important to know what you are buying, what you are selling, and what you’ve got! Reference books are one of the keys to being a responsible cataloguer, no matter your position. We at Tavistock Books boast a collection of over 3,000 reference titles from all walks of the antiquarian book world. Noting proof of what we’re selling is a top priority for us (as it should also be for you)! Not only do we offer a semi-annual Reference Book Workshop at Tavistock Books in August, but we also offer our library to trusted friends and colleagues anytime they have use of it. Interested in attending our Reference Book Workshop? Email vjz@tavbooks.com for more information on it! In the meantime, allow our master Vic Zoschak, Jr. to give you a run-down on some of our all-time favorites and the ones that come in most handy around Tavistock Books on a regular basis! Don’t forget – though we have certain specialties, we operate mainly as a generalist store with a variety of interests, and therefore have favorites in many categories!

A shot from our workshop in August, 2014.

A shot from our workshop in August, 2014.

1.  New Cambridge Bibliography of English Literature, 660 – 1950.  Cambridge, 1970s.  5 vols, with the 5th vol an Index volume.  More a checklist than a detailed bibliography, it’s nevertheless voluminous in its coverage of UK authors, and probably is the only bibliographic source for many.  I’ll probably have to get Vol 3 (19th C) rebound, I’ve used it so much over the years.  It sits within arm-reach of my desk.

Screen Shot 2016-07-06 at 10.29.19 AM2.  Cowan.  A Bibliography of the History of California, 1510 – 1930.  First published in 1914, with a revised edition issued in 1933.  I use the 1964 reprint, which includes the supplemental Vol IV, issued that year.  If you’re a California bookseller, you’ll get asked for California books & so you’ll need it. And if you collect, or sell, books regarding the far West, it’s indispensable.


3.  Bibliography of American Literature.  Otherwise known as the BAL.  First volume [Adams to Byrne] issued by the Yale University Press in 1955, compiled & edited by the incomparable bibliographer, Jacob Blanck.  Final, and 9th volume [Westcott to Wylie], was edited & compiled by Michael Winship, and issued by the Press in 1991, so the 9 volumes almost 40 years in the making.  It includes all 1sts [plus other stuff, see “Inclusions”, volume I], chronologically listed, of the authors included in the set, which were those that died 1930 or earlier.  All the major names [and many minor names] are included, e.g., Alcott, Clemens, James, et al.  If you’re going to do pre-1930 American lit, this set a must.

Our 1st edition copy of Eckel's Bibliography from 1913 is for sale here>

Our 1st edition copy of Eckel’s Bibliography from 1913 is for sale here>

4.  Eckel.  The First Editions of the Writings of Charles Dickens Their Points and Values.  London: 1932.  2nd Revised Edition.  As a Dickens specialist, this a ‘must have’ for me, as it covers all his primary writings, his secondary ones, and loads of other stuff.  In other words, much bang for the buck.  And even though published over 80 years ago, with some data superceded by more recent scholarship, it’s still a relevant bibliography for a general antiquarian bookseller, or Dickens collector.  For the budget minded, there are many less-costly reprints out there.


5.  Baumgarten.  Price Guide and Bibliographic Checklist for Children’s & Illustrated Books 1880 – 1970 [2004 Edition, which is the latest I believe].  Again, a good ‘bang for the buck’ reference for the general antiquarian shop and/or collector of children’s literature.  Over 18,000 entries, it gives you the data necessary to identify first editions, and while the pricing info is dated, it does give you a starting point with which one can extrapolate.

Now keep in mind that these are just the beginning of the pickings! We, as booksellers, use many, many reference books on a daily basis. And again, if you’ve ever been curious to know what you’ve got or how to figure out what you’ve got… they are indispensable! That is just one more reason to attend one of our Reference Book Workshops – where you’ll get a much broader idea of the important and most well-known reference books, what they cover and how to cite them correctly! Not to mention the ability to ask any reference question you need of the Reference-King Vic Zoschak! Contact us for more information! 


“It is better to learn wisdom late, than to never learn it at all” The Life of the Great Creator of Sherlock Holmes

On the 7th of July, 1930, Arthur Conan Doyle died at age 71 from a heart attack. On this the 86th anniversary of his death, we’d like to look at this famous author, spiritualist & physician and his lifetime contribution to so many different fields!

Screen Shot 2016-06-21 at 12.49.00 PMConan Doyle (as he is often called, though Conan Doyle is a combination of his middle and last names, as Conan is not a surname, as people often think!) was not born under auspicious circumstances. His father, Charles Altamont Doyle, was an alcoholic and when Arthur was only 5 years old he and his siblings were dispersed to live with family and friends across Edinburgh. A few years later the family moved back together and for numerous years lived in near-poverty. Luckily, Doyle had wealthy family to support him and to send him to Jesuit boarding school in England for seven years beginning when he was nine years old. Despite a difficult home life and upbringing, Doyle apparently struggled leaving home for school – as he was incredibly close with his mother (and would remain so throughout his life) and cherished the stories she would tell him during his childhood. It is even said that his favorite part of school was writing letters home to his mother, and telling stories to his schoolmates that she had once told him!

After leaving school as a young man, Doyle’s first act as an adult was to co-sign the committal papers for his father, who by that time was a long-sufferer of mental illness related to his drinking problem. After such, Doyle devoted his further studies, surprisingly, to a medical career (I say surprisingly as his family was one of artists) after being influenced by a boarder his mother took in for some extra cash. While at medical school, Doyle met two fellow students who would prove to become life-long friends, as well as literary stars – James Barrie (author of Peter Pan) and Robert Louis Stevenson. Another influential persona on the young Doyle was one of his Professors – a Dr. Joseph Bell. Dr. Bell, with his particular observations, attention and significant powers of logic and deduction would end up being Doyle’s inspiration for the character of Sherlock Holmes!

Screen Shot 2016-06-21 at 12.35.00 PMIt was during his medical studies that Doyle first began to write short stories – the first few of which were published in both a smaller journal in Edinburgh and the London Society. It is said that with his publication in the larger UK magazine Doyle first realized that he could, possibly, make a living with his pen. He took off of his studies during his third year of medical school to act as a doctor on board an Arctic whaling boat – an experience that he loved (and kept detailed journals of) and sparked his wish for adventure. After returning to his studies and graduating, Doyle’s first job was to take another surgeon position on board a ship bound for Africa. He was less impressed by this position, however, and upon returning to England eventually opened up his own small practice in Portsmouth. During his time practicing, Doyle wrote short stories on the side and married a sister of one of his patients. He lived a relatively calm and normal life until March of 1886 when he began working on the novel that would propel him into fame and success as an author.

Screen Shot 2016-06-21 at 12.34.14 PMA Study in Scarlet was published in 1888 and immediately became a great success (though, surprisingly, Doyle was received more widely in America at first, than in the UK). Though this first work is well-remembered (as it introduced the world to the immortal characters of Dr. Watson & Sherlock Holmes), and Doyle continued writing other stories and novels. Sherlock became a household name and his stories began to be published in The Strand Magazine on a regular basis. In fact, after only five years of Sherlock titles, Doyle planned the death of this fictional hero and after The Final Problem was published in 1893 (where Sherlock and Moriarty plunged to their deaths at The Reichenbach Falls), over twenty thousand readers cancelled their subscriptions to the magazine!

Doyle’s next few years were troubled times for the author, as he struggled to maintain a readership with other stories and characters, took care of his wife recently diagnosed with tuberculosis, and dealt with the death of his (at this point) severely demented father. In the early 1900s, Doyle decided (more for the happiness of his bank account than his own literary merits) to bring back the character of Sherlock – first in The Hound of the Baskervilles (written as just a previously untold adventure of the famous Detective), and then with The Return of Sherlock Holmes in 1903 – once again serialized in The Strand Magazine. Sherlock Holmes was back, and as popular as ever.

Sherlock Holmes was kept alive despite many obstacles in Doyle’s life. He took care of his wife throughout her illness, raised their two children, wrote, tried (twice, in fact) to throw himself into politics, and began seeing a young woman he felt a deep connection with on the side (though it is thought he remained true to Louisa until her death in 1906). Doyle was also a very active person, participating in many sports and body building throughout his life. Doyle did not only write Sherlock Holmes periodicals, but also in this time wrote several plays and novels – though some popular (some not quite so popular) in contemporary circles are not what he is well-remembered for today.

Screen Shot 2016-06-21 at 12.49.23 PMEver an active participant in politics and wartime (he served as a surgeon in the Boer War some years earlier), Conan Doyle never ceased to look for ways to be of service to his country and his people. Fun Fact: After an attack on the British Navy at the outbreak of WWI where the military lost over a thousand lives in one day, Doyle wrote to the war office and recommended that they invent inflatable belts and inflatable “life boats” in order to save more lives of those at sea. Though many in the offices thought Doyle a nuisance (always interfering), at one point Winston Churchill himself wrote him to thank him for his ideas! As far as I’m concerned, being the one to come up with the idea for inflatable life jackets and life rafts absolutely earns you respect.

One part of Doyle’s history that many like to focus on is his interest in the paranormal and the occult sciences. Having always been interested in certain types of phenomena (even his second published work was a strange occult work of fiction about the afterlife of three Buddhist monks), he became even more so after witnessing the death of his son in the war. His interest in spiritualism (which his wife eventually also shared), led him to believe in anything paranormal – such as the Cottingley fairies (the two girls who posed with fairy cutouts and accidentally started a nationwide interest in the belief of fairies). Though when the need for money rose once again Doyle was able to pen out more Sherlock Holmes tales, most of his writing in his later life focused on spiritualism and psychic pursuits.

Our first appearance of this classic science fiction novel by Doyle "The First Men in the Moon" illustrated by Claude Shepperson, many plates of which are only available in this periodical issue. See more here>

A Collection of Strand Magazine from 1900 to 1901 with Arhur Conan Doyle articles “A Glimpse of the Army” and “Strange Studies from Life” as well as an interview with Doyle – “A British Commando.” See more here>

Doyle passed away from angina and heart-related difficulties in July of 1930. His last words were whispered to his second wife, “You are wonderful.” This great man created one of the most well-known literary characters to this day and lived a full-life, constantly chasing his passions, whether they be literary, political, or spiritual.

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Rare Books and Manuscripts Galore! We Get a Low-Down of Last Week’s RBMS Conference from Our Very Own Attendee!

Vic, how many years have you attended RBMS for now?

My first RBMS Conference, then called the Preconference for the conference precedes the big ALA event, was in San Francisco, 2002.  I was the local ABAA rep to the RBMS Local Affairs committee, and helped with things like stuffing the book bag, helping arrange the ABAA hosted reception, etc.  The conference hotel was the Fairmont, which is a lovely hotel at the top of Nob Hill.  I confess I don’t remember too many specifics of the conference itself, just have an overall impression of enjoying the week.

IMG_3096What are some of your most favorite past locales where it has been held?

Having just returned from Miami, I can definitely say that locale was one of my favorites, though one prior that does stick out was a number of years ago [2009] when the conference was held in Charlottesville, VA to celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the event.  Always like travelling to Charlottesville.  Another that comes to mind was that of 2013, which was held in Minneapolis.  The reason this one is memorable is because, even though I was registrered, I had to cancel at the last minute, as I contracted a bout of pleurisy [as you may also remember!].  Ouch!

Could you give us a walk-through of this weekend, or a typical RBMS weekend? Conferences, showcases – give us the low-down!

The week is filled with sessions & panels, etc., etc.  As you might imagine, as one of the trade, not all issues germane to the librarian community has relevance to my work, however, by better understanding those issues important to my institutional clientele, I can better serve them, which is my job.  The bookseller showcase is an adjunct to the conference, which provides the curators attending the conference an opportunity to sample the wares of my colleagues & discuss with those exhibiting booksellers their needs/wants.

What have you learned at this past RBMS? What conferences did you attend and who struck you as a phenomenally great speaker?


The Chairman of Florida's Welcome Committee!

The Chairman of Florida’s Welcome Committee!

The individual that immediately comes to mind, Pellom McDaniels, was a speaker this year at the Thursday afternoon panel [“A Broad and Deep Look at Outreach”] held at the University of Miami.  The intent of the session was “to demonstrate the myriad ways special collections and archives can engage and interact with multiple constituencies.”  This fellow from Emory was high energy, engaged & enthusiastic.  And you could tell from his presentation, that he had achieved the goal of “engaging & interacting”.  It was good to see that, at least in his case, special collections was reaching out beyond the reading room, and showing the community the wonders that lie behind the mahogany doors.


Why do you do the RBMS showcase? Is it to sell? Or is it rather to meet new people? 

The intent of the showcase is to provide an opportunity for both the bookseller & the librarian communities to interact.  It is most definitely NOT a bookfair.  Remember, the booksellers are there as an adjunct to the conference, in other words, the showcase is not the main event.


Some of the usual suspects...

Some of the usual suspects…

Would you recommend attending RBMS to other booksellers? What about newbie booksellers? Librarians?

If institutional clientele are part of your business model, or you wish to add them to your customer list, then yes, the showcase provides an *opportunity* to do this.  Granted, it’s not the only way, just one way, especially if you are a new ABAA member, it’s one way to do so.  As for the librarian community, if your responsibilites include collection develeopment, then yes, meeting and talking with the exhibiting booksellers can help you with this facet of your job.  Afterall, if you’re fishing [for books], why not cast a wide net?

In summary, this past week was a great one-  both from a program perspective, as well as a venue.  The Biltmore Hotel is a grand old lady, whose elegance if fading somewhat, but she still outshines many younger models.  Next year’s conference will be in Iowa City.  While certainly it’ll be different than Miami, I have no doubt it too will be a success.