Author Archives: tavistock_books

The ABAA’s Northern California Chapter Annual Holiday Dinner… a Night in Pictures

As many of you loyal Tavistock Books blog followers (mom, I’m talking to you) know, every year we here at Tavistock Books attend the annual Northern California Chapter Holiday Dinner – a night of fun and food, goings over of the years events as they relate to our chapter of booksellers, and the sharing of bibliophile joys and yearnings.

Instead of raking through an entire blog of minutes from this years shindig, we would like to provide some of the highlights and then tell the tale in images – as some people say that one image is worth a thousand words.

Strictly speaking, we here at Tavistock BOOKS simply don’t believe such tosh… but nevertheless!

The evening began typically with happy hour, and once seated for dinner and guests introduced, chapter Chair Ben Kinmont reported on several book fairs, including the York Book Fair, the fair in Chelsea (both in the UK) and the Boston Book Fair. Apparently the York fair is the hidden gem of the season! Also of note is the extended application acceptance for the California Young Book Collector’s Prize, which we reported on a couple weeks back. Some frightfully good submissions have already been sent in, but there is still time for the young book collector amongst you! Now the California ABAA chapters will be accepting submissions until December 15th, with the prize due to be announced in early January after careful consideration by our four judges! There were words from Michael Hackenberg and Laurelle Swan, comments were made on Andy Langer’s wonderful fastidiousness, and Secretary Alexander Akin passed out the minutes from the last Northern California Chapter meeting, which were approved readily (and firstly by our own Vic Zoschak), whereupon the raffle was finished and many went home with beautiful gifts of Giants tickets, bottles of lovely wines and spirits and gift baskets of snacks and goodies!

It was a wonderful evening surrounded by our fellow bibliophiles – enjoy the pictures and happy holidays to you and yours!

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We Give Thanks

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As those of you who don’t live under rocks are aware, around this time of year immense attention is placed on discovering what we are grateful for and giving thanks. We here at Tavistock Books are grateful for many things indeed – a finely mixed Manhattan, a wonderful dinner with like-minded bibliophiles… the San Francisco Giants. But most of all we are grateful for our customers. They keep our business, and passion, alive and kicking. Our customers vary widely – like most booksellers we connect with libraries, museums, bibliophiles and collectors on a daily basis. And it is one of these categories (though all are beloved) that we would like to bring attention to this holiday season – to young collectors in our state of California. 

Last month we reported on the National Collegiate Book Collecting Contest, which grants awards to collectors at University level that have put together rather outstanding collections at such young ages. Here in California, the Northern and Southern Chapters of the Antiquarian Bookseller’s Association of America have put together the California Young Book Collector’s Prize – a sought after prize to a young collector (age 35 and under, if you please) that shows the remarkable promise of being a great book collector – one that we will owe our livelihood and our profession to as years go by! 

As the ABAA chapters state, “All collections of books, manuscripts, and ephemera are welcome, no matter their monetary value or subject. The collections will be judged on their thoroughness, the approach to their subject, and the seriousness which with the collector has catalogued his or her material.” The prize includes a $500 credit to spend at the upcoming 2019 California International Antiquarian Book Fair, an exhibition space at the fair for their collection (as well as a stipend for exhibiting expenses), a years memberships to both the Book Club of California and the Bibliographical Society of North America, and a year long subscription to The Book Collector. This prize aims to celebrate the pleasure of antiquarian book collecting, and to bring understanding and awareness to others that this is an enjoyment that can be achieved by any – so long as you have the heart and the soul to do so! Congratulations to all applicants – you are one of the things we are most grateful for year-round. 

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Applications must be sent as a .PDF file to ABAA Northern CA Chapter Chair Ben Kinmont at bkinmont@gmail.com by December 1st, 2018 to be considered. Find out more information by emailing us or commenting! 

Happy Thanksgiving to All! 

(But you know, especially to our faithful book collectors.)

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OTD in 1960… Lawrence-1, Censorship-0!

NOTE: Please understand that this blog contains heavy subject matter and foul language. You’ve been warned. 

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Censorship. A hated word in the bibliophile community. The very definition of the word seems off. Too… all encompassing. 

Censorship is defined as: “the suppression or prohibition of any parts of books, films, news, etc. that are considered obscene, politically unacceptable, or a threat to security.” Well now, from my own experience I can tell you that anything you write, anything you film, and anything you publish – it can and most likely will be offensive to someone. Someone, somewhere, will read your sentences with disdain. It is inevitable. It is why we have free speech. It is why you shouldn’t believe everything you read on the internet (including blogs). Censorship has won so many times over the centuries. How lucky we are to live in a country and be a generation that incorporates free speech and acceptance into our daily lives. If censorship was still at large, we would not be able to search anything we please on Youtube. We would be reading only what a small group of people we don’t know would be allowing us to read. Our President would not be allowed to post his every thought on Twitter.

Okay wait, perhaps censorship does have a silver lining.

My point is – by and large – a world without censorship (as it has been known) is far superior to a world lived in the dark. On this day in 1960, censorship truly lost an epic battle in London. D. H. Lawrence, Penguin Books, Lady Chatterley and literature won, despite the fact that Lawrence was no longer around to enjoy his success. In one day, Penguin sold 200,000 copies of the title that had been banned since 1928. Over the next few months, over 3 million copies went home with their newly adoring owners. So what did the trial in 1960 truly do? As Geoffrey Robertson for the Guardian states, “No other jury verdict in British history has had such a deep social impact.” Let’s find out why.

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Lady Chatterley’s Lover was privately printed for the first time in Florence in 1928. Due to illegal copying of the book, Lawrence arranged for a more legitimate publication of the book the following year in Paris. The British government immediately recognized its “disturbing” subject matter and the offensive language contained in the book – the opening prosecuting speech during the 1960 trial stated that “The word ‘fuck’ or ‘fucking’ appears no less than 30 times… ‘Cunt’ 14 times; ‘balls’ 13 times; ‘shit’ and ‘arse’ six times apiece; ‘cock’ four times; ‘piss’ three times, and so on.” Now, if you ask me… that’s just a list of dirty words. Perhaps the prosecution should have been censored, no? At least Lady Chatterley’s Lover had plot descriptions surrounding these words. In any case, Britain had spent the previous 30 years putting energy into keeping the book out of the country. So how did Penguin books win this battle in 1960?

chatterleyThe defense was aided in part due to the previous year’s 1959 Obscene Publications Act, which Parliament passed saying that in order for censorship to take place, the work in question would need to be considered as a whole – without singular focus on the dirtier bits. The prosecution did not fare well anyway, as, despite a conservative following not wishing to see the book in print and in the hands of anyone, lawyer Mervyn Griffith-Jones called no witnesses to support his argument (as no one agreed to stand for the prosecution) and merely suggested that the book had no literary merit. The defense, led by Gerald Gardiner (who would a mere four years later become Labour Lord Chancellor), had rather a different angle. He stated that the book did have merit, that Lawrence wasn’t simply writing smut, but attacking the “impersonality of the industrial age and loss of personal relationships… he was extolling the life-giving importance of romantic and sexual intimacy” (The Telegraph). Gardiner called 35 witnesses to his side – big wigs in academia and literary worlds. He even had a Bishop – the Bishop of Woolwich, who wrote that, though Lawrence was not a Christian himself, he was “portraying the act of sex as something valuable and sacred – as an act of communion” – he went so far as to say that Christians could easily read this title. 

Let’s face it… Griffith-Jones did not stand a chance. 

The trial began on October 20th, 1960 in the Old Bailey’s Court No. 1. The jury held nine men and three women, and though the judge offered the defense to remove the women from the jury and the court, Gardiner refused and wished the women to stay. The entire trial lasted only 13 days (ending on November 2nd), and deliberation lasted only 3 hours. Penguin Books and Lady Chatterley’s Lover came out on top. Fifteen minutes after Penguin Books was found not guilty, Foyle’s bookshop in London had taken in orders for over 3,000 copies. On November 10th, 200,000 copies sold. As the Telegraph muses, “The result of the trial was an instant liberalization of attitudes toward publishable material. But its impact went much further. It started the process of breaking down taboos around sex – a movement that would culminate in the sexual liberation of the 1970s – and it changed the stuffy and outdated prism through which the class system was viewed” (The Telegraph). 

We couldn’t have said it better ourselves, and we are so glad that we have the ability to report on this case, and celebrate the fact that due to this novel, due to this trial, we all live in a more liberated and free world. 

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We All Have Those Days…

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November 1st is always a weird day for me. Halloween is a big day in my family, and truthfully, with it being the last day of the month, I always wake up confused that November is suddenly upon us! I make strange decisions. I forget to take down decorations, I don’t realize that my Dia de los Muertos makeup is still all over my face. I guess you could say I feel… dazed. Confused. Bewildered. 

That being said, I would like to point out that as strange and disconcerting as certain of my choices on November 1sts have been, they pale in comparison to a choice made by one Thomas Cadell (the Younger), on this very day, many, many years ago. 221 years ago, to be exact. In 1797, Thomas Cadell made a decision that (one hopes) he regretted sincerely later on in life. He turned down a romance novel manuscript written by an unknown 21 year old woman and sent in by her father, George Austen.

He turned down First Impressions – what would later become Pride and Prejudice, by Jane Austen.

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Thomas Cadell the Elder

Despite this sad choice, the Cadell name wasn’t a waste of nothingness in the world of London publishing. Long before this incident, Thomas Cadell (the Elder) was apprenticed in 1758 for 105 GBP to London bookseller and publisher Andrew Millar, whom he partnered with in 1765 after a seven year apprenticeship. He published works by Edward Gibbon, Henry Mackenzie, Robert Burns, William Blackstone, David Hume, Tobias Smollett, and Samuel Johnson. As a matter of fact, Cadell was close enough to Johnson to have been part of the group of booksellers and friends who convinced Johnson to write his famous Lives of the Most Eminent English Poets. He also partnered with publishers William & Andrew Strahan to publish Johnson’s A Journey to the Western Islands of Scotland in 1775. Cadell was apparently very well liked among the bookselling and publishing communities, and in 1793 he passed his business on to his son and namesake, Thomas Cadell (Jr.). Not as much is known about Thomas Cadell (Jr.), though he did publish (along with his father’s apprentice whom he partnered with to create Cadell & Davies Publishing, William Davies) James Boswell’s Life of Johnson in 1791, and continued publishing until his death in 1836.

But you know… in 1797 he refused Pride and Prejudice and sent back George Austen’s letter, declining it “by return of post”.

Just remember that the next time you could kick yourself for making a silly mistake.

Happy 1st of November!

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The 2018 National Collegiate Book Collecting Contest

Some of you may not know this, but our fearless leader Vic Zoschak Jr., owner of Tavistock Books, is the current President of the Antiquarian Bookseller’s Association of America. In our eyes there could be no more fitting president, as Vic has always spent a great deal of time, his finances, and effort to ensure that the upcoming generations of booksellers have all the knowledge and understanding of what it takes to become a truly great collector and bookseller. He supports fundraisers and donates, he awards scholarships so that those without the financial stability to attend courses and lectures are able to do so, and he is a large proponent of being “the job.” The man positively eats, sleeps and breathes bookselling. (And manhattans. And the San Francisco Giants. But mainly bookselling.)

It is no surprise then that he would like us to bring a little attention to the recent (just this past Friday) 2018 National Collegiate Book Collecting Contest – a contest established in 2005 by Fine Books & Collections Magazine to highlight, bring attention and awareness to young book collectors across the country, as they are the upcoming generation of people who will support the antiquarian book world – whether as collectors or perhaps even booksellers themselves! Too often we hear (mainly from people outside of our world) that books are going “out of fashion” – did you know another Barnes and Noble bit the dust?? Yes, yes – we know. However, we would like to argue that (despite other, somewhat unrelated difficulties of the act of reading being pushed aside in favor of our fast paced world of technology) rare books should only become… rarer. Collectors are collectors for life – booksellers are booksellers for life. So long as these young people continue doing what they are doing, our world will continue to survive. So without further ado, let’s bring a little light to this contest and the 2018 winners!

A previous year's ceremony. Photo not taken by Tavistock Books.

A previous year’s ceremony. Photo not taken by Tavistock Books.

As we said, the contest was begun by Fine Books & Collections Magazine, but is now jointly sponsored by the ABAA, the the Fellowship of American Bibliophilic Societies (FABS), the Grolier Club, and the Center for the Book and the Rare Books and Special Collections Division (the Library of Congress), with prizes underwritten by the Kislak Foundation. This institutional collective work hard to ensure that college and university students are recognized in their own right as collectors. First, competitions are held at almost 40 schools nationally, and the prizewinners are all encouraged to enter the National Competition, which picks four winners from the lot. Entries are accepted until early summer (usually in June) and the winners for 2018 were picked just last week. The event (held last week at the Library of Congress) includes an awards ceremony, a program, and a reception – and is free and open to the public. 

Though we in California were unable to attend, this year’s ceremony featured featured a talk given by Glen S. Miranker, “an avid bibliophile, a preeminent collector of Sherlock Holmes material, and former Chief Technology Officer at Apple” and was, no doubt, a success! Without further ado, we would like to praise the following winners of the 2018 National Collegiate Book Collecting Contest! 

First Prize: Samuel Vincent Lemley, of the University of Virginia for his collection of Biblioteca Genealogica: Sicilian Printing, 1704-1893

Second Prize: Paul T. Schwennesen of the University of Kansas for his collection, Borderlands: A Manifesto on Overlap

Third Prize: Hanaa J. Masalmeh of Harvard University for her collection - Far From the Eyes, Far From the Heart: My Life as a Syrian-American Muslim

Featured Essay: Ena Selimovic of Washington University in St. Louis - Ja, Ben, I, Je: A Book Collection in Translation

Once again, the ABAA is absolutely thrilled to be a part of this collective offering the chance for young collectors to be recognized – they truly are one of the many important reasons why we do what we do. Well done!

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Happy Birthday to Gore Vidal – the Most Combative Man in History

A part of me thinks that a name like Gore Vidal belongs in the company of Perez Prado and Carmen Miranda. I know how that sounds, but honestly – to me, the name is power embodied. As many know, and as Chris Bram most notably stated, “Gore Vidal was famous for his hates: academia, presidents, whole portions of the American public and, most notably, Truman Capote. Yet he could be incredibly generous to other writer friends… He was a man of many facets and endless contradictions.” Let’s look at some quick facts about this notorious American figure on what would have been his 93rd birthday. 

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1. His first novel was published in 1948 when he was a mere 22 years old (show of hands for which of us feel like we have accomplished nothing with our lives?), and won him instant notoriety. The City and the Pillar broke so many boundaries people didn’t know where to start… it depicted a male homosexual relationship at a time when homosexuality was still illegal throughout the United States.

2. Along these lines, Vidal believed that homosexuality and heterosexuality were adjectives, not nouns. Therefore someone could not BE a homosexual, they could simply perform homosexual acts. He believed that human sexuality existed on a sliding scale, and everyone was at least a little bisexual – even if it only meant that you could appreciate the beauty of a member of your own sex! He is now considered the godfather of gay literature, though he did not wish to be simply known as a gay author when he was writing, as he had views on all aspects of life that he wished to share.

3. Getting off the subject of sex, Vidal was also a master of upheaval in politics, and published many essays that would offend the conservative side of America. His historical novel Julian, published in 1964, relived the time of the Roman Emperor Julian the Apostate and how he used the idea of religious tolerance in Christian times to reinstate polytheistic paganism.

vidal14. We think this quote by Vidal needs no explanation (but everyone please remember that this is Vidal’s quote – not necessarily ours): “There is only one party in the United States, the Property Party … and it has two right wings: Republican and Democrat. Republicans are a bit stupider, more rigid, more doctrinaire in their laissez-faire capitalism than the Democrats, who are cuter, prettier, a bit more corrupt – until recently … and more willing than the Republicans to make small adjustments when the poor, the black, the anti-imperialists get out of hand. But, essentially, there is no difference between the two parties.” Ouch!

5. He fought with… everyone. Most famously, though, as mentioned above in the quote by Bram, he fought with Truman Capote and William F. Buckley Jr.. With Capote, they fought over Capote supposedly spreading slander about drunk and disorderly behavior by Vidal in the White House. Untrue, Vidal took grave offense to these rumors and both traded hateful barbs. The Buckley feud a bit more intense, with actual lawsuits coming forth for libel and cruelty, Vidal said in 2008 after Buckley passed away, “I thought hell is bound to be a livelier place, as he joins, forever, those whom he served in life, applauding their prejudices and fanning their hatred.”

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Jeesh! Now here’s the thing… Vidal did a lot of things for the wrong reasons, and a lot of things… because he had thoughts and feelings and wanted to express them. However, hate him (which someone like him would probably appreciate, not going to lie) or love him – you have to admit… he was a pretty worthy opponent.

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OTD in 1891…

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Moby-Dick is, undeniably, a classic American novel. But did you know that at the time of its publication it was considered a total flop? In fact, Melville’s prior novels (which some of you may never have even heard of) did much, much better in American critical literary society than Moby-Dick. Readers could not see past the complexity of the novel – they were expecting an adventure tale and what they got was “obscure literary symbolism.” I always find it humorous (though I am sure it wasn’t humorous to Melville) when a work that is today considered of the highest class was at the time frowned upon. The old Picasso problem, right? At least due to these instances we understand what genius looks like at the beginning, no?

melville4Herman Melvill (yes, that spelling is correct) was born in August of 1819 in New York City. He was the third of eight children born to a merchant and his wife. Though his parents have been described as loving and devoted, his father Allan’s money woes left much to be desired. Allan borrowed and spent well beyond his means, and after contracting what researchers imagine as pneumonia on a trip back to Albany from New York City, he abruptly passed away when Herman was merely 13 years old. Herman’s schooling ended as abruptly as his father’s life, and he was given a job as a clerk in the fur trade (his father’s business) by his uncle. Sometime around this time, Herman’s mother changed the spelling of their last name by adding an “e” to the end. History is still unsure as to why she would have done this – to sound more sophisticated, to hide from debt collectors… we may never know! But that simple “e” will live on forever, that is for sure.

melville3In May of 1831 Melville signed up as a “boy” (a newbie, for all intents and purposes) on a merchant ship called the St. Lawrence, and went from New York to Liverpool and back. That experience successful (and what with a longstanding obsession with the true story of the search for the white sperm whale called Mocha Dick), he decided to join the Acushnet for a whaling voyage in 1841. After a few months on board, Melville decided to jump ship with another deckhand in the Marquesas Islands after several reported disagreements with the captain of the ship. Expecting to come across cannibalistic natives, Melville was (unsurprisingly) pleased to find out that the natives were accommodating and friendly – a fact which he would later address in his 1845 novel Typee – semi-autobiographical in nature as it was based on his stay in the islands. Melville then experienced island and country hopping to an extreme degree, after boarding a boat from the Marquesas to Australia then continuing on whaling and merchant vessels visiting Tahiti, Oahu, Rio de Janeiro and Lima, Peru – among others. Eventually, Melville ended up back in Boston, Massachusetts.

Between the years 1845 and 1850, Melville experienced substantial success as a writer. His first novel Typee performed well in both public and critical arenas, and its sequel Omoo (also based on his time in the islands) performed almost equally as well. During these years Melville won the hand of Elizabeth Shaw in marriage, which throughout the years would give him four children – two sons and two daughters (though only the daughters would live to adulthood). Melville followed Omoo with novels Redburn and White-Jacket – both successful enough in their own right to afford Melville the opportunity to buy his beloved home Arrowhead in Pittsfield, Massachusetts, which was an inspirational setting for his writing. It was here that he wrote Moby-Dick, or The Whale – which started as a simpler story on a fictional whaling event and eventually (with the aid of Melville’s friend Nathaniel Hawthorne, who had recently enjoyed success with his novel The Scarlet Letter) turned into the allegorical novel it came to be. As a matter of fact, Melville dedicated what is now considered his most enduring work but became the flop that threatened to break his bank account to this friend and colleague.

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After the unfortunate reception of Moby-Dick – it seemed a bit too far-fetched in style and meaning for its audience – Melville was forced to sell his home in Pittsfield to his brother and move his family back to New York City, where he took up work as a district inspector for the U.S. Customs Service. Though his writing took much of a backseat at this time (roughly 1857 to the late 1870s), Melville continued to write poetry throughout his lifetime, up until his death from cardiac arrest on September 28th, 1891, when he was 72 years old. His last work Billy Budd he had stopped working on in 1888, but was found accidentally and published posthumously in 1891 – and today holds great esteem as yet another wonderful work by a misunderstood great American novelist. Today, 127 years to the day of Melville’s death, we are glad to have a chance to study and appreciate his work today. And if you haven’t yet read Typee – we greatly recommend it!

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