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Fair-ly Blue in the Face… That’s a Wrap, Everybody!

The entrance to the fair!

The entrance to the fair!

By Margueritte Peterson

Well, another year has come and passed us by. Another Book Fair has come and gone. I would venture to say not just any book fair, of course, but the ABAA’s 50th California International Antiquarian Book Fair, to be precise. Despite no longer being an antiquarian bookseller personally, I still attend the California ABAA fairs to see such an amazing group of people in a fantastic setting. Without a doubt, the ABAA’s California Fair is a beautifully set-up fair where one can find all manner of items. From incunabula to amazing pop-up miniatures – modern firsts to Hollywood movie posters! And let’s not forget the Tavistock Books Booth with an array of items from Dickens to Americana! Everyone can find something that suits them at the ABAA Fairs (whether or not they can afford it is a different question entirely). 

IMG_20170212_150408However, since I’m now attending the fair as an outsider, it is difficult for me to remark on certain aspects of interest to other booksellers and those attending other fairs around the country. In terms of attendance, I was there on both Friday evening and Sunday afternoon and turn-out seemed steady and flowing. It was not often that I saw booths occupied solely by only their manager or owner. There was a healthy number of booksellers as well! Over 200 exhibitors signed up for and exhibited at the fair, and all that I spoke to said that, in terms of sales, it was a success (which is bookseller lingo usually means that they made the money they spent getting to and exhibiting at the fair back… so at least there’s that!). To help with some of the questions specific to exhibiting booksellers, I got a bit of info from the Tavistock Team – Vic and Kate:

Q: How painless was set-up and take-down as compared to other fairs you have exhibited at recently, especially compared to last year’s Pasadena ABAA Fair?

Setup was rather drawn-out for us, though that was partly our fault — our original booth design looked better on paper, and it took a while to rearrange the various cases. Then electrical was slow to get all the booths wired, and didn’t get to our row until late Friday morning. It’s hard to get everything situated just right when you can’t really see what you’re doing (or how clean the glass is!), and we were still futzing right up until the fair opened. But after our travails, we got it finished in time!

Q: What were sales like? Was it a profitable fair for Tavistock Books?

We’re happy to report that the good ship Tavistock stayed afloat. It wasn’t a great fair, but it wasn’t a bad one, either. Given our sometimes less-than-stellar track record, we’re not going to complain, in fact, as Vic has been saying, “We’re OK with OK!”

Q: Was turnout as grand as you expected it to be? Two years ago at the ABAA fair there were reportedly quite a few thousand people. Was it a similar experience this year?

Other booksellers reported aisles too packed to walk down, so we presume the turnout was high. Our location [on the corner of the exhibitor space, across from the Bancroft Library’s wonderful exhibit of California fiction] never seemed to get that kind of traffic, unfortunately. Though maybe that’s just a case of the cash box being greener on the other side of the curtains?

Q: What was the overall bookseller attitude toward the fair? Two years ago many were quite skeptical of holding the fair in Oakland, but the sales and turnout cured their skepticism! Was there any anxiety over how this year’s fair would hold up to the past in the bookseller community?

From what we’ve heard so far, it sounds like just about everyone is happy with how the fair went. Given the unusual and somewhat bizarre array of circumstances working against this fair’s success — the proximity of the New York fair, the recent enactment of California’s new law about signed material [AB 1570], the Mission Impossible-style theft from a London Caladex facility of three booksellers’ wares before shipment to the fair, and the emergency landing of a plane bearing another bookseller’s books in the remote arctic en route to California — that’s saying a lot. Kudos to all involved, and a big “thank you” to fair coordinator Michael Hackenberg for his tireless efforts, as well as all the good folks at White Rain Productions!

Though you wouldn't know it looking at them, these two have pains shooting up their legs and out their eyeballs!

Though you wouldn’t know it looking at them, these two have pains shooting up their legs and out their eyeballs!

The ABAA Fair coming only a week after the Pasadena Book, Print, Photo & Paper Fair offers a wonderful twofer for out of town booksellers and customers, but in all truthfulness, it can be quite stressful on the booksellers themselves. You would never know it to look at the smiling faces behind the beautifully-arranged display cases, but by the Sunday of the second fair there is more than one smiling face masking an exhaustion only known by those who spend whole days in a row on their feet being charming. Oftentimes, people who don’t know antiquarian bookselling think of it as a somewhat lonely job – sitting in a dark corner sniffing dust-covered leather tomes and muttering to yourself in between inhaling on your pipe – but despite the fact that at times it is a solitary life (and often preferred that way), most people don’t understand that the level of sociality experienced in the few days of a book fair can amount to the equivalent of months’ worth of gabbing by the water cooler in an office setting. Book Fairs are an amazing place to really see what the sellers are made of… they are cool under pressure, they are charming even if their sales are down the toilet, they smile even if they have pain shooting up their legs and out their eyeballs!


Michael Thompson of Boreas Fine Art showing some of his trickiest and most beautiful pieces!

In terms of interesting items at the fair, a few things that caught my eye were the colorful miniatures at new-ABAA member (and friend to Tavistock Books) Kim Herrick’s booth for her business The Book Lair, and the larger-than-life art books shown to me by Boreas Fine Art’s Michael Thompson. Not to mention that even in the Tavistock Books booth something fun caught my eye… a circa 1850 Gold Scale used in the California Gold Rush – in its original manufacturer’s wooden case! Now that is something you don’t see every day! 




Vic giving his Book Collecting 101 speech at the fair on Sunday!

A few events also stuck out in both attendee and exhibitor minds alike, as the ABAA Fairs always put on interesting and educational seminars and receptions. Alongside other seminar speakers like Western Americana-expert Gary F. Kurutz and William Blake specialist John Windle, our very own Vic Zoschak gave his usual two seminars (usual because they are helpful and beloved by all) Book Collecting 101 and What’s This Book Worth? on Sunday afternoon. I stopped in on these speeches (that I personally witnessed at the ABAA California Book Fair in 2013) and can say with certainty that they are an absolute necessity for those starting out in the trade or in the antiquarian book-buying world and are unsure of how or where to begin. On Friday evening the trade also held a Women in Bookselling reception for the growing number of ladies involved in the book business! Now, along with the socializing of the day and the bookseller dinners in the evening… a full weekend was on everyone’s schedule! And, as usual, the booksellers we know and love handled it with unbelievable grace and charisma. And now, let us return to our dark corners to catalogue new fair finds and smoke our pipes in peace. 


“The Art of Losing”: Honoring Poet Elizabeth Bishop

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By Margueritte Peterson

So begins my favorite poem. I was never much of a poetry buff – having to read out badly handwritten poems in the 5th grade and then being the last one in the class to be chosen to be published in a strange Florida Kids Poetry Book pretty much nipped any dreams I might have had of being the next Emily Dickinson in the bud. In any event, I didn’t learn to appreciate poetry for a long, long time. Often I had trouble deciphering the meanings of the poems. In high school, a teacher would mark you wrong if you thought the poem had a different meaning than what she had thought. I always thought to myself, “how can that be right?” My English teacher wasn’t a close personal friend of Emily’s. Who is to say that what an academic somewhere decided was the meaning of Emily Dickinson’s poems is 100% what she meant. Isn’t a little part of poetry and literature in general interesting in that everyone reads it a bit differently?

But I digress. 

Often, poetry can be a bit difficult for the average reader. (Especially if they are being graded on their feelings… okay, okay… I really will drop it now.) The poetry I have always preferred, given my lack of poetry deciphering skills, were the straight forward ones. The ones whose meanings were clear, which spoke to you in a way where you felt like the author was sharing a secret with you and only you. Poets like… Miss Elizabeth Bishop.

Elizabeth Bishop was born on February 8th (Happy Birthday!) in 1911, in Worcester, Massachusetts. She would have a sad childhood, however, as her father died before her first birthday and her mother went mad and was institutionalized in 1916 when Bishop was only 5 years old. She would never be reunited with her mother, and went to live with her maternal grandparents in Nova Scotia. Despite being ill often and developing asthma, Bishop wrote of her time in Nova Scotia as one of the happiest in her childhood. Custody of Bishop was then gained by her wealthier paternal grandparents a bit later in her childhood, and she was moved back to Worcester. Unfortunately she was unhappy with her paternal grandparents, and they could tell. In 1918, her grandparents sent Bishop to live with her mom’s eldest sister, Maud and her husband, and paid them for her upkeep. This was an important time for Elizabeth, as it was her aunt Maud who introduced her to poetry, reading her the works of the Victorian poets, including Tennyson, Robert Browning, Elizabeth Barrett Browning and Thomas Carlyle. Without her knowledge, the seed to become a poet had been planted. 

Screen Shot 2017-02-08 at 9.45.26 AMBishop’s high schooling was a tad erratic, as she attended three different high schools until settling at Walnut Hill School, where she studied music with the idea of becoming a composer. At Walnut Hill her first poems were published in a student magazine. However, Bishop was still convinced that her future lay in music, not literature. She entered Vassar College in the fall of 1929 with these hopes – though they soon gave way when the fear of actually performing became too great for the shy Bishop. Instead, she threw herself into academia – focusing on her English classes and co-founding (with author Mary McCarthy) the underground university literary magazine Con Spirito. When she graduated in 1934, Bishop focused on traveling the world. She spent time living in Paris and in Key West, and wrote of her travels in poems, essays, and short stories. In fact, much of her writing done in Key West would be included in her first published book of poems, North and South (1946) – a book which won the Houghton Mifflin Prize for Poetry. Despite her popularity, however, Bishop wouldn’t publish another book of poetry for another 9 years. She still had enough money from the inheritance from her father to flourish in these locales, writing more for pleasure than for necessary income. 

Screen Shot 2017-02-08 at 9.42.13 AMHer writing became more and more popular throughout the years, and almost 15 years later she would be elected as the Consultant in Poetry for the Library of Congress. Once her year as a consultant ended, Bishop began her travels once again and set out for South America in 1951. She intended to stay for two weeks, but fell in love with the female (and terribly gifted) Brazilian architect Lota de Macedo Soares, and lived with her in Brazil for 15 years. Obviously at this time same-sex relationships were kept under wraps, which worked out just fine for the shy Bishop. During her time in Brazil, Bishop published a follow-up to her poetry collection North and South, and released Poems: North and South – A Cold Spring in 1955, and one year later won the Pulitzer Prize for this second book of poetry. Bishop enjoyed (or possibly didn’t enjoy, given her introverted nature) notoriety in both Brazil and the US over the next decade spent in Brazil with her lover. Unfortunately, over the years their relationship became strained and was tainted by Bishop’s alcoholism and heated fights. Soares committed suicide in 1967, after which Bishop would spend most of her days in the United States, away from the country that inspired much of her writing for so long. 

Screen Shot 2017-02-08 at 9.41.23 AMHer third publication, Questions of Travel, was published in 1965, and was unquestionably influenced by her time spent in South America. After this, she published a book of The Complete Poems in 1969, and then her last book to appear in her lifetime, Geography III, in 1977. Geography III won the Neustadt International Prize for Literature, a prize which no woman had ever won and no American has won since. Bishop remained unbelievably popular throughout her life, until her sudden death in 1979 from a cerebral aneurysm.


Celebrating Children’s Authors and Illustrators Week… with an Antiquarian Spin

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By Margueritte Peterson

February 1st marks the beginning of Children’s Authors and Illustrators Week! Now, we’ve written several blogs on some of our favorite children’s book authors, but what we haven’t done in a while is take a look at some of our most popular antiquarian children’s literature items! We thought we’d take a little tour through some of our inventory and see how we can celebrate this week of Children’s literature with some… antiquarian flair!

Screen Shot 2017-01-31 at 11.00.11 AMThe beginning of what we know today as Children’s Literature is commonly attributed to authors around the mid to late 19th century, with authors like Charles Dodgson, Edward Lear and Rudyard Kipling paving the way for fantastical and nonsensical Children’s Literature – more often than not written for the pure enjoyment of children. However, before true “Children’s Literature” existed, the writing for the young was more didactic in nature, always teaching a skill or a moral lesson (sometimes with even an implied punishment for failure to learn the lesson provided). This 1806 “Young Child’s A-B-C or First Book” is a Children’s chapbook teaching the A-B-C’s in Hornbook style – with images of items beginning with the letter in question. It is a first printing of this chapbook, rare in the trade and in fairly nice condition for its age! See it here.

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Almanacks began to appear in the 1800s as well, with one popular type being Kate Greenaway’s yearly ones for Children. Though these continued to have a sense of didacticism in them, as they were a fount of knowledge and information, fun colored hand-drawn images of small children in fashionable clothing made these little books a bit different from their earlier counterparts. Our 1886 Almanack (published in 1885) is a clear representation of the Kate Greenaway publications, with a scarcely seen 19th century dust jacket still intact. See it here.

Screen Shot 2017-01-31 at 11.02.11 AMIn the 1900s we begin to see more and more child-oriented literature, such as naturalist and animal illustrator Cecil Aldin’s “The White Puppy Book”. This book in particular contains 25 illustrations (a clear distinction of the rise of literature for the children’s enjoyment), of which 12 are full-page illustrations. This illustrator used his skills to bring enjoyment to children with this book, with humorous images of a white puppy. See it here

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Skipping ahead to 1955, we see the popular Children’s Series books at peak demand. Edward Stratemeyer had formed his syndicate in 1905, and series books like Tom Swift, Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys had been favored by the young for decades. One of our favorite series that doesn’t (in our humble opinion) receive enough acclaim for its creativity and individuality are the Freddy books! Our 1st edition of “Freddy and the Baseball Team from Mars” is one – the Freddy series including stories of a fun-loving pig that tries desperately to go on many different adventures. They are illustrated intertextually with brightly colored and humorous Dust Jackets. See this item here

Screen Shot 2017-01-31 at 11.02.35 AMAlmost every adult in the United States knows the Dick and Jane series to help teach children to read with humorous lines and repetition. The series was iconically illustrated by artists such as Eleanor Campbell and Robert Childress, and though first appearing in the 1930s remained popular ever since, even being reissued in 2003. The iconic phrase “See Spot Run!” comes from this series! A set of 16 scarce reading cards from 1962 can be found here

So how else can you celebrate Children’s Author and Illustrator week without splurging on a neat antiquarian item? Well, whether you are a parent, a teacher, a bookseller or a librarian, here are a few ideas!

TALK with a librarian or a local children’s bookseller. They can recommend the perfect books for yours and your children’s age or interests!

READ with friends and family. Reading together is fun and helps create enthusiastic, strong readers. It’s never too late to become a reader!

VISIT independent bookstores and children’s specialty bookstores and learn about a new (or long gone, in our case) children’s author today!

And visit the Children’s Author’s Network for more ideas on spreading the Kid Lit love this year! 


Mastering Modernist Literature… A Guide by Virginia Woolf on Her Birthday

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By Margueritte Peterson

There have been many authors over the past century that have been considered forerunners in the art of the Modern Novel. As a matter of fact, we have written about quite a few of them in the past. Some tell-tale signs of modernist literature are a few literary techniques like a stream-of-consciousness voice or interior monologue, and even numerous points-of-view within one work. These techniques are used by a great deal of modernist authors, but perhaps none so pointedly as the creator of the complex Mrs. Dalloway, feminist thinker and free spirit Virginia Woolf. 

Screen Shot 2017-01-23 at 8.36.28 AMVirginia was born Adeline Virginia Stephen on January 25th, 1882 in Kensington, London. She was born into a mixed family – both of her parents having been married previously with sets of children on both sides. The family was extremely literate – both parents being well connected in the artistic and literary worlds. In 1895 when Virginia was only 13 years old her mother died, followed closely by her half-sister, Stella and brother Thoby. At this point Virginia began to suffer from the nervousness and had the first breakdown of many she would suffer from throughout her life.


Despite her nervous nature and brief periods of institutionalization, Virginia began to spend a significant amount of time with a group of writers and artists that was known as the Bloomsbury Group. By 1910 they were thick as thieves, and Virginia and her sister Vanessa along with writers, editors, and artists Leonard Woolf, Lytton Strachey, Clive Bell, John Maynard Keynes among others participated in both intellectual discussions and amusing pranks. In 1912 she married Leonard Woolf, and though they were never to be passionate lovers, the two were close friends, collaborators and intellectual equals for the three decades they were married. A couple years after the wedding, Virginia published her first novel A Voyage Out in 1915, and in 1917 she and Leonard opened The Hogarth Press in their country home in Richmond. Most of her later work would be published by their press at home. Her writing received moderate to a good amount of success, both from the critics and from her peers throughout her life. Today, Woolf is an author often associated with the feminist movement.

Screen Shot 2017-01-23 at 8.37.45 AMAs far as writing goes, Woolf’s stories are often experiments in point of view and narrative. She focuses her plots on realism – typical days in the lives of her characters, sometimes no plot twists whatsoever. She, alongside other modern authors Joseph Conrad and James Joyce, has been credited with the invention of the stream-of-consciousness form of writing – where the narration takes on a inner dialogue type voice that never ceases and flows lyrically from one subject to the next, just as our regular minds do. This lyrical style is also seen in her descriptions of ordinary, commonplace events in her novels. They are so stylistically written that Woolf elevates the ordinary and creates a world rich in detail.


Woolf struggled with depression and nervous breakdowns throughout her life, as I mentioned previously. Unfortunately at the age of 59 in 1941 Woolf succumbed to the pain of every day life and drowned herself in the River Ouse, near the Woolf’s home in Sussex. Her cremated remains are buried in the garden there. Woolf’s work, however, has lived on, and after a brief lapse of popularity following WWII, her work experienced a revival in the feminist movements of the 1970s and has remained popular and taught in colleges ever since!

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Who’s Afraid of… What Happened to Amelia Earhart?

By Margueritte Peterson

Most of our blogs are about books, bookish things, about author holidays or birthdays, about book fairs and bibliophilia. However, sometimes we like to report on important or significant historical events. Often, those close to our heart (or our homes). So tomorrow, on the 82nd anniversary of her first completed solo flight from Honolulu to Oakland (right next door to Tavistock Books!), we’d like to ask an important question… What happened to Miss Amelia Earhart?

amelia3Amelia Mary Earhart was born on July 24th, 1897 to a family in Atchison, Kansas. She lead a somewhat average childhood. As the eldest surviving child in the family, she played the role of the ringleader well and was often in charge of her younger sister, Grace. “Meely”‘s only slightly unconventional aspect of her childhood was that her mother, Amy Earhart, did not believe in forcing manners or or tradition on her daughters! She didn’t not believe that parents should be shaping their children into “nice” little girls, and gave her two daughters a freer reign than their childhood friends would have known. This gave Amelia the chance to express her true tomboy nature and her family (or at least her mother) embraced it. In 1904 at the age of 7 Earhart completed her first (not quite successful) solo flight with the aid of an uncle. She put together a home-made ramp fashioned after a roller coaster she had seen, and placed the ramp on the roof of the toolshed at her family home. She rode in a wooden box off the ramp, and climbed out of the broken box completely exhilarated!

At this time, however, Earhart was not certain that aviation was her field. She did seem to be drawn to the more male-dominated fields – science and mechanics were the subjects at which she excelled. One story goes that after one of her family’s many moves (her father lost a couple jobs due to alcoholism) she canvassed a town to find the perfect school for herself, basing her decisions on the science laboratories and programs. Her first real job came in 1917 after a trip to Toronto to see her younger sister (who was in school there) when she saw returning wounded soldiers and decided to study as a nurse’s aide from the Red Cross and took care of surviving soldiers during WWI.

Amelia Earhart

In 1920 while visiting her parents in Long Beach, California (the Earharts continued to move and Amelia spent a significant amount of her early 20s living with her sister in Toronto and then Massachusetts), Earhart and her father visited an airfield where pilot and racer Frank Hawks (famous in the day) gave her a $10 plane ride that would forever change Amelia’s life. Immediately after the ride she became determined to learn how to fly and over the next week worked many odd jobs (stenographer, photographer and truck driver, to name a few) to save up what she needed for the $1,000 needed for flying lessons. Her first teacher was Anita “Neta” Snook, a female aviator who trained her students with a “Canuck” (a training biplane also used for teaching the US Army pilots). Almost 2 years later, Earhart flew her first plane (a bright yellow Kinner Airster biplane nicknamed “The Canary”) to an altitude of 14,000 feet and set a new world record for female pilots – the highest one had ever reached! A year later (don’t ask me to explain why it happened in this order… even I don’t understand) she became the 16th woman in the world to be issued a pilot’s license by the Federation Aeronautique Internationale.

Unfortunately, Earhart’s dream of fame and glory would have to wait, as her family’s depleted fortune, parents’ divorce, and a return of a chronic sinus infection that she would suffer from her entire life, forced Earhart to get jobs as a teacher and social worker to support herself and her mother in Massachusetts. She held onto her love of aviation at this time, however, as she laid plans for an organization solely for female aviators and investing a small sum of money in Dennison Airport, Massachusetts.

amelia2Earhart’s fame came spectacularly randomly in 1928, when American citizen Amy Guest decided to be the first woman to fly across the Atlantic ocean (following Charles Lindbergh’s solo flight in 1927). Guest decided that the journey was too dangerous and undertaking for herself, she decided to find a suitable young woman to take her place. One afternoon, Earhart received a call from a Captain Hilton H. Railey, asking her if she would like to fly across the Atlantic ocean. Earhart completed the journey with pilots Wilmer Stultz and Louis Gordon, and was welcomed to both England and back in the United States to rounds of applause, interviews, and even a lecture tour. With the help of George P. Putnam (publisher and publicist who was involved in the original crossing), Earhart remained at the front of the worldwide news, and was marketed as the modern woman. Simple, elegant, intelligent and effective.

In 1929, Putnam proposed to Earhart (six times, I might add) and she finally agreed to marry him. However, Earhart’s ideas of marriage were as unconventional as her mother’s ideas on pantaloons were! Earhart delivered a letter to Putnam on their wedding day stating “I want you to understand I shall not hold you to any midaevil [sic] code of faithfulness to me nor shall I consider myself bound to you similarly.” Wowza! Earhart kept her name and held onto the idea that men should not be the sole breadwinners in a household.


The next few years held many firsts for the young aviator. Earhart became the first female to follow Charles Lindbergh’s solo flight from Newfoundland to Paris, but due to unexpected winds and electrical issues she was forced to land on a field in Ireland. Despite the route change, she was still the first woman to fly solo nonstop across the Atlantic, and for that Earhart received the Distinguished Flying Cross medal from Congress, the Cross of Knight of the Legion of Honor from France, and the Gold Medal of the National Geographic Society from President Hoover. On January 11th, 1935, Earhart became the first aviator in the world to fly solo from Honolulu, Hawaii, to Oakland, California. She didn’t stop in Oakland for long, however, and her trailblazing went on with solo flights from Los Angeles to Mexico City, and then Mexico City to New Jersey. Throughout the early to mid 1930s Earhart had been planning to one day fly around the world, and in 1937 she finally got her wish and began her journey. She left Oakland, California for Honolulu, but on their (she was accompanied by pilots Fred Noonan and Harry Manning, and stunt pilot Paul Mantz) leaving Honolulu they experienced technical difficulties and were forced to abandon the attempt altogether. On her second attempt, leaving first from Oakland to Miami, Florida, and then on to (almost… so close) circumnavigate the world, Earhart and her one crew member Fred Noonan made it all the way across South America, Africa, the Indian subcontinent and parts of Asia all the way to Lae, New Guinea. 22,000 miles of the journey had been completed, with only 7,000 miles left to go over the Pacific ocean. Unfortunately, Earhart and Noonan would never reach their destination of Howland Island where the United States Coast Guard was waiting for them. They had difficulty reaching the USCG with the radio, could not find Howland, and many issues contributed to an inability to land safely where anyone knew where they were. They ran out of fuel searching for Howland, and disappeared.

There are many conspiracy theories of what happened to Earhart, but most recent evidence shows that she and Noonan may have been able to land the plane on nearby deserted Nikumaroro island, where recently plane remnants and the bones of a female were found. Was Earhart able to land successfully on the island, and lived out a few months as a castaway? Perhaps we will never know. Then again…

(You didn’t really think I was going to be able to shed any light on what really happened to A.E., did you? Silly rabbit.)


Get Ready for Spring Book Fair Season!

By Margueritte Peterson

Happy New Year! For us California folk, the New Year means one main thing… the beginning of the California Antiquarian Book Fairs! There are quite a few to check out, if you’re so inclined, starting at the end of January and spreading through to mid-February! Though we are partial to our California fairs (probably because they are awesome…), ours aren’t the only fairs to look forward to this season! Therefore, to get you hyped up about some book fairs, we’d like to give you a short overview of some of our favorites, with references to their websites for more information and previous blogs on those fairs to give you some insight! So sit back, relax, and enjoy the book fair ride!

Photo: Bustamante Shows

Photo: Bustamante Shows

First up we have the Southern California Antiquarian Book, Print, & Paper Fair on February 4th and 5th. On alternating years, the California ABAA fair switches between the Bay Area and Southern California. When the ABAA fair is in one place, the other city has a respectable book fair the week before! Not only ABAA members exhibiting, you are always sure to find a variety of items, often reasonably priced! This year the Southern California fair will be held at the Pasadena Convention Center, as it has been in years passed, and you will find Tavistock Books at booth 400! The website for the Southern California Fair can be found here. (Read one of our past blogs on the Southern CA Antiquarian Fair here!)

Also at this time, the Codex Symposium will be held February 5th through the 8th at the Craneway Pavilion in Richmond, CA (a Bay Area local fair… to massive proportions!) Many booksellers who travel to the California fairs make the Symposium an important stop on their trip – and for good reason! As their mission statement says, the Codex Foundation “exists to preserve and promote the hand-made book as a work of art in the broadest possible context and to bring to public recognition the artists, the craftsmanship, and the rich history of the civilization of the book.” See more on the Symposium here

In 2015, Vic shows Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf a 19th century map of Oakland, California!

In 2015, Vic shows Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf a 19th century map of Oakland, California!

A short week later, we hope to find you in our neck of the woods for the Bay Area’s California International Antiquarian Book Fair held by the ABAA (Antiquarian Booksellers’ Association of America). An absolute hit when it was held in the Oakland Marriott in 2015, we are sure it will draw the same attention as it did then when it debuts again on Friday, February 10th. Though there was a significant amount of doubt as to whether holding the fair in Oakland would be successful, the large turnout and significant amount of sales put everyone’s minds to rest! The Oakland Marriott is easily accessible to all in the Bay Area by BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit – literally a 2 minute walk to the Center from the station), and in a comfortably large arena with good food and great speeches (one by our very own Zoschak!) – you won’t be disappointed! Check out more information on tickets here, and don’t forget to stop by the Tavistock Books booth (number 1001) while you are there! (Read our blog on 2015′s Oakland ABAA Fair here , and Kate’s recent blog on the Pasadena ABAA fair last year here!)


Kate and Vic have some fun at last year’s Pasadena ABAA fair!

If you are in the Los Angeles area on February 11th and 12th, and not able to make it to the Bay Area ABAA Fair, then shame on you. However, you could also entertain yourself with the Greater Los Angeles Postcard and Paper Show, a nice local show if your thing is postcards or paper/ephemera! See more information here

The Los Angeles Art Book Fair, February 24th to the 26th, will be held by Printed Matter with an Opening Evening on February 23rd for VIP ticket holders. The fifth annual LA Art Book Fair will be held at The Geffen Contemporary at MOCA in LA – and is always a favorite for California Art Book dealers and enthusiasts! See the website here

Now, we may be partial to California fairs, that is true, but we do attend and occasionally exhibit in other states! Vic travels and shops the New York ABAA and Boston ABAA Fairs each year, and constantly comes back with great finds! However, the ABAA fair isn’t the only reason he finds such great treasures. During what is termed Rare Book Week in New York, there are at least three different book fairs to be attended. The ABAA Fair, the New York City Book and Ephemera Fair and the Manhattan Vintage Book & Ephemera Fair are all great shows that, should one be in the general vicinity, should absolutely be attended! Find these fairs between March 9th to 12th in New York City. Their websites can be found here, here and here! (Read Vic’s blog on his last NY experience here!)


Kate at her first Sacramento Antiquarian Book Fair!

Last but certainly not least is our old faithful and one of our absolute favorites, the Sacramento Antiquarian Book Fair, to be held on Saturday, March 25th this year. This fantastic local fair is a great place for shopping, for socializing, and sometimes even for selling! We adore this hidden gem of a book fair, as should you. Come and check it out, Tavistock Books always exhibits and we will be at booth 35 waiting for you! See more information on the fair here. (Read Kate’s blog on her first Sacramento Book Fair here!) 


“I delight in what I fear”: Happy Birthday to the Mistress of Terror, Miss Shirley Jackson

By Margueritte Peterson

For those of you unfamiliar with Jackson’s work, consider yourself warned of potential SPOILERS right now and exit out of this page. Preferably to pick up one of her books and see for yourself.


I still remember the first Shirley Jackson piece I ever read. Like most American high school teenagers, it was one of her short stories. A terrifying and eye-opening piece entitled The Lottery. To this day, I think it is one of the most horrifying works I’ve ever read in my life (and this coming from an avid Agatha Christie fan). A work that reveals a callous and mindless side of human nature – just following the herd mentality, even if it involves killing your own mother – what wouldn’t be creepy about that? The Lottery has always stuck with me, and also have the other stories by Jackson that I have read since. We Have Always Lived in the Castle is a fan favorite for a reason! So here’s to the real question… what had this seemingly average American housewife done to become the architect of such frightening tales? Well… let’s take a look!

Jackson with her four children, who were much dramatized in her stories and prominent figures in her two later memoirs.

Jackson with her four children, who were much dramatized in her stories and prominent figures in her two later memoirs.

Shirley Hardie Jackson was born on December 14th, 1916 in San Francisco, California. (A local to boot!) She discovered writing at an early age, and during her teenage years dealing with stressful weight fluctuations and feeling like an outcast, writing was her main joy. She originally attended Rochester University, but after feeling unhappy there (with professors who judged her writing quite harshly), she transferred to Syracuse University where she thrived and finally felt like she fit in with her peers. She was involved with the University’s literary magazine, where she met her future husband, literary critic Stanley Edgar Hyman. Around 1935 she and her new husband moved to the sleepy town of North Bennington, Vermont, where Hyman taught at Bennington College and Jackson continued working on her writing. Later on, in 1954, Jackson would say of these years in North Bennington: “our major exports [were] books and children, both of which we produce in abundance. The children are Laurence, Joanne, Sarah, and Barry” (Twentieth Century Authors). 

The Lottery's first appearance in The New Yorker.

The Lottery’s first appearance in The New Yorker.

When The Lottery was first published in The New Yorker in June of 1948, Jackson was catapulted to fame the likes of which she never expected. The initial response to the story was extremely negative. Jackson received 400 letters from readers over the course of the summer – and only 13 were kind (and mainly from personal friends). Many readers instantly cancelled their subscriptions to The New Yorker. While Jackson would tell others that the tone of the letters ranged from “bewilderment, speculation, and plain old-fashioned abuse.” Readers wanted to know if such rites existed, and if so – where they could go and watch someone being stoned to death. They “declared the story a piece of trash.” What could a story possibly do to make people so violently angry? Well… remind them of their own cruelty and confuse them with their own emotions, of course. While Jackson was somewhat shocked by the extremely negative reception of her story, she often refused to give the readers the one thing they wanted… an explanation of what it “really means”. One sentence she was able to send to the San Francisco Chronicle gave an explanation (that I’m sure went over really well with the readers) as such: “I suppose, I hoped… to shock the story’s readers with a graphic dramatization of the pointless violence and general inhumanity in their own lives.” Zing!

screen-shot-2016-12-14-at-9-35-41-amThe negative response her story received did not stop her, however. Jackson continued to write stories and would come to be known as a Mistress of Terror. Her subtle plots infused with strange characters and sinister themes and plots held her audience captivated. She wrote over 100 short stories throughout the years, some children’s stories and several novels. Her novels The Bird’s Nest (1954) and The Haunting of Hill House (1959) are commonly regarded as fantastical and ghostly stories, and have inspired authors Stephen King and Neil Gaiman in their own works. In 1962 she published her novel We Have Always Lived in the Castle, a story following two sisters after the mysterious and unsolved mass death of their entire family in their childhood home.

So what made Shirley Jackson tick? What gave her these ideas? Her own husband has said of the matter that the darkness found in Jackson’s stories were not the side-effects of personal neurosis, but rather a result of the hard times she had seen of the world – “fitting symbols for [a] distressing world of the concentration camp and the [Cold War] bomb.” Jackson wrote of the psychological and physical destructiveness of human nature, and its consequences on others. Her stories obviously resonated with readers so upset by the simultaneous horror and unbelievably realistic nature (after all, many readers believed The Lottery was based on actual rituals experienced throughout the country) and forced all to take a deep look inside and wonder at the violence and evil that could be found in us all. One thing is for sure – were Jackson still alive today (she unfortunately passed away at only 48), I am sure she would find several ways to shock us all into submission. Happy Birthday, Ms. Jackson.