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


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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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


How was the attendance at the Oakland fair? 

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

How did your pre-fair Tavistock Books shindig go?  

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And that's a wrap, ladies and gentlemen!

And that’s a wrap, ladies and gentlemen!


One Down… So Many to Go


Team Tavistock!


Vic with Brad Johnson of Johnson Rare Books.

With the new year being the start of the new book fair season, we always love to indulge and give you a report on our local fairs. This past weekend, we attended and exhibited at the Pasadena Rare Books LA fair, set up by Brad and Jen Johnson of Johnson Rare Books in Covina, CA. We braved terrifyingly bad weather, accidents all along the drive, and the possibility of pouring rain on our books to support these bookselling and organizing forces of nature (they even had goodie bags for us at our booths when we arrived) – and we are so glad we did! 


An ominous start to the weekend…

download_20190207_083546Now, we might be exaggerating just a teensy bit, as there really wasn’t any rain falling on our books, as we were able to unload in the garage, with plenty of help with dollys, unlike other local fairs we have attended! Luckily for us… it meant we didn’t really need to do much heavy lifting. The fair itself was a fun event, us getting to catch up with a lot of our fellow bibliophiles before the Oakland fair this upcoming weekend, and although the sales were a tad underwhelming for us (in all fairness, however, we were saving our big ticket items for the upcoming Oakland fair), it was definitely worth the trip in acquisitions – many of which you’ll be able to see on display at the Marriott this weekend! That all being said, many booksellers did have great sales… with one rumor that a seller sold out his entire booth!


Vic doing what Vic does best… talking about books! (And maybe a hint of baseball.)


Happy Pasadena Fair, Samm!


Between the fun of the fair, the ability to put faces to names (for this was Samm’s first Pasadena Rare Books fair!) wonderful dinners, great conversation and magnificent buying… we’d say this fair was worth every minute of our time.

Now on to the next! Don’t forget – the ABAA California International Antiquarian Book Fair begins this Friday and continues through the weekend… you won’t want to miss it! And if you were curious to see our shop while you’re in the area, this next week – we are only a few short minutes drive from the fair! Let us know you’d like to stop by and say hi soon. 


Samm relaxing after a full day of bookselling in the booksellers’ lounge!


“Think only of the past as its remembrance gives you pleasure” : Name That Novel!


206 years ago this week a book was published that changed the course of literary history, respect for women authors, and the romantic ideals of young women around the world. Over 20 million copies have been sold internationally. Little did Ms. Jane Austen know, Pride and Prejudice, the novel she sold publisher Thomas Egerton for one lump sum of 110 GBP, would sell out its first run in a matter of weeks, the three hardcover volumes valued at 18 shillings. 

jane6Perhaps blogs on Jane Austen’s life are unoriginal, seeing how often she is touted as a great literary genius. We would like to add our own to the fold, since a) it is kind of shocking we have gotten away with not writing blogs on the lady for so long, and b) we love to love Jane Austen. Austen’s literary genius comes from her impeccable representations of English mannerisms, her wit, her clever dialogues, and her respected portrayals of young women in Regency England as she slowly but surely added to the transition of English Literature to 19th century realism.

And now let’s go over the story we all know… probably by heart, yes? (Not Pride and Prejudice… Jane Austen’s life. But… well… actually we know them both by heart.)

Jane Austen was born on December 16th, 1775 in Steventon, Hampshire. She was a welcome addition to a large family, and especially welcomed as the sole female sibling to be a companion to her sister Cassandra. This understanding ended up being amazingly true, as never before have we heard of sisters more devoted to each other than Jane and Cassandra Austen. Both were sent to boarding school in Reading in 1785, where they were taught the normal accomplishments of women of the day (needlework, dancing, spelling, etc.). However, their formal schooling lasted only a little under two years, before the school fees became too much for the Austen household to handle and the girls returned home. Never again would Jane or Cassandra live parted from the family unit.

The rest of the girls’ schooling would come from their father and brothers James and Henry (to whom Jane remained quite close). The family and their friends would stage private theatricals at the Steventon rectory, often comedic in nature (one doesn’t need to look far to see where her wit and satirical nature was developed). By the time Jane was 12, she had begun to try her hand at writing, working on short plays, poems, and other works of a satirical nature. Later on, these works would be compiled into a volume known as Juvenilia. At the age of 18, at the birth of her first niece Fanny, Jane sent the baby some humorous essays on the conduct of young women. Continuing to do such work for family and friends, which were cherished and often read aloud at gatherings.

jane3Between the ages of 18 to 20, Austen wrote a short epistolary novel known as Lady Susan (not published in her lifetime). The plot of Lady Susan deals with a manipulative and seductive protagonist who uses charm and flirtation to get what she wants out of men, and is significantly different from any of Austen’s future novels. Throughout her twenties, Austen had several flirtations (mainly Tom Lefroy and an almost terribly matched marriage to Harris Bigg-Wither), but no one stuck. The marriage to Bigg-Wither could have provided her family with financial ease and freedom, but Jane refused to marry for money rather than love (a theme seen in so much of her writing), so rescinded her acceptance of the proposal. (You go, girl.) During her twenties she began the novels SusanElinor and Marianne and First Impressions - novels which would eventually turn into Northanger Abbey, Sense and Sensibility and Pride and Prejudice.

jane4The early 1800s were a tumultuous time for the Austen family, as with her father’s sudden death in 1805 her sister, mother and her were left on the charity of their brothers and other extended family members. The ladies moved around the countryside often, until finally in 1809 being offered a cottage in Chawton by Austen’s elder brother, Edward. If is here that Austen perfected and wrote more novels, at a relatively quick pace. This was seemingly due to quiet country life, with fewer distractions and more time to focus on her skill. Sense and Sensibility was published in 1811, Pride and Prejudice in 1813, Mansfield Park in 1814, and Emma in 1815. These novels, though published anonymously “By a Lady” were favored and popular during their time. Though they brought her rather little fame or money, she was known and by the 1830s she would become a household name.

Unfortunately Jane would not live to see those days, as by 1816 she began feeling unwell, with what can today be attributed to Addison’s disease or Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma. By March of 1817 she was no longer strong enough to write, and passed away on July 18th, 1817, at the young age of 41. Much of her work was published posthumously, despite her personal life being somewhat of a mystery – after her death her sister Cassandra destroyed (possibly) thousands of her letters, leaving only 161 known letters to investigate – to protect her sister’s privacy. Who knows what kind of further work could have been achieved by this literary lioness had she not fallen ill… who knows what other heroines we might have been able to empathize and laugh with had she lived long enough to write.


The important fact is… Jane Austen existed, and due to her wit and cleverness we have Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy to show us how its done… right in time for Valentine’s Day!


Character Copyrighting – a nod to the January 6th Licensing Agreement signed in 1930 by A.A. Milne for One of History’s Most Beloved Bears

Happy 2019! Hope our followers had a safe and happy New Years (and more importantly made use of our Pop Up New Years Eve Sale). And now without further ado, onto a whole new year of book loving, bookselling, and book worship!


Copyright (literally meaning the right to copy) can be a slippery slope in terms of infringement. Where does one draw the line? Well, that is exactly what the last century has aimed at helping delineate. On realizing that characters, not just titles, can be taken and used for copies of original works, authors fought for characters, plots and fictional places to be copyrighted as well, to protect their interests. On January 6th, 1930, author of Winnie-the-Pooh A.A. Milne transferred exclusive merchandising and other rights of Pooh and the Thousand Acre Wood to Stephen Slesinger, who then in 1961 granted those same rights to Walt Disney Productions.

In the coming years, Slesinger would find faults with Disney and how they interpreted the somewhat vaguely worded contract, and would file lawsuits against the corporation. However, our blog is not meant to be a description of all the lawsuits between Stephen Slesinger and Walt Disney Productions. Rather, we would like to bring attention to what fiction copyright laws mean today and how infringement is decided.

In the United States, for a work to allow for copyright protection, it must meet certain regulations. It must be tangible (art, literature, etc.) and it must involve creativity – meaning that it must be an original work. The tangible aspect implies that facts and ideas are unable to be copyrighted – they must be put forth in a work of art or writing. Now, this is not quite as cut and dry as it seems. In fact, in the same year that A.A. Milne transferred rights to Mr. Slesinger, the United States held a court case deciding on the eligibility of fictional characters to be protected under copyright law – not merely as they are part of a larger work. In the case of Nichols v. Universal Pictures, two tests was developed to find whether characters were eligible for their own copyright. The first test was the well-delineated test – meaning that for a character to be copyrighted it needed to have a well-rounded personality and meaning in the story – for example, as characters James Bond and Tarzan pass this test, but an un-named poor factory worker (more of a stereotype) would not. The second test requires the character to be central to the storyline, and not merely a vessel for putting the plot forward. Sam Spade of the Maltese Falcon detective novels was found not to be copyrightable, as he was looked at as a vessel for storytelling, rather than as central to the plot. In terms of plot, for a copyright lawsuit to be made against an infringement a test must be made to prove the works as “substantially similar.” as the US Legal website states, “Though there is no ready-made yardstick as to what constitutes a “substantially similar” work, the basic test to determine whether a work is “substantially similar” to another is to see whether a person looking at the two works would believe the two works to be the same. This protects the author of a literary work from another person changing a few words here or there in a work and claiming it to be his own.” Amen to that – though unfortunately perhaps a bit vague.

copyrightIn the basest terms, these days it is behooves an author to copyright their work. It cuts down significantly on time and expenses should there ever be an infringement on their creativity, and also “U.S. copyright law gives persons who register their works the option of recovering statutory damages for infringements which occur after the registration of the work, and not just the actual damages the copyright owner can prove he has suffered. Statutory damages are damages which the court can award without regard to the amount of damages which the copyright holder has suffered, or could prove he has suffered. In addition to an award of damages, a successful copyright infringement plaintiff may also obtain an injunction against further infringement by the defendant and, in appropriate circumstances, obtain the destruction of infringing copies of the copyrighted work.” As you can see, should you be worried about your characters or plot, it does make sense to register the work with the US Copyright Office.

There are so many aspects to copyright law – and these are just a few in terms of fictional character and plot! If you would like to read more about the history of copyright law, etc., we suggest checking out Copyright.USlegal and this timeline of the history of copyright in the US. To read more on the legal battles between Slesinger and Walt Disney Productions, read this article here.


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


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 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.)


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

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


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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