Category Archives: Collecting

An Up-to-Date Q&A with Our Very Own Vic Zoschak Jr.

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It’s been a while since we checked in with a more personal blog, so we thought that with the end of summer in sight we’d see what our Master and Commander Vic Zoschak has been up to these last couple of years!

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Q: So V, here we are in 2022 – how have you been this past year, how has life been in general?

We’re into our 4th year of Covid Ms P, and I guess you could say I’ve adapted to that reality.  Last summer, I completely closed the shop to the public, and have been ‘on-line’ only ever since, and to be honest, that’s worked out ok.

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Q: How has “regular life” played a part in your business over the past many months? The last time we checked in was at the heart of the pandemic. Have you noticed any notable changes since?

I avoided Covid for the first 3 years, but here, early in the 4th, I did catch it a couple weeks back… a variant, I think, for I’m fully vaxxed & boosted.  Let’s just say it was not a fun couple of days.  But that aside, in response to the on-going pandemic, last summer, I changed my work routine, adopting a semi-retired approach to my work life, only going into the shop 4-5 hours a day, freeing up some personal time to spend with the dogs, catch a few more Giants games, read a few more books…  I must say, I find this newer, more relaxed lifestyle quite enjoyable!

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Q: You recently celebrated 25 years on Webster Street in sunny Alameda, California. How have you seen Alameda and your location change over the past two and a half decades, as one of the longest running and most-established businesses on the island?

Time does fly, does it not!?!  Seems like just yesterday I opened the door at 1503 Webster, but that was actually July 15, 1997.  When I opened the shop, the west end of Alameda had just experienced a devastating blow to the local businesses… by that I mean the Navy had closed NAS Alameda in April of that year.  All of a sudden a large consumer base was gone.  As a result, lots of vacant store fronts existed on Webster, so a new business opening on Webster was a big event, in this case, the Mayor, the Vice-Mayor & the head of the Alameda Chamber of Commerce all came for my ‘ribbon-cutting’.   The West end was a long time in coming back, but now, 25 years later, Webster is the main mercantile street in Alameda’s west end.  It’s quite vibrant actually, with lots of restaurants & other interesting businesses.  But that said, despite the current vibrancy, the street did not, and will not, support a specialized antiquarian book store like mine…  were it not for my on-line / mail-order sales component, I would have had to close the doors long ago.

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Q: Now that the book world is back to hosting in-person book fairs, how have you seen the changes brought about by the past couple of years influence the book world of today? Which changes are for the better? And on that note, do you find any for the worse?

This one is difficult for me to answer, for as part of my semi-retired approach to business, I’ve decided to omit book fairs from my current business paradigm [except for the local, one-day Sacramento show].  I find it exhausting to be a one-man exhibitor, gone for 5-6 days….  pack the books, drive to the event, set up the booth, man it [solo] for 3-4 days, pack out, drive back to Alameda, unpack all the boxes & reshelve the books.  Too much work for this 70 year old…  an example of the old leisure vs income dichotomy, with me falling down on the leisure side of the equation.

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Q: What would you say your bookselling high and low were, in recent months? This could be an event or a meeting of sorts, or perhaps a notable sale?

I think most booksellers will agree that their favorite book is the one that just sold.  But to answer your specific question, two recent sales do come to mind…  I helped one of my customers find & acquire a very nice copy of Dickens’ Christmas Carol, and one of my institutional customers ordered an 1866 broadside published out of San Francisco, Freedom’s Footsteps.  This latter quite rare, with only a couple copies known to exist.

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Q: What do you have on the horizon of interest for yourself and/or for Tavistock Books? 

Well, the ILAB Congress is next month, being held in Oxford, England.  I’ll be attending, and we’re concluding the trip with some time in London, and then Paris.  So that definitely that trip is of interest!

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Q: For a fun last question – what is your favorite item to come across your desk in the last few months? Let’s see it!

Oh my, that’s a challenge to name just one!   Well, let’s see…  as you know, like many of the local booksellers, I tend to scout the monthly Alameda Point Flea Market.  Not too long ago, I purchased a book that mimics the great William Blake, Ode to Sea-Sickness, by William Muir.  Quite scarce.  I think it’s pretty cool, and it will be offered in my stand at the next Biblio Live VBF.  Here’s an image of the title page.

Vic's Ode to Seasickness!

Vic’s Ode to Sea-sickness!

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The Virtual RBMS Showcase: One Bookseller’s Experience

This past week saw another virtual book fair “hit the e-shelves”, so to speak. After over a year of Covid, we are more than ready to return to normal, in-person book fairs! Here the Master and Commander of Tavistock Books, Vic Zoschak Jr., gives his opinion on the matter of virtual book fairs, the RBMS Booksellers’ Showcase in particular.

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Well, that’s another one in the books.  “What?”, you ask…   that would be last week’s ABAA-RBMS VBF, held in conjunction with this year’s virtual RBMS conference.  When in person, the ‘ABAA Booksellers’ Showcase’, as it is called when held attendant to the real event, the number of exhibitors is usually in the ~ 35 range, primarily due to physical limitations imposed by conference venue, so a positive for the 2021 rendition was the ability to expand the number of exhibitors that could participate, so in this instance I understand that approached 60 [or more?].  However, given this expansion, a question then comes to mind, did the size of the [revenue] pie stay the same, such that average sales per exhibitor decreased…?  

I’ll never know the answer to that particular question, as others’ sales data is only anecdotal, and in this instance, results shared tended to mirror that of an actual book fair, which is to say, mixed.  A few of those that did well are happy to publicly proclaim same.  Those who have more modest results, more often than not, tend to stay silent.  Tavistock Books, as well as a few more frank colleagues, reported ‘soft’ sales, i.e., for us, 5 items sold, which was 10% of our total listings.  So hardly robust, but nevertheless, we were content to have a presence, keeping our name in front of the librarian community.

What about VBFs in general?  My view…  there seems to be a number of them every month these days, with Marvin Getman, bless his heart, the primary promoter hosting same.  But as a result, I see a ‘devaluation’ taking place, somewhat mirroring the public’s view, and subsequent demise, of physical book fairs that took place over the last 2-3 decades.  For example, I not only didn’t exhibit at Marvin’s last event, I didn’t shop it.

All this said, I recognize, this is just one bookseller’s view.  And this bookseller is nearing the end of his career, so I acknowledge my ‘aggressiveness’ level in pursuing the VBF trade somewhat less than many others.  Which is to say, this take of mine on VBFs may, or may not, represent the majority of the trade.  But these views do represent me, and I’m looking forward to once again having the physical interaction that comes with real events.

With that in mind, see you in Oakland, February 2022.

Vic

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Entering a Post-Covid Bookselling World – Q&A with Vic Zoschak

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Well, all… this year has been a doozy for almost everyone! We don’t know a single soul that was completely unaffected by this global pandemic, and many sadly affected in traumatizing ways. The bookselling community has done its best to stay connected and functioning during this time, and we thought it might be a good idea to pick the brain, almost a year later, of our fearless commander Vic Zoschak Jr. on how Tavistock Books was affected by these past many months and what he sees for bookselling in the near, vaccinated future!

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Q: So Vic, over a year of bookselling during a global pandemic has passed us by! How did you, personally, fare, and how did your patterns or habits change throughout this time?

It’s been a YEAR has it not Ms P?!  Despite the retail challenges posed by COVID to many businesses, it’s my understanding that most in the antiquarian book trade did ok.  I know that’s true for Tavistock Books.  Sales were stable, but expenses declined significantly [no travel, and no employee expenses], so revenue actually increased over 2019.  And to be honest, the lack of general public foot traffic in my shop turned out to be beneficial, in that I was better able to concentrate on cataloguing, & quoting, material from my backlog.

The one significant habit change for me came about mid-summer last year…  after Samm left to head back East, I started closing up the shop at 3 pm.  I’m getting to be of an age when I just want more leisure time!
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Q: Did you see any shift in what was being purchased (less of one thing, more of another)?

Not that I could readily point a finger at…  my sub-specialities haven’t changed, so those continued to be patronized by those interested in that sort of thing.
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Q: What are your thoughts on the many virtual book fairs (in terms of both selling and buying), and how do you think they impacted the world of antiquarian bookselling and book collecting this year?

I think they are here to stay.   While a VBF can’t offer the same breadth of material in one’s ’stand’, that’s counteracted by the fact that expenses are but a fraction of what you would spend to exhibit at, say, an ABAA fair.  For example, the Feb 2020 ABAA fair in Pasadena cost cost me, with booth fees, display cases, travel, meals, etc, etc around $10K to exhibit; in contrast the most recent ABAA VBF was under $1K.  As a result, just in terms of $$ & ¢¢, the most recent ABAA VBF was much more profitable.

What is missing from the VBFs are the intangibles…  dinner with colleagues, the chance to personally interact with customers walking the aisles, that sort of thing.

I suspect in the future, once the nation has moved beyond the COVID restrictions, we’ll have a hybrid schedule of both types of fairs.

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Q: What do you see for the book world going forward? For example, do you think virtual book fairs will become a new norm in a post-Covid world? Do you think people might have taken up collecting during this time? Any insights you may have in the shifts of our little corner of the world we’d love to hear about!

I’m of the opinion the recent VBFs proved the viability of digital book fairs…  I remember, oh over a decade or so ago, there was an attempt at an ILAB on-line only fair.  I participated.  The mechanics were a bit clunky & it was poorly attended.  I did not sell a book.  I don’t think another such was planned until COVID made it necessary to do so.

So again, I think VBFs are here to stay, though it seems they’re popping up every time I turn around.  I don’t participate in all of them, and to be honest, I don’t shop them  with the same diligence as I did a year ago when they first came on the scene.  Probably that’s to my detriment, but to be honest, I find I’m very much missing the real thing.  I loved hoping on a plane to Boston in November, primarily just to shop the fairs …  I’d spend an hour just in Peter Luke’s booth, flipping through all his boxes.  That is, me, and at least 20 other customers/booksellers.  I currently don’t have that motivation for the VBFs.  But still, I’m also appreciative of not having to pack/schlep/unpack/display/repack/schlep/unpack & re-shelve 15 boxes of books.  I’ll try to find a happy balance that works for me.

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Q: So tell us… what’s coming up next for Tavistock Books?

The $64,000 question!  Well, I did sign a lease extension through 2022, so we’ll continue to be at 1503 Webster Street for a bit…  as to the immediate future, Jim Kay has said he’s planning an in-person Sacramento fair for September, so given I’ve gotten my shots, I’m inclined to exhibit there [presuming no big COVID surge between now & then].  And theirs a couple VBFs coming up in which I’ll participate, the next one being the WESTERN STATES, April 29 – May 2nd.  Come visit!

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Find out more information on the Western States Book & Paper Fair at www.rarebookla.com

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Five Things Bibliophiles can Accomplish in Fall of 2020

We know, we know… 2020 hasn’t been the easiest of years. If we can, we work with no exciting breaks in sight, we have given up on lofty ideas of promotions or raises. We are tired of spending hot days inside, away from friends and family. It hasn’t been easy, and yet – we’re powering through. It seems almost crazy that we will be coming up on the new year in just a few short months. We thought that with the dawn of one of our favorite seasons, it might be time to review how we book lovers can spend some of our days or nights, keeping our distance but hanging out with some of our closest friends, all at once. Read on!

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1. Read, of course! It’s the season to curl up with a good book and a cup of tea (or coffee… or wine) and begin to enjoy the changing of the seasons – which still change, despite Covid-19. (We checked.) On the plus side… reading is a solitary activity, which means that you don’t have to get together with a group of people, or risk your health to travel far and wide. Perfect! If you are able to head to your local booksellers to pick up a title (online or in person), great. If you don’t have book funds at the moment, look around your city or town for neighborhood Little Lending Libraries, or just a regular library!

 

2. An active mind is a healthy mind. For some of us, just reading simply isn’t enough. Perhaps it is time to start up that book blog you’ve always wanted. Blogging is remarkably easy (if we can do it, we know you can too), and nowadays the internet is widely accessible, and it is so easy to publish! It doesn’t have to be perfect. Perhaps you can start off focusing on character development, or things titles say about the books themselves. Perhaps you review books you read! Or maybe reviewing and blogging isn’t for you. Look into online book clubs, download Zoom and have at it! As long as books are at the crux of your activities, you’ll never be bored or lonely. <3

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3. For you antiquarian book lovers out there… maybe it is finally time to set up the book collection you’ve been dying for. If you have the means to do so, go ahead and make a list of those titles missing from your shelves and turn to the internet to find them! Of course we fully recommend combing www.tavbooks.com first and foremost to find them (shameless plug), but there are so many sites available to you to help expand your collection. Some of our favorite platforms for searching a wide range of antiquarian inventory are www.abebooks.com, www.vialibri.net, and www.biblio.com. There are also a range of online virtual book fairs happening in the upcoming months… check us and our colleagues out there! Fill up your shelves with your favorites. At the rate we’re going, they might be what keep us all company in the upcoming winter months.

 

4. Organize! Now that the summer is over, and the days are getting shorter, the nights longer, take the time to go through your items and see what texts no longer serve you. I am in my thirties and up until a month or so ago still held onto college textbooks that I did not once look at after passing the class. Someone else could read those! This is less an idea for an antiquarian collection, but more a general shelf-weariness. Perhaps you could find one of the Little Lending Libraries we spoke of and drop off some used books of yours… make space for your favorites and the masterpieces you enjoy.

 

5. And last but not least… discuss your bibliophilia! There’s nothing like hearing a rave book review from a friend to make you want to jump out and read it for yourself. When we can’t be as social as we once were, it is still important to connect with other people. Perhaps it looks like joining an online book club, but perhaps it is also calling your friends and telling them about your current book squeeze. Get creative! Share what you read, and others will share back.

 

Happy Autumn, book friends! Bundle up and get cozy… it will be winter before we know it. 

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“There is one thing the photograph must contain, the humanity of the moment.” -Robert Frank

This week at Tavistock Books, we’d like to highlight one of our favorite genres currently in our inventory… photographs and photograph albums! We have had several amazing items on our shelves over the years, as we find these personal and first hand accounts of history absolutely fascinating. What makes a photograph, scrapbook or photo album worth collecting, you may ask? Stay tuned for the 411 on the Tavistock team’s thoughts!

This cache of nine large photographs dates back to the lumbering community of the Pacific Northwest in the early 1900s. Check it out here.

This cache of nine large photographs date back to the lumbering community of the Pacific Northwest in the early 1900s. Check it out here.

Q: So, antiquarian photo/scrapbook albums… first things first! What makes you decide whether or not to invest in one for inventory?

Vic: What I primarily look for is a story being told.  That said, most albums are unidentified faces, with few places.  If an album is not captioned by the compiler, it makes it difficult to supply context to a potential buyer.  

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Q: Is subject matter, provenance or condition the first thing checked by the Tavistock team, followed, I’m sure, quite quickly by the others?

Vic: All of those are important, though, imo, condition of the album itself not as important as condition of the images.  That said, subject matter of primary importance, with provenance coming in immediately behind.  Regarding this latter attribute, I’d consider purchasing an album with no captions if it came from a known & documented provenance, especially if said provenance was someone of import, such as, say, a Rochester neighbor of Charles Dickens.

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Q: What are the benefits of buying a photograph album, or other piece or personalized ephemera from an antiquarian seller, rather than off eBay or another such site?

Vic: We’ll, I probably buy more from general eBay sellers rather than established antiquarian professionals, for the former category will often go for the quick sale, rather than take the time necessary to properly research the material at hand.  An example recently was the acquisition on an archive of family letters & manuscripts from an individual involved in the Texas Convention of 1845 [and subsequent aspects of Texas history].  Let’s just say I anticipate a generous profit margin in this acquisition once fully researched & catalogued.

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This family travel photo album dates back to the turn of the century... the 20th century, that is, and focuses on California, New Mexico, Arizona, Kansas, Alabama and Texas. Check it out here.

This family travel photo album dates back to the turn of the century… the 20th century, that is, and focuses on California, New Mexico, Arizona, Kansas, Alabama and Texas. Check it out here.

Q: In looking at the descriptions of these albums on the Tavistock Books website, it is clear a TON of research has gone into describing these albums! Without giving away any secrets of the trade, can you give us a basic overview of how you go about researching a person who put the scrapbook together? It must take a lot of precious time!

Vic: Therein does lie the rub…  much time is involved, and that time needs to be a generous block without interruption.  And, of course, one needs the availability of appropriate reference sources.  I do subscribe to ancestry.comnewspapers.com & JSTOR [though SFPL].  Google, of course, has been a vast help in this arena as well.  It’s amazing what information can be noodled out when searching the web.

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Q: In your opinion, what is the most interesting item you have of this nature on the Tavistock shelves at this time, and what about in the past? Feel free to also tell us about something you might not have sold but perhaps have seen at antiquarian book fairs, etc.!

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A happy Samm, knee deep in the R15 acquisitions!

Vic: I’ll defer to Samm on this one, for she recently went through R-15, where all our uncatalogued albums had been stored, “pending cataloguing”.  

Samm: I spent days going thru this shelf of archives – some catalogued, some not.  It was really difficult to sort through it all. But one item I thought was really cool was a photo archive of the New York Railroad and Interurban railways.  Its HUGE! As we state in the description “A massive photo album brimming with over 1100 images of street cars, trolleys, motor cars, locomotives, service trains, interurban railway lines, and railroads across New York from the 1890s up to WWII. With neatly handwritten captions, photographer’s notes often on verso, and even some typed text.”  The old photos of New York alone are incredible. Definitely worth looking at, linked here.

As for things we sold in the past, hard to answer we sell stuff regularly, hard to pick out one that struck a cord.  But this New York album, I know I will miss when gone!

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Check out Samm’s recommendation – the fabulous New York rail album here!

And that’s that! Also, don’t miss out on the upcoming ABAA Virtual Book Fair from June 4th to the 7th – where yours truly will be exhibiting! We’ll unveil some newly catalogued archival material… and maybe even a photo album or two. Join the count down and find out more information here

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Repeat After Me… “There’s No Place Like Home”

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“There’s no place like home. There’s no place like home.” Everyone, repeat it with me. “There’s no place like home.” I know we’re all feeling a bit of the cabin-fever felt by Jack Nicholson in The Shining (although, you know, hopefully to a significantly lesser extent), but let’s risk sounding like a broken record… we are lucky if we have the ability to stay home! We know money must be tight, but without the ability to put a price tag on our or our loved one’s lives we are extremely fortunate to have this ability. So in our opinion, “There’s no place like home” is possibly a great mantra to repeat to ourselves every morning. And every evening. And every afternoon. You know, just until it sinks in.

This extremely famous quote (mantra), brings us to today’s blog, however. On this day in 1919, 101 years ago, L. Frank Baum passed away. While we don’t mean to celebrate his death, we would like to bring attention to this world-famous author today with a few facts about his life! Keep on reading…

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1. The “L” in L. Frank Baum stands for Lyman, where he was born Lyman Frank Baum on May 15th, 1856 in Chittenango, New York. The seventh born (out of eventually nine kids) always hated his first name and preferred to be called “Frank”.

 

2. Baum was a somewhat sickly child, educated at home (with exception to two very uncomfortable years he spent at a military academy between the ages 10-12). Hi father indulged several of his whims and encouraged his eccentricities. Baum was gifted a small printing press as a child and began making a home journal with his younger brother that he would distribute to family and friends for free. He began a Stamp Collectors journal as a teenager, and eventually another on Hamburg chickens. Another eccentricity… as a young man Baum raised fancy chickens! Who knew?

 

3. I don’t mean to keep going on about these chickens but let’s get back to them for a second – as they were the subject of Baum’s very first published book! At the age of 30, Baum published The Book of the Hamburgs: A Brief Treatise upon the Mating, Rearing, and Management of the Different Varieties of Hamburgs. Okay, I promise to stop harping on about the chickens.

 

4. Baum had a lifelong love affair with the theater, and dreamed of being on the stage. He did have a short career in it, after his father actually built him his own stage in Richburg, New York. As he was touring with one of his creations – The Maid of Arran (a prototypical musical, for all intents and purposes, based on the novel A Princess of Thule by William Black), the theater back home in Richburg burned down, and in it most copies of Baum’s plays.

 

5. In 1882, while touring with The Maid of Arran, Baum married one Maud Gage – the intelligent daughter of Matilda Joslyn Gage, a famous feminist and women’s suffrage activist. Baum would be a proponent of women’s rights for the rest of his life, standing strong alongside his wife.

 

6. As wonderful as it is to hear of a man standing up for women, Baum was not faultless. As tough as this might be to hear, when Baum was living in Abderdeen, South Dakota his emotional response to the death of Sitting Bull prompted him to call for the extermination of all indigenous peoples! After the Wounded Knee Massacre (where the US army killed hundreds of the Lakota tribe, including women and children), Baum reiterated once more, “The Pioneer has before declared that our only safety depends upon the total extirmination [sic] of the Indians. Having wronged them for centuries, we had better, in order to protect our civilization, follow it up by one more wrong and wipe these untamed and untamable creatures from the face of the earth.” Yikes! Some do argue that Baum was actually attempting to generate sympathy for the native tribes by coming out with such a ludicrous statement, but it sure is shocking either way.

 

7. After having children with his wife Maud, Baum found he had a talent for telling them stories at bedtime. After overhearing one of these stories one night, Baum’s mother-in-law Matilda encouraged him to write one of them down. Baum had a wonderful relationship with Matilda and respected her greatly – if she thought his stories deserved to be published, perhaps she was right! This encouragement would become the impetus for his writing The Wizard of Oz.

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8. The idea for The Wizard of Oz apparently came to Baum very suddenly, and he wrote it all down in pencil. Once he had a working manuscript, he wanted to call it The Emerald City. Unfortunately, his editors did not want to use the name of a jewel in the title (bad luck, apparently – who knew), and as Baum sat in his office he looked over at a file cabinet labeled O – Z. Hence, the land of Oz was created!

 

9. The first release of The Wizard of Oz, published in 1900, sold out in two weeks. It became an instant classic, and received full critical and literary acclaim. Some consider it America’s first true fairy tale! The book remained a bestseller for two years, and Baum went on to write thirteen more Oz books for a bestselling series.

 

10. Baum did not only write a book on raising fancy chickens and the Oz series, oh no! He was quite a prolific writer up until his end, and actually published 50 novels, 80 short stories, hundreds of poems, and at least a dozen plays. He wrote under pseudonyms, he wrote articles for journals. And he was a family man. The all around package! (Except for his views on native peoples.)

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Our 1905 1st edition of The Woggle-Bug Book by Baum, inscribed by him on the copyright page! Check it out here.

Fun fact: The line is NOT “There’s no place like home” in the book! It is actually “I’m so glad to be at home again!” But that doesn’t really have the same ring to it for the opening of this blog so…

Also, Dorothy’s slippers were silver, not red. Bursting all kinds of childhood bubbles over here!

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“There’s no place like home!”

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Grateful the Road was Taken

We know that things have been looking grim over the past month… businesses shutting their doors, schools closing, unemployment rising. It is a scary world to be living in – for there is the fact that we have no set plan for how long this will all last. Call us old fashioned, but we find that in times of crisis a little bit of stability goes a long way, so we are planning on keeping up with our blog posts, our newsletters… and Samm has even upped our lists to biweekly so that we can entertain you at home with interesting items from all over the world! Is there something in particular you’d like to see a blog on? Shoot us an email and we’ll see if we can fit it into our schedule. In the meantime, we’d like to do a 10 Fact birthday blog on a born San Franciscan who has spent over the last hundred years keeping us sane and calm. Mr. Robert Frost, ladies and gentlemen!

Portrait Of Robert Frost
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1. Happy Birthday to Robert Frost! Frost was born on March 26th, 1874 in San Francisco to William Frost, a journalist and Isabelle Moodie, a Scottish immigrant. After his father’s death, his mother moved him across the country to Massachusetts to live off the charity of his paternal grandfather.
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2. Frost was named after General Robert E. Lee, the famous General of the Confederate Army. As a youngster, Frost’s father ran away from home to join the Confederate troops. Though he was returned safely to his parents he never forgot his obsession with the Confederate army.
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3. Frost published his first poem in his high school’s magazine. Lawrence High School was a fine institution in its day and Frost graduated as valedictorian. His fellow valedictorian? One Elinor White… a young lady who would eventually become his wife!
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4. Frost attended Dartmouth College for two months, before leaving to pursue jobs and earn an income. The various jobs he undertook, however, brought him no joy – and he still dreamed of being a poet. He then attended Harvard University for two years later on, but once again dropped out to earn money for his wife and child. Harvard bestowed an honorary degree on Frost in 1937.
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5. Frost and Elinor had six children – four daughters and two sons. Unfortunately, Frost himself would outlive 4 of his six. The many tragedies that Frost knew throughout his life caused him bouts of anxiety and depression, and often influenced his poetry.
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6. Frost attributed much of his early success to fellow poet Ezra Pound. After a brief misunderstanding where Frost was given Pound’s card but did not feel a warm invitation, Frost and Pound got on quite well. Pound wrote a wonderful review for Frost’s first book of poetry, entitled A Boy’s Will and Frost immediately became known in the literary world.
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7. Frost won the Pulitzer Prize in 1924 for his book of poetry: New Hampshire: A Poem with Notes and Grace Notes. He didn’t stop there, however! Frost would go on to win three more Pulitzer Prizes in 1931, 1937 and 1943. To this day he remains the only poet to have ever won so many Pulitzers, and one of only four people worldwide to win so many in any category.
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8. In 1960 Frost was awarded the highest honor a civilian can have – a United States Congressional Gold Medal “in recognition of his poetry, which has enriched the culture of the United States and the philosophy of the world”.
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9. In 1961 Frost became the first poet to read at a Presidential inauguration. At the age of 86, Frost was asked by John F. Kennedy to recite a new poem at the inauguration. Frost composed the poem “Dedication” for the event, but due to the brightness of the sun and his failing eyesight Frost could not make out the words on the page. Confidently, Frost put the poem aside and instead recited his previously written poem “The Gift Outright” from memory.
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10. Frost felt that his most popular and beloved poem “The Road Not Taken” was severely misunderstood by the American public. This poem, recited worldwide but especially in the United States as a coming of age transition poem touting determination, was actually written in humor to Frost’s friend Edward Thomas. The two frequently went on walks together in the woods, and Thomas was an indecisive chooser of paths. Frost never meant for the poem to be taken so metaphorically! Nevertheless, we appreciate it even today.
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Happy Birthday, Robert Frost!
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