Category Archives: Collecting

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

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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.

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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!  :)

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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!].

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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!

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We Give Thanks

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

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

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

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

Happy Thanksgiving to All! 

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

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The 2018 National Collegiate Book Collecting Contest

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Report on the Sacramento Antiquarian Book Fair, Pt. II

Answers by Samm Fricke

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So Samm! This is (a bit confusingly) your second Sacramento Antiquarian Book Fair. Could you tell us a bit about your experience, prep and overall impression of the previous Sacramento fair you attended in March of this year? For those of you that don’t know, Samm was brought onboard the Tavistock Books train (what seemed like) mere minutes before this past spring’s Sacramento Book Fair.

Last Sac Book Fair was quite overwhelming for the first hour of set up.  As I was loading in, taking in the surroundings and meeting everyone Vic brought to me saying “This is my new assistant Samm!  Samm this is ….”.  All at the same time! Lots of info and names. But after about an hour of watching other vendors set up booths I was beginning to get a feel for it and settle down a bit. As for the opening of book fair to the public, that was the more easier part as I have done so much book retail in the past, but these were people with more niche interests rather than what I have known of “I’m just looking for a good beach read”.  

How was this last weekend’s fair different from the fair in March for you? Do you feel more at ease with Tavistock’s wares and in the antiquarian book world in general? We know you come from a book background, but we also know that the antiquarian book world is a horse of an entirely different color!

I thought this past weekend was much easier!  I knew where the booth was, I knew our booth mate (Hey Chris!).  The faces of collectors and vendors were more familiar.  I knew where the bathroom was and when was the best time to order food was! Ha! Because I knew vendors a bit more, and they have now seen me, emailed with or talked on the phone with me I was more comfortable making small talk at their booths.  Surprisingly to some, but I am pretty shy! 

As for the wares of Tavistock, yes much more at ease!   And more comfortable discussing product and assisting collectors find items that may interest them.  Knowing the stock is always good, which was not the case last fair!

How did you find turnout and other sellers’ wares? Did any items of note catch your eye?

I only have the last Sacramento Book to compare, but I did think the turn out grander. At the end of the fair Jim Kay got on the mic and said it was the best fair turnout yet – a new record had been set! So shoutout to Jim for doing an awesome job. Perhaps by March 2019 I will have my name tag! *wink wink*

Vic bought a lot of cool items there, more than last year even! (Didn’t think it was possible, but that just shows how much I know.)  You can see them when you sign up for our New Acquisitions Newsletter! (Yes, that is a plug… and yes, you can sign up for it on our website!) As for me, there were a few items that were of interest, though I am not in the position to spend the big bucks on them yet. However, I made many mental notes!
What will be the next fair you are excited about and what do you hope to learn or accomplish before then?

Oakland! I am very, very excited about the Oakland Book Fair in February. Just seeing all the amazing items at Sacramento, I cannot wait to see what an international fair brings! Also, being local means packing and load in won’t be too bad.  

I am trying to have a better grasp on our stock so I select the most interesting items to bring that will also show Tavistock’s interest best! 

We certainly won’t! Thanks, Samm!

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Report on the Sacramento Antiquarian Book Fair, Pt. I

by Vic Zoschak, Jr.

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                              Dinner at Roxy’s could tempt us all!

Reading colleagues’ comments with regard to the recent Brooklyn event, allow me to put in a plug for the Sacramento Antiquarian Fair, held this past weekend.  A semi-annual event, hosted by Jim Kay, I suspect it doesn’t have the panache of Brooklyn, but that said, it has come to be beloved by those of us on the west coast, drawing exhibitors from both ends of the coast, not to mention a fellow bookseller who routinely makes the trek from out Utah way…  that said, despite the close proximity of Sacramento, I suspect David flew east for the weekend, for the local event definitely has a Californiana bias in exhibitor offerings, and that not David’s metier ime, but it is one of mine. Given that, from an ABAA colleague I bought a [what I consider to be] fantastic item: an 1853 Sacramento Directory, and as I recall, the second Sacramento city directory ever published, this one an inscribed presentation copy from the publisher to the man considered to be Sacramento’s first mayor.  Plus *bunches* of other neat stuff, filling over two boxes, and occasioning Samm’s questioning look: “How the heck are we going to get all this stuff in the car?!?”

I have no doubt the food & beverage choices in Brooklyn are myriad, however, I’d stack up the fair’s local concession’s Chicken Pesto sandwich against any comer offered elsewhere [Taylor, feel free to offer your thoughts here  ;) ].  And the pre-fair, post-setup Friday night dinner at Roxy has become traditional, this time around, shared with 9 colleagues… Chuck, Roxy’s Manhattan might even tempt you.  

So, it seems we have two credible regional events on this same weekend in September, and for that I’m thankful.  Here on the West Coast, we’ve lost so many regional fairs over the last decade or two that it’s gratifying this one is thriving [I understand a new fair attendance record was set yesterday].  Further, Jim tells us it’s here to stay as long as he is.  I should add, it’s relatively inexpensive to exhibit… my half-booth, with display case, was a modest $385.

Finally, I personally like the fact that the Sacramento show is a one day event.  I got home last night by 7 pm, slept in my own bed, and today, get to watch Jimmy G & cast take on the Vikings… in other words, no standing around in the booth on a quiet Sunday, hands in pockets, watching the clock sloooowly make its way towards 5 pm.

Very civilized, promoters please take note.

V.

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MRT: A Reminisce

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Michael Thompson, photo courtesy of ILAB.

This past Saturday, the ABAA’s Southern California Chapter held a memorial for our recently departed colleague, Michael Thompson.  Through the good offices of Brad Johnson, my following remarks were read, as I was unable to deliver them in person.  I offer them here too, in an effort to pay wider homage to our dearly beloved friend.

I suspect that I’m like most of you here today, in that I knew Michael for over 2 decades, our acquaintance first being made, as I recall, in the mid-90s, at one of the then bountiful California book fairs.  We recognized in each other a kindred spirit, that is, we both loved the ‘hunt’ for books, and it’s in that vein I’ll relate a story from the late 90s that, I believe, epitomizes Michael’s joy in bookselling…   

One summer, we decided to share a booth at Rob Rulon-Miller’s Twin Cities Book Fair.  Like most regional fairs, Sunday morning that weekend was, shall we say, slow.  Standing idly in our booth, hands in our pockets, Michael looked over at me and inquired,

“Mind holding down the fort?  I’m gonna wander around for a bit.”

“No problem,” say I, “take your time.”

20 minutes later, I see Michael purposely striding back to the booth, clutching a little … something, in his left hand.

Entering the booth, smiling triumphantly, he exclaimed, “I just made my weekend!”

“Do tell!”

“Do you know what this is?” he queried, waving the little pamphlet, leaflet.. I couldn’t quite discern which.  “It’s the press announcement for Saul Marks’ Plantin Press!  I’ve never seen it before, and what do you know, I find this LA item in Minneapolis!  For twenty bucks no less!”  He grinned, and continued, “Young man, just remember, anything can be anywhere!”

Well Michael, I’ve never forgotten that advice given decades ago, just as I’ll never forget you.  Godspeed my friend, may you enjoy this new journey on which you’ve embarked with as much joy as that you experienced in the one just finished.

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Ray Bradbury and Kurt Vonnegut are Two Different People

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Embarrassingly enough (because when should you admit things of that nature except online, in front of strangers?), I spent a few of my formative years confusing authors Ray Bradbury and Kurt Vonnegut. I thought the same prolific man wrote all of their stories! Obviously I was quickly apprised of the real situation (and excruciating difference in genres) and had to immediately stop telling people how much I enjoyed Bradbury’s Slaughterhouse-Five. (I was 14, okay??). I wised up. These many years later I am revisiting my childhood trauma – I mean “experience” – and updating my knowledge on Ray Bradbury on his birthday!

ray10Bradbury was born on August 22nd, 1920, in rural Illinois. In 1932 at the age of twelve, Bradbury had a somewhat extraordinary experience with a traveling magician known as Mr. Electrico – who touched him on the nose and exclaimed “live forever!” – to which Bradbury took in the best way possible – his literature (which he began writing only days after this experience) will live forever. A couple short years later, the Bradbury family relocated to Los Angeles, where he was able to join the Los Angeles Science Fiction league as a teenager, and counted authors such as Robert Heinlein and Henry Kuttner among his mentors.

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ray8At the age of 19 his literary career began getting even more serious – and he honed with fantastical science fiction writing style by publishing his own fanzine, called Futuria Fantasia, and traveling to the first World Science Fiction convention, held in 1939 in New York City. His short stories began to be published in Science Fiction magazines such as Weird Tales and Super Science Stories. In the 1940s, Bradbury began to be published in high-end literary and social magazines like Harper’s, the American MercuryCollier’s and The New Yorker - not typical for most science fiction writers. And to do it without losing sight of your style and genre – almost unheard of! Bradbury published short stories, series’, and novels over the coming years. In 1953 his novel Fahrenheit 451 hit the shelves – and is now regarded as one of his greatest works. It follows a futuristic world where censorship is in full force and follows the seduction of one firefighter through the world of literature. Fahrenheit 451 was closely followed by his collection The Golden Apples of the Sun, where the story inspiration for 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea was found. He followed up his works with more and more short stories, and more novels, until his later life, when he elected to turn more often towards poetry, drama and mysteries – including adapting his stories for the big screen. Despite being considered a primarily science fiction writer, Bradbury often considered his works more in the fantasy, horror and mystery genres – that he did not stay true to science fiction themes, with the exception of his novel Fahrenheit 451.

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Bradbury dated and married only one woman throughout his life – a lady named Marguerite McClure, whom he married at the age of 27 and remained married to until her death 56 years later. The couple had four daughters. Bradbury himself lived to the ripe age of 91, when he died in 2012 after a lengthy illness. His personal library was left to the public library in his small Illinois hometown – where so much of his inspiration came from.

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