Category Archives: Antiquarian Books

Booksellers, Raffles and Wine, Oh My!

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                        The Berkeley City Club – a beautiful venue, as usual!

What could be better than a group of bibliophiles gathered together in a single room to celebrate the holiday season? A group of booksellers gathered together in a single room celebrating the holiday season with good food and a raffle of lots of alcohol, that’s what! Just kidding! In all honesty though we all (as adults) enjoy our bottles of wine and bourbon, what we truly enjoy is spending time with like-minded individuals. The NCC Chapter of the ABAA Holiday Dinner was no exception!

IMG_20171205_192028This year the bar, being held in the same large room as the dinner, seemed to be a bit more of an intimate affair (which I rather enjoyed). The large table of donations for the Elizabeth Woodburn / ABAA Benevolent Fund raffle was overflowing – as usual with impressive selections of beverages, but with also some fun gift baskets and chocolates, 2018 SF Giants baseball tickets, etc., etc!  Many raffle tickets were sold (most to our table mates John Windle and co., in my opinion – winners galore!!!) But I get ahead of myself. 

First things first Michael Hackenberg, the Chapter Chair, introduced the evening with his wit and charm. Minutes of the last meeting were approved, and one great new piece of information that was praised was the recent repeal of the most egregious parts of the California law on signed material. Unfortunately getting the bill repealed has cost quite a bit of funds for the ABAA, most of which were spent on lobbyists! But in any case, everyone is quite happy that we are on our way to normality back in the signed and autographed world of rare books. Another topic of interest covered is that the ILAB Congress in LA next year is close to being sold out! There are possibly one or two more seats to be had, and those who have been agree that it is a wonderful destination work-trip for any book related people. Over 100 people have signed up thus far. 

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An image of a very happy (possible) ABAA President?!

New members of the ABAA board will soon be voted on! Members of the NCC that are up for nomination in different positions include our very own Vic Zoschak [as President], Michael Hackenberg [as our Chapter Rep],  Brad Johnson & Scott deWolfe are both competing for the ABAA VP slot, and Peter Blackman is on the ballot as Association Treasurere. The NCC Board includes Andrew Langer as the new treasurer, Alexander Akin continuing on as Secretary, Laurelle Swan as the new Vice Chair, and Ben Kinmont as the new Chair! Congratulations to these four! Another interesting topic included the different showcases touted by several booksellers for this upcoming year include the Bibliography week showcase in January and the RBMS showcase in New Orleans! Last but not least, the upcoming fair in Pasadena in February has one of the highest registrations for several years, with over 200 booksellers registered to exhibit at this time. Woohoo!

In all, the dinner, the chat, the raffle interspersed between rounds of discussion (a great new idea, in my not so humble opinion), and the camaraderie always found in this group of people made for a wonderful holiday evening. 

And to all a good night! (Or afternoon… you catch my drift.)

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A How-To Guide for Buying Antiquarian Books as Christmas Presents

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Here we present to you a (bit of a tongue-in-cheek) guide for buying Christmas gifts this holiday season… in an antiquarian fashion, of course!

1. Know your Subject.

Not your book subject, that is. We mean your audience, your gift taker, the subject of your love, attention and wallet. They may not be readers! (We hope they are, but in all fairness not everyone is as book obsessed as we are – you catch my drift?) If they are readers, you likely know the genre they prefer. If they aren’t self-professed bibliophiles, perhaps you can deduce what they might enjoy from their other interests. Are they political? Perhaps they might enjoy a set of pamphlets on Communism from the 1970s! Are they classicists? Well then perhaps a Dickens would suit them (given that you also provide a box of some wonderful Twinings tea along with it.) Get to know your subject, I mean friend, in an unconventional way!

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2. Know your Books!

So you aren’t an expert antiquarian book hunter and gatherer… so what? That is what we booksellers are here for! Not only do we find exceptional items for our customers and even put together collections for them, but we are experts in our chosen fields. So what does that mean? Well, if you’re stuck pick up the phone and give us a call! It doesn’t hurt to ask the opinions of those surrounded by unique items every day.

3. Know your Budget.

We know, better than most, how easy it is to be lured to certain items in the antiquarian book world. A beautiful piece of incunabula catches your eye and BAM! Suddenly you have taken a second mortgage out on your house! (Just kidding. We hope.) But when it comes to gifts for others, it is always a good idea to think about how much that friendship is worth to you before beginning your search for that perfect item.

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4. Know your Bookseller.

We booksellers are often elusive beings. For some, we exist on their computer when they order a book and it arrives (very well packaged, if it has been purchased from Tavistock Books) on their doorstep. But don’t just assume that when you order a book online it will come the way you want it. Feel free to do a bit of research on your bookseller! Go to their website, see where they are located… give them a call and ask about their shipping process or their opinion on your gift. We guarantee that not only will you have a better story to tell your gift recipient than “Oh, I found this online.” but you will also meet some spectacular bibliophiles in the process!

5. Enjoy the Process of Giving!

Don’t miss one of our favorite quotes by one of our favorite authors… “A day wasted on others is not wasted on one’s self.”

You thought we were going to go with a Christmas-y Dickens quote, didn’t you? We love to surprise!

Oh fine, and here’s this one just to warm the cockles of your bookish hearts…

“I will honor Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year.”

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We Have NOT Come to Suck Your Blood

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What are the greatest parts about fall? The crisp smell of apples, the chill in the air, the colors of the leaves… and the somewhat spooky feeling all around us! Just kidding, that’s just near Halloween. But you must admit, there is something about this season that may inspire you to revisit some of Poe, of the gothic masters, or of our blog subject for today – Bram Stoker.

Stoker is, of course, best known for his novel Dracula - a tale of a blood-thirsty beast in love (classic), but who was he otherwise? Here are some facts that you probably didn’t know about this Irish author!

1. He was Irish. I realize I gave that away in the previous sentence, but still. Stoker was born in Dublin in 1847, and lived in the county of Dublin all his life, even attending Trinity College for his higher education. Though graduating with a degree in mathematics, he showed prominence in the humanities as the auditor of the College’s Historical Society and president of the University Philosophical Society.

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2. Interested in theater from a young age, Stoker became a theater critic for the Dublin Evening Mail early on. After writing a favorable review of Henry Irving’s Hamlet, he was invited to London to become his new friend Irving’s theater business manager at the Lyceum Theater.

3. Bram Stoker’s wife Florence Balcombe was a previous suitor of Oscar Wilde. It may be strange for me to be so impressed by this, but nevertheless…

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4. Stoker worked on several novels while managing the Lyceum, Dracula being one of his first. After its publication, the novel received quite a bit of literary and critical acclaim, but did not shoot him to fame, despite the fact that it is now a story known worldwide. There are over 200 films and over 1000 novels written about Dracula alone!

5. Most people assume that Vlad the Impaler was the inspiration for the character of Dracula. However, recent scholarship suggests that, though Stoker may have borrowed the somewhat gothic and creepy name from the historical Romanian, he most likely based more of the facts on his own ancestor, Manus O’Donnell – or Manus the Magnificent – an Irish clan leader.

6. Complications and vagueness around Stokers death has sparked all kinds of discussion in his fans – some say he died from another stroke (after living several years after his first), others say syphilis. Even others say he is not dead at all… but still walks along the living! (Only at night, of course.)

Bonus fact: Through his friend and employer Henry Irving, Stoker met two US Presidents – William McKinley and Theodore Roosevelt. Crazy!

This fall we invite you to grab a cup of tea, cozy up next to the fire, and pick up a scary classic… we promise you will thank us for it!

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(SPOILER ALERT) Antiquarian Nursing Material Isn’t Just for Nurses

We recently wrote a short and sweet blog post on “Why You Should Be Collecting Antiquarian Cookery.” Now, we do enjoy getting Cookery items in and we do have quite a bit of knowledge around them, but technically speaking, cookery is not one of our ‘specialties’. However… Nursing is. We often have customers exclaim surprise at our little-known specialty, followed by a slightly confused look as to why we might carry such things. You yourself might be wondering how many nurses are also antiquarian book collectors. We must confess that we do not know those numbers. (However, if you know those numbers, please feel free to share.) So for this week’s blog post we thought we would share why you don’t have to be a nurse to collect antiquarian nursing material!

Before you remind us, yes, Vic began collecting nursing material because his wife, Ellen, was a head nurse! So yes, occasionally there are nurses involved. Just thought we would get that over with before we get any “Wait up, we know that Ellen was involved in that field…” emails. However, Vic knowingly went into the field, as he realized that there weren’t many out there specializing particularly in nursing material over a more generalized medical genre.

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Although the U.S. Army Medical Department was one of the slowest to integrate women, when over 5,000 of its combat-ready men — including many trained technicians and orderlies — were forced to transfer to the Infantry in early 1944, the department began a major push to recruit women to fill the positions. The Female Medical Technician campaign, as pictured here, was hugely successful. See this Fine condition WWII poster here.

Nursing material tells us about just as much of history as other items in the medical field. Nurses were often called upon to step in and help in times of war and devastation, and, in some instances, were in even higher demand than doctors. Antiquarian nursing material often teaches the reader (albeit briefly) the best ways to care for wounds, different illness, and even mental “defects”. They are particularly interesting as, despite what western medicine looks like today, many antiquarian nursing items were published before the heavy use of medication. Nursing materials can teach how to care to the sick without Advil – which many would argue is more important than knowing how to hand over a pill!

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Check out this 1804 1st US edition of FRIENDLY CAUTIONS To The HEADS Of FAMILIES And OTHERS, Very Necessary to be Observed in Order to PERSERVE HEALTH And LONG LIFE: with Ample Directions to NURSES WHO ATTEND The SICK” – a manual for nurses from over two centuries ago! See it here.

Antiquarian nursing items are therefore of interest to any of those looking to see cultural and scientific differences in levels and quality of medical care over the past two hundred years. It is also interesting to use the materials to see how nurses were trained, what they were trained in, and what they were called on to do. Now if you don’t find that interesting, then we don’t know what else to tell you!

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Check out this 1868 1st edition of “On Nurses and Nursing by Dr. Horatio Storer – a leading physician in the 19th century who, in 1857, started the “physicians’ crusade against abortion” both in Massachusetts and nationally, and persuaded the American Medical Association to form a Committee on Criminal Abortion. The Committee Report was presented at the AMA meeting in Louisville, Kentucky in 1859 and accepted by the Association. Woah! Check it out here.

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Welcome to Tavistock Books, Cassie Leone!

Tavistock Books is proud to announce a new member of the team – Cassie Leone! Cassie will be working part-time at Tavistock Books and we are glad to welcome her to the fold.

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Welcome to Tavistock Books, Cassie! How long have you been involved in the antiquarian book world for now?

Thank you! I began working for antiquarian booksellers last September, a few months after completing my undergraduate degree in English at Smith College. I’ve worked for Brick Row Books, and John Windle Antiquarian Bookseller. I’m currently also working part-time with Swan’s Books. 

What is your favorite aspect of working in the book trade? Does this coincide with what you will be doing at Tavistock?

I really enjoy cataloging books. I find it to be similar to academia in that you are researching and writing about literature, except that what you are writing is more geared toward sales. I especially love illustrated books, and books with provenance. When a book has an inscription I think its fun to do some detective work on its past owners.

What made you first become interested in the book trade?

When I was at Smith I concentrated in book studies. I loved learning about the history of books and the technology of reading and writing. One of my professors told us stories about his experiences working for antiquarian book sellers in Chicago, and I thought that sounded like intriguing work. 

Could you give us a slight background on you, yourself? Where did you grow up, what activities or hobbies do you enjoy, etc. 

I grew up in the Bay Area, and I’m originally from Walnut Creek. I moved to Oakland in 2003, which is where I currently reside. I’m a writer, and I’m currently applying to graduate schools for an MFA in Creative Writing, specifically poetry. I’m an amateur book collector; I also collect comics, records, Victorian greeting cards, antique oil lamps, and antique coffee pots. I enjoy baking and I ferment my own kombucha. Over the summer I got married in Berkeley, and I have a dog named Winston.

Last, but certainly not least… how do you feel about Charles Dickens and the San Francisco Giants? :)

While I was working for John Windle I catalogued a collection of Charles Dickens, and I became pretty familiar with his work and Dickensiana in general, but I have to admit I’ve never read any of his books! I plan to change that status in the near future. I did enjoy A Muppet Christmas Carol though. As a Bay Area native I of course love the Giants, I even have a few Barry Bonds baseball cards from when I was a kid.

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Vic Visits the Wine & Viticulture Collection of the UC Davis Shields Library

 

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Who has the greatest collection of wine & viticulture literature in the world?  The Shields Library at UC Davis, that’s who!  To quote the August 22nd BCC announcement of this 15 September field trip, “The wine library at UC Davis houses more than 30,000 books in more than 50 languages, manuscripts, historic records, research data, and materials in every medium, from wine labels to videos.”

IMG_3691Yours truly, along with 14 other BCC members, on our 9:30 arrival at the library, were greeted by Axel Borg, the library’s wine & food science bibliographer, and spent the next 4 and a half hours being regaled with all the treasures that this library has amassed over the years.  We started in the Maynard Amerine room, named after the man who exerted a profound influence on the collection.  Amerine [1911 - 1998] was a “pioneering researcher in the cultivation, fermentation, and sensory evaluation of wine.”  No doubt many of the booksellers & collectors reading this blog will hold one of publications, the 1996 BIBLIOGRAPHY On GRAPES, WINES, OTHER ALCOHOLIC BEVERAGES, And TEMPERANCE [co-authored by Axel by the way].

IMG_3698After giving us an overview of the collection, and its history, we eventually found our way to Special Collections, where Axel tantalized us with one interesting & fascinating item after another…  here I wish I’d taken notes, for memory fails me as to most specifics, other than the 1287 deed for a vineyard land transfer & a cute little accordion miniature that on first blush appears to be a wine cork.  That said, my fellow attendee, Anne Smith, did, however, take notes, so see her soon-to-be-published BCC piece for more specifics on the books Axel had at show-n-tell.

IMG_3731Next on the agenda was a buffet lunch, which, given we were a willing captive audience, included a presentation on projects UC Davis has in the works… one is a interactive social map showing wine-related connections.  Intriguing, to say the least.  Another is the digitization & searchable compilation of wine price lists, et al.  For food & drink historians, invaluable.

We ended the day in the Harrison Western Research Center, which holds more than 21,000 volumes related to the history of the Trans-Mississippi West, collected by Michael & Margaret Harrison.  Noteworthy in that collection were Catlin’s North American Indians, and Ansel Adams & Mary Austin’s Taos Pueblo.  I confess, the bookseller in me was covetous, but I also assure you, I left empty-handed.

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And so ended this engrossing trip.  My thanks to all the staff at the BCC & UC Davis who made this day possible.  It was wonderful.

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The Sacramento Antiquarian Book Fair from an Outside Perspective

This September, Tavistock Books took a step back from exhibiting at the Sacramento Antiquarian Book Fair, and our Master & Commander Vic Zoschak attended from a buyers standpoint alone. We pick his brain and see how it went! Photo by ZH Books.

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So, Vic – attending the Sacramento Antiquarian Book Fair as an Outside Observer. For the first time in how many years?

Gosh, the last time I remember just shopping the Sacramento Book Fair was the late 80s, before I took the plunge into the bookselling world.  I have no doubt that Sacramento was one of the first book fairs at which I ever exhibited [perhaps eclipsed by the now long-time defunct Berkeley Book Fair, a one-day event that started set-up at 6:30 in the am, with an opening of 10 am!].

These days, the Sacramento event is ably run by Jim Kay, who has done so a number of years now, and he has even turned it into a semi-annual fair, every March & September.  Jim tells me there’s been some recent turnover in the bookseller ranks, i.e., other long-time exhibitors besides myself have stepped aside [e.g., Carpe Diem & no Ken Sanders this time], but all the booths looked taken, so there were, no doubt, others waiting in the wings for us to move aside & to take our places.

I noted that the Book Lair & ZH Books had moved over into my old spot, which I had shared with Book Hunter’s Holiday.  They both seemed to like that corner.  :)


What were your overall impressions of the fair, from a strictly buyers standpoint? Well put-together, as usual? Crowded?

Jim’s hallmark is indeed a well-run event.  The crowd seemed the same, which is to say, by noon there was a buzz in the hall, and lots of folks in the aisles.  Saw plenty of tickets being written.  And the snack bar back in the corner continued to put out quality fare…  I had the chili this time around-  quite tasty.



Was there anything you haven’t noticed before that was called to your attention as a non-exhibitor? 

No, I can’t say that anything comes to mind in this context.



How was the buying? In recent years you have had great luck at Sacramento. Was it the same, after not being able to take first pick at everyone’s goodies during setup?! (One of the best parts of exhibiting, in our not so humble opinion… seeing what is available before anyone else!)

While I did buy some things that I thought interesting, in terms of potential profit, I see the end results as being modest, at best.  In other words, nothing great that would command an exclamatory “Whoohoo, look what I found!”

It’s hard to say whether or not not being on the floor during set-up occasioned a missed opportunity.  I personally didn’t hear of any great finds, but that’s not to say it didn’t happen.  Certainly such has happened in the past at this fair [even once or twice for yours truly], so who can say?


What do you think for the future? Will you continue to attend Sacramento as a buyer only or are you considering exhibiting at any upcoming Sacramento fairs? 

I think the Sacramento fair’s immediate future is assured.  As I said, Jim does a great job, and the fair is apparently well supported by both the local exhibitors and the local book buyers.  As to myself, I confess, a half-day devoted to the fair, vs 4 days…  well, let’s just say I loved being home by 2 pm Saturday, and being able to catch the last few innings of the Giants game.  :)

Well… we can all hope that Vic might exhibit at Sacramento again (perhaps when there is no Giants game to be watched)! It’s just not the same without him!

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