Category Archives: Events

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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We Have the New Americana

Happy 4th of July! In honor of our great nation’s Independence Day, we thought we would share with our loyal followers some of our newest and/or most notable Americana items. What better time of year to round out your collection? And don’t forget to check in next week for the 20th Anniversary of our shop! An interview with our fearless leader and a special surprise for Tavistock fans – stay tuned!

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This Evolution of a State or Recollections of Old Texas Days is by a local Texan blacksmith – Noah Smithwick – who moved to Texas in 1827 and served in the war for Texas independence and later on as a Ranger. Though he left the state in 1861 due to his sympathies for the Union (sorry, Confederates!) he was able to leave behind a work that Dobie has called “The best of all books dealing with life in early Texas” and Jenkins notes as “the most fun to read”. Don’t miss out! This specially bound version of the edition can be seen here>

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This beautifully illustrated poster from United Air Lines dates back to 1968! Depicting a colorful and intricate (and distinctly American) ship in the Boston harbor – one can only wonder if this was successful at getting civilians to visit the beautiful city. One thing is for sure and certain… we are wishing it was time for the Boston Book Fair just by looking at this! See it here>

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This Compilation of all the Treaties between the United States and the Indian Tribes Now in Force as Laws is a necessary addition to any collection dealing with Native American history. This a 1st edition, as published in its original binding in 1873, with a very intriguing provenance… for it carries the bookplate of Mr. J. B. Milam, first principal Chief of the Cherokee nation. Intrigued? See it here>

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Our old archiving wiz Kate Mitas recently published a series of blogs detailing her experiences in cataloguing archival material! We have seen a rise in archival interest in the trade over the last many years, and truly enjoy when an interesting collection comes across our desks. Here we have the archive of a Pennsylvania man, Adam Atkinson’s purchases of land in Pennsylvania, Indiana and Ohio in the early to mid 1800′s! The letters within provide a unique view of western expansion, charting quite literally western expansion of a single community. Of note in this collection as well are the number of documents pertaining to Atkinson’s attempts to locate surviving Revolutionary War soldiers or their descendants in order to purchase unclaimed Revolutionary War bounty land grants! Read more on this fascinating collection here>

 

Screen Shot 2017-06-28 at 7.29.31 PMI know I often include execution pamphlets in blogs like this one (what can I say… some of us have strange minds!), but this one is one of the most interesting we have seen! This an 1821 broadside detailing the execution of Stephen Merrill Clark, who was convicted of intentionally setting fire to a stable owned by one Mrs. Pheobe Cross, which in turn consumed the house of Andrew Frothingham, Esq. Now this rare broadside will be a favorite with parents the world over (bear with me here) as Clark’s dying exhortation contains the following: “My the youth who are present take warning by my sad fate, not to forsake the wholesome discipline of a Parent’s house. Had I taken the advice of my parents I never should have come to this untimely end”. Imagine that! See this rare in the trade item here>

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And, last but not least! As a reminder to all of you who use July 4th as an excuse to party hard (not that we are excluding ourselves from this)… a piece of temperance reminder! This archival book contains over 400 pages of clippings, letters and leaflets all about the Temperance movement and Prohibition in the early 20th century! Compiled by a Pomona, California native Mrs. S. C. W. Bowen (presumed), this catalogue of prohibition is sure to set you on your toes… See it here>

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The Northern California Chapter Quarterly Meeting

By Margueritte Peterson

This past Tuesday the 21st of March saw the members of the Northern California Chapter of the ABAA at their Quarterly meeting, this time held in Walnut Creek at the elegant Massimo Ristorante restaurant. Tavistock Books had three in attendance, Commander Vic Zoschak, trusty Aide-de-Camp Kate Mitas, and myself! There were 20+ members and guests in attendance, and not only was there a dinner, but as the meeting was held in downtown Walnut Creek, new ABAA member Laurelle Swan held a reception prior to the meeting at her store, Swan’s Fine Books, just a couple of blocks away. On the docket to be discussed at this meeting in particular were some important items – the recent California ABAA and Shadow fairs, our new rep (John Crichton) from the Northern California Chapter in New York, and some very important news on the AB228 law that has severely hurt and hindered many California booksellers. Of course, the evening would not have been complete without some hilarious comments (and some “statements”, too) by many of our local California booksellers. So happy to have been in attendance with a great meal, wonderful conversation and hilarious one-liners – some shared here for your enjoyment along with a few images below!

  • “When the women dressed in drag, married women and fooled them with devices”
  • “She has entered the pit of hell
  • “Uh, no… find another sucker”
  • Insurance fire
  • “Yes, I would probably be banned from China if they ever found out”
  • “I’d like to make some comments if I may… and then make some statements too…”
  • “Everybody was talking about it in MY neighborhood…”

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Beware the Ides of March Today, Folks… But What on Earth are the “Ides of March”?

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By Margueritte Peterson

Have you ever heard anyone say “Beware the Ides of March”? I have known this phrase my whole life, and even known that it speaks of March 15th. However, I have never truly known the whole story behind the Ides or why it was something akin to a Friday the 13th – a date to be feared and treated carefully. So what began a public fear of this date? Is it something we should truly beware? Allow me to answer your questions!

The Ides of March was a date in the Ancient Roman Calendar. Their years used to begin with what we now know as the month of March, and the holidays celebrated within the month are commonly regarded as different New Years celebrations. “Ides” happened every month, however, as they were an observance of the full moon and usually on the 13th or 15th every month, and March was just one of the many. That being said, you don’t ever hear anyone say “Beware the Ides of September” – do you? So what happened to bring March’s Ides into question? Well, the assassination of Julius Caesar, and a pithy and dramatic line from none other than William Shakespeare, of course!

Screen Shot 2017-03-14 at 11.15.39 AMCaesar was, according to legend, warned by a seer to “Beware the Ides of March”. This was followed by Caesar throwing it gently back in the seers face while on the way to the Theatre of Pompey in 44 B.C. on March 15th, when he joked that the Ides of March had come and nothing bad had happened, and the seer replied with “Aye, Caesar; but not gone.” – meaning that the worst was yet to come. Caesar was then assassinated by almost 60 conspirators led by Brutus and Cassius at the meeting of the senate – an event which sparked civil war and led to the creation of the Roman Empire and dissolution of the Roman Republic. Shakespeare, a master of creating phrases that live on in the minds of his audience, must have known that by dramatizing such a famous occasion he would be inducing a world of fear surrounding the 15th of March! But is there any truth to the fear? Well, take a look yourself! Here are what the Smithsonian deems the top 10 events in history that took place on March 15th that coincide with the fear of the day. 

1. Assassination of Julius Caesar, 44 B.C.

Conspirators led by Marcus Junius Brutus stab dictator-for-life Julius Caesar to death before the Roman senate. Caesar was 55.

2. A Raid on Southern England, 1360

A French raiding party begins a 48-hour spree of rape, pillage and murder in southern England. King Edward III interrupts his own pillaging spree in France to launch reprisals, writes historian Barbara Tuchman, “on discovering that the French could act as viciously in his realm as the English did in France.”

3. Samoan Cyclone, 1889

A cyclone wrecks six warships—three U.S., three German—in the harbor at Apia, Samoa, leaving more than 200 sailors dead. (On the other hand, the ships represented each nation’s show of force in a competition to see who would annex the Samoan islands; the disaster averted a likely war.)

4. Czar Nicholas II Abdicates His Throne, 1917

Czar Nicholas II of Russia signs his abdication papers, ending a 304-year-old royal dynasty and ushering in Bolshevik rule. He and his family are taken captive and, in July 1918, executed before a firing squad.

5. Germany Occupies Czechoslovakia, 1939

Just six months after Czechoslovak leaders ceded the Sudetenland, Nazi troops seize the provinces of Bohemia and Moravia, effectively wiping Czechoslovakia off the map.

6. A Deadly Blizzard on the Great Plains, 1941

A Saturday-night blizzard strikes the northern Great Plains, leaving at least 60 people dead in North Dakota and Minnesota and six more in Manitoba and Saskatchewan. A light evening snow did not deter people from going out—“after all, Saturday night was the time for socializing,” Diane Boit of Hendrum, Minnesota, would recall—but “suddenly the wind switched, and a rumbling sound could be heard as 60 mile-an-hour winds swept down out of the north.”

7. World Record Rainfall, 1952

Rain falls on the Indian Ocean island of La Réunion—and keeps falling, hard enough to register the world’s most voluminous 24-hour rainfall: 73.62 inches.

8. CBS Cancels the “Ed Sullivan Show,” 1971

Word leaks that CBS-TV is canceling “The Ed Sullivan Show” after 23 years on the network, which also dumped Red Skelton and Jackie Gleason in the preceding month. A generation mourns.

9. Disappearing Ozone Layer, 1988

NASA reports that the ozone layer over the Northern Hemisphere has been depleted three times faster than predicted.

10. A New Global Health Scare, 2003

After accumulating reports of a mysterious respiratory disease afflicting patients and healthcare workers in China, Vietnam, Hong Kong, Singapore and Canada, the World Health Organization issues a heightened global health alert. The disease will soon become famous under the acronym SARS (for Sudden Acute Respiratory Syndrome).

Now, though I am not at all convinced that the cancelling of the “Ed Sullivan Show” deserves to be on a list alongside the disappearing Ozone layer or the assassination of Julius Caesar (no matter how popular it was), but I’ll bite. It certainly seems like some tragic world events have taken place on this day in history. Then again… tragic events take place every day in history. What about the 26th of December, 2004, when 280,000 people died in the Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami? Or the September 11th, 2001 attack on the World Trade Center in New York? What about every school shooting, sinking ships, genocides around the world? Surely other days could be found that have known numerous tragic events, just like the Ides of March, throughout history. 

In any case, perhaps it is best to keep your wits about you today, and hope that all turns out well! What do you believe? 

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

The entrance to the fair!

The entrance to the fair!

By Margueritte Peterson

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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


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

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