Category Archives: Events

The Book Fair in Pasadena… and the End of an Era

This past weekend saw the 53rd California International Antiquarian Book Fair held in Pasadena. We gave Vic and Samm a few questions to ruminate on while experiencing the fair and their responses don’t disappoint! This fair was also a bittersweet occasion as our Master & Commander Vic Zoschak Jr. ended his two year tenure as President of the Antiquarian Booksellers Association of America (or the ABAA) while there. See how they felt about the state’s biggest book fair below!

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Q: So another year, another ABAA fair! How did you two feel going into this 2020 Pasadena Antiquarian Book Fair (or the 53rd California International Antiquarian Book Fair, to be precise)?

V: Actually, we took a beating at fairs in 2019, so there was a bit of trepidation as we approached this first one of 2020.  Nevertheless there never was any question as to whether we would exhibit, as it’s the ABAA California fair, and I want to support our local chapter’s efforts.

S: As Vic mentioned above, our fairs in 2019 were rough to say the least. I, too, was a bit “on edge” about how things were going to go – after all, book fairs can make or break your month, or even your season. Luckily though, this book fair – first of the new year – was a great start!

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Q: What all did you focus on bringing this year? How were sales?

V: There were two themes for the fair: celebration of the vote for women, and Ray Bradbury.  We focused on the former, and everything found in our booth had some connection to women, be it as author, illustrator, character, printer, owner, or whathaveyou.

Happy to report sales were steady throughout the weekend, though without that one [or more] blockbuster transaction that would have propelled us into the ‘excellent fair’ category.  But compared to 2019 fair results… night-n-day.

S: I would say our booth was 90% items by women – which we really enjoyed putting together as a tribute to this year’s fair theme, celebration women’s suffrage. Though of course we could not leave out our main man, Charles Dickens, and found a way to incorporate him into our mix as well!

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Q: How would you say this Pasadena fair equates with previous Pasadena fairs?

V: Better, see above.

S: Once again, I must agree with Vic. It was better. We also tried something new this year –  as we had two main, lighted display cases – which while beautiful can also make people feel a bit too timid when it comes to inquiring about an item. Therefore, we also had several boxes of items in mylar sleeves out in our booth. People seemed much more intrigued by this concept as they were able to flip through and pull items out and touch them in a more accessible manner. I truly believe this helped make our booth a bit more “shoppable”. 

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Q: How would you say it holds up in comparison with the Oakland fair? Obviously the Oakland fair is a bit easier for us, but in terms of customers and purchases is there a markable difference?

V: Well, this a difficult comparison…  I think our Pasadena booth location this past weekend contributed significantly in our results.  Our Oakland location was not so positioned.  We’re hopeful for 2021 this changes, especially since, in 2021, John Knott & Tavistock Books plan to have adjoining booths, where we’ll open things up & have a larger, more visible footprint in the aisle.

S: Yes, a comparison between the two is a bit tough as, especially for us locals the Oakland fair is much easier!  We are able to bring more items… and I can sleep in my own bed (huge plus)!

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Q: Samm, how was this Pasadena fair for you? This is your second ABAA fair, right? What was your favorite experience down in Southern California?

S: Set up went relatively quickly, so I had some free time to go to the norton simon museum with a colleague!  sometimes its good to break away for a bit.  but overall the fair was good, met and chatted with several new institutions about what collections they are building and how we can assist.  there were some critiques i was hearing from others but i felt it was a really nice fair and a lovely time down in Pasadena!

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Q: Vic, how did you feel heading towards the end of your Presidency of the ABAA? Did that play any part in this fair?

V: Yes, my term as President concluded with the ABAA’s Annual meeting this past Sunday morning.  As President, I feel like I personally experienced aspects of Einstein’s Theory of Relativity [as I understand it], which is to say, the two years went by in a blink of an eye, but some days dragged on interminably!  lol

My successor is Brad Johnson, in whom I have unwavering confidence that he will successfully meet all the future challenges the Association may face.  And let me again, in this forum, give a shout-out to Brad, who tremendously surprised me with a parting gift…  a San Francisco Giants jacket!*  OMG, I was blown away.  Brad, thank you!

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Q: What’s next on the agenda for you both? Perhaps some to catalogue, we hope!

V: To be honest, I’m not sure what I will do with the time I regain in my schedule…  maybe catch a few more Giants games while sporting my wonderful new jacket!  :)

S: And while Vic is enjoying those Giants games, I will be working on a catalogue! Also, if you find yourself in the area next month, please come and see us at the Sacramento Antiquarian Book Fair on Saturday March 28th!

Thanks, you two! Samm is right… onto the next!

Some more photos from this year’s fair:

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                                        President out. (Cue mic drop.)

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This week in the book world…

This week is Children’s Authors and Illustrators week! In honor of the writers and artists who helped shape our lives, and will continue to shape the lives of children all over the country, we’d like to bring some awareness to five of the most beloved, or most inspirational, award winning children’s books of all time. (Along with hefty advice to immediately run out and read all three!)

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The Undefeated by Kwame Alexander and Kadir Nelson

We begin our list with the 2020 sweeper (as it has already won the 2020 Caldecott Medal, is a Newbery Honor Book, and winner of the 2020 Coretta Scott King Illustrator Award) – The Undefeated by Kwame Alexander and Kadir Nelson. This poem highlights the reality of slavery and its traumas – the power of the civil rights movement and “determination of some of our country’s greatest heroes” (redtri.com). “Kids will not only get deeper insight into an integral period of our nations history but learn the words of change makers like Martin Luther King, Jr. and Gwendolyn Brooks.” This book, intended for ages 6-9, will no doubt change the worlds of many – as it should us all.

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Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak

How could we ignore a classic like Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak? Originally published in 1963, the title won the Caldecott medal for its illustrations in the following year. And who could blame the decision committee? The book’s striking illustrations will stay with most of us for the rest of our lives. It has since been adapted for the stage and the screen, but we think we speak for us all when we say that the original is our personal favorite.

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Green Eggs and Ham by Dr. Seuss

It is hard to choose a single Dr. Seuss title to add to our list, as so many are household names (at least here in the United States). We choose Green Eggs and Ham because it is considered one of the best-selling children’s books of all time. In fact, though published in 1960, at the turn of the 21st century the book was still considered one of the top 4 children’s books of all time. We attribute this to the catchiness of Seuss’ phrasing, the typically colorful and fun illustrations, and the fact that it has single handedly taught entire generations how to say no to food they hate. Oh wait… was that just my own experience?!

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Number the Stars by Lois Lowry

Number the Stars is a historical work of fiction detailing the lives of ten-year-old Annemarie Johansen and her best friend, Ellen Rosen in Nazi Denmark. This gripping tale follows the escape of Ellen and her family from Denmark, as Ellen poses as Annemarie’s late older sister in a terrifying and emotional ordeal. Not only does this story pull you in, it also serves to educate our youth on the Holocaust. It was the 1990 recipient of the Newbery medal for authorship, and we couldn’t agree more – it is one of the best.

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Officer Buckle and Gloria by Peggy Rathmann

Now we don’t mean to switch from one end of the spectrum to the next (serious -> funny, I mean), but our last choice has got to be Officer Buckle and Gloria – a dog tale that stole the hearts of many when it was published in 1995. The rather droll Officer Buckle goes from school to school teaching safety demonstrations to children. Unbeknownst to him, his new partner, the police dog Gloria, begins acting out the safety rules behind his back. Buckle becomes very offended when he finally realizes the reason for his success, but despite a brief break from the demonstrations Buckle learns to appreciate Gloria in all her hilarity. Honestly – it’s a hilarious tale and the winner of the 1996 Caldecott medal. Can’t argue there, can you? Check it out – we promise you won’t be disappointed!

 

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The Beginnings of Tavistock Books

For those of you who don’t know, we deal in many genres of antiquarian materials. However, one of our specialities – and even our shop’s name – come from a wildly famous author who we happen to adore… Mr. Charles Dickens. As the author is very often associated with the holiday season, we thought now might be a good time for a little Q&A with our President, Vic Zoschak Jr., on his love of Dickens and the beginnings of Tavistock Books. Enjoy!

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Tavistock House, London.

Q: Vic, could you take our recent followers on a mini journey as to our shop name? I remember getting the question of whether or not your last name was Tavistock!

tavistock2Yes, over the years, I’ve often been referred to as “Mr Tavistock”, but the name actually, rather than being my surname, has a [small] Dickens connection…  back in the late 80s, as I contemplated opening my own business, I cast about for a name that would reflect my firm’s interest in Dickens, but didn’t want to be too overt in that regard..  you know, nothing like “The Old Curiosity Book Shop”, or anything like that.  So, long story short, I settled on Tavistock, the name of Dickens house in the 1850s, which was situated on Tavistock Square.  

Q: So why Dickens? He is obviously a world-famous writer of course, but what about his writing spoke to you, and what made you want to name your store after his house?

Well, back in the mid-to-late 80s, while living in Sacramento, I was in a reading group that read, as one of our books, Dickens’ Pickwick Papers.  While I personally don’t consider that his best novel, what that reading did do was spark an interest in the author himself.  And in pursuit of knowing more about the man, I [luckily] happened across what I consider to be the best biography of Dickens, Edgar Johnson’s Tragedy And Triumph.  On reading that biography, I found Dickens to be a fascinating individual, a genius, which precipitated my dive into that gentle madness known as book collecting.  I collected Dickens from the mid-80s until I opened my shop in July 1997, at which point I used my personal collection to stock the Dickens’ Corner here at 1503 Webster Street.

Q: What is your favorite of the Dickens novels and why? Favorite character in any of them?

Favorite novel is Hard Times.  Many of Dickens’ novels required “32 pages of letterpress” every month, and so often, like in Pickwick Papers, there are literary diversions therein to fill up space….  I don’t see that in Hard Times.  It’s spare, it’s lean, it’s all about the facts.

As to characters, like many, I’m partial to Mr. Micawber, the lovable impecunious fellow from David Copperfield.

Q: Is it true that you refuse to watch Dickens-related cinema? Interesting choice! What are your thoughts behind that decision?

True.  Dickens’ words call up a mental image of each & every character he’s created.  I found that when I watched a film interpretation, my mental image of a given character, e.g., Nicholas Nickleby, engendered by Dickens’ prose was replaced by the individual cast by whatever director was filming whatever version of Dickens’ works.  In comparison, I found I preferred Dickens’ version.  FWIW, he would only allow images approved by him, and as such, they are truly Dickensian.  

Q: And last but not least… who was your favorite ghost in A Christmas Carol and why?

Ah, tough question Ms P!!  I think I’ll go with the “Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come”.   With these visions, Scrooge realizes his future can change.  That’s powerful stuff, knowing one can change one’s future.

And you know what, Ms P – it’s been a few years since I’ve read this popular novella. I think I’ll revisit it this season… it’s time.  

~ Happy Holidays ~

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A Happy Halloween with Hill House

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As Halloween rapidly approaches, we thought – in honor of this holiday season – it might finally be the moment for a short blog dedicated to a favorite type of literary genre throughout this season – horror stories.   

Upon the recommendation of a friend, I recently finished The Haunting of Hill House, by Mrs. Shirley Jackson. This book, much dramatized in movies and tv and spoken about in literary ‘thriller’ circles (yes, they exist), is one of the most famous of Jackson’s works – one that has you in goosebumps from start to finish. And what, we asked ourselves, is so scary about it? (Warning: spoiler alerts below.)

Realism. Nowadays, it is easy to go to the movies and see a thriller with a screeching soundtrack and people that pop up in mirrors as you wash your face in the evening (my worst fear)… you know the drill. Even the exceedingly gore-filled SAW movies have a following. So what makes classic horror stories so frightening, even in a modern world where we are used to an unimaginable level of psycho made with special effects and computer geniuses?

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This 1st edition of Haunting of Hill House is offered by Peter Harrington here!

We might argue that it is a lack of such “effects” that sets these stories apart. While in high school, my best friend went to see a movie that came out called “The Strangers” (I have a point to this, I promise). This horror flick focused on a romantic couple who come to stay in a woodland cabin for a night (unfortunately directly after a refused marriage proposal, but that’s neither here nor there), where a group of teenagers (spoiler alert!) terrorize them throughout the night. In the morning (I DID say spoiler alert), the teenagers finally and gruesomely murder the couple in front of each other. Their reasoning to the couple? “Because you were home.” Now why did my close friend say it was the scariest movie she, as a horror film lover, had ever seen? Because there were no special effects. It was not that preposterous. It was simply people… terrorizing people. Personally, I would say The Haunting of Hill House has a similar vibe. It contains some ‘supernatural’ elements, absolutely. And perhaps it is the house terrorizing the characters. But at the same time, those elements could be being caused by the other characters – we aren’t ever truly sure. The story centers around four people arriving at a reportedly haunted house – with possibly the best description of a house I have ever read – to see what happens. (This still happens today… only we have tv crews that follow these nutters around while they scream in sinister night-vision.) As the foursome stay on in the Hill House, night after night more strange and creepy instances occur, with one character singled out pretty obviously. As it happens, this character is also quite clearly the most vulnerable and unstable of the group… not to mention the narrator. She gives the impression of being somewhat unreliable from the beginning, giving the audience very little understanding of what is truly going on, and of whether her discrepancies, misgivings and thoughts on the ‘hauntings’ are built up by her own abnormal nature.

Now, I don’t want to ruin the story for the rest of you. I just wanted to give you the slightest chill, given how close we are to (arguably) the best holiday in the entire world. Perhaps you will be inspired to read something spooky, something creepy. What would we recommend?

Well, you can’t go wrong with the classics. Shirley Jackson, Edgar Allen Poe, Agatha Christie, Mary Shelley, Bram Stoker, Stephen King… the possibilities are endless. Just don’t forget… the best horror stories are the ones that scare you – curl your toes – not from frightful voices and things that go bump in the night, but from a solid, well described tearing down of human nature.

Happy Halloween, bibliophiles!

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There and Back Again – The Seattle Antiquarian Book Fair Edition

This past weekend saw the Tavistock Team exhibiting for the first time in a couple years at the Seattle Antiquarian Book Fair. A great experience for them, resident factotum Samm Fricke to tell us all about it. We highly recommend this fair to any and all in the book trade – whether you are a bookseller, a collector, a librarian or a bibliophile! You won’t be disappointed. Have a look at her answers below!
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Q: How much experience do you both, Vic and Samm, have with the Seattle Book Fair? 

Samm: For me, the Seattle Antiquarian Book Fair was a whole new experience – I have never attended nor worked that fair ever before. Vic, however, has done it many times, despite the fact that Tavistock Books has not exhibited there for a couple years. We are glad to be back!

Booth mates! This year we shared our Seattle booth with Laurelle Swan, of Swan's Fine Books in Walnut Creek, CA.

Booth mates! This year we shared our Seattle booth with Laurelle Swan, of Swan’s Fine Books in Walnut Creek, CA.

Q: Because we must ask, as usual – how was load in, load out? Everything flow smoothly or were there some hiccups that needed to be addressed in either situation? 

Samm: Load in and out was GREAT! So easy. Brad Johnson (of Johnson Rare Books & Archives) drove a caravan from Los Angeles and gathers booksellers’ books as he travels up the west coast. In short… we did not have to lug anything! We were lucky – it was probably the easiest load in and load out we have ever had! Thank you, Brad!

 

 

 

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Q: We noticed that before you got to Seattle you sent out a list of the items you decided to bring. How was the feedback from that list? Does it generate interest in the items already listed or are collectors and sellers using the list to see a general overview of our stock and then requesting you bring other items?  

Samm: We did get some interest in the list before we left, and I do think it brought other booksellers over to our booth during set up to take a peek. However, the list was just text – no pictures – (unlike the bi-weekly short lists we send out!). In any case, I think people (booksellers and collectors) are always happy to have the first peek!

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Q: How were sales, down up or concurrent with previous years at the Seattle fair? 

Samm: As Vic likes to (politely) say, sales were “soft.”  But at fairs you usually do well at either buying or selling – not always both at the same time. Luckily, we were able to buy some really neat items, so keep an eye on our inventory in the near future!

Q: What were the best moments of the fair? Dinners, talks, social events… what was the salvation this time around?! Book fairs, while wonderful experiences for booksellers to hang out with like-minded souls, can be extremely draining. Being constantly on, constantly available, and not to mention working hard – what made it all worthwhile for you both this time around?

Samm: For me, it is always the dinners after the show. Getting to commiserate about the day, laugh about funny moments, eat great food (concession stands just don’t cut it, I’m sorry to say) and have a well-blended cocktail – a much needed boon after a long day of continuous meet and greets!  Seattle was no exception – we had some really great meals with some amazing people! We are looking forward to the next fairs where we can all meet again!

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A Report on Rare Book School from Our 21 Year Attendee, Vic Zoschak Jr.

by Vic Zoschak, Jr.
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Number 21 is now in the books for yours truly, that is Rare Book School course number 21.  In this instance, G-65, i.e., Nick Wilding’s Forgeries, Facsimiles & Sophisticated Copies.  Better known to the 13 of us in class as Fakes & Forgeries.  Nick Wilding, for those of you not familiar with the name, is the Professor of History at Georgia State University, though perhaps he is better known as the fellow who recently identified Massimo De Caro’s copy of Galileo’s Sidereus Nuncius as a forgery, which had, up until Nick got involved, fooled a goodly number of experts as being authentic.

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Nick with the first folio facsimilie

But I get ahead of myself, so back to the beginning of the week, which started out Saturday July 6th.  In brief, it wasn’t so brief, in fact, it was a [expletive deleted] long day: the flight out of SFO was delayed around 2 hours… the rental car place at Dulles did not [immediately] have a car available… all of which contributed to my late arrival, ~ 11:00 pm, in Charlottesville.  Given I had no dinner that day, thank God for Benny Deluca’s!  This a hole-in-the-wall pizza place a block away from my hotel, which is open till 3am on Saturday nights.  And that slice I had that night around 11:30, delicious!

IMG_0474For those new to RBS, things kick off Sunday afternoon, 5ish.  There’s a reception, a Michael Suarez welcome speech & restaurant night.  The latter an opportunity for ~ 10 students to share a meal at one of the local ‘Corner’ restaurants, in my case, Lemongrass Thai.  Wonderful food, wonderful company!

The weekdays start at 8 am, with a gathering in the RBS spaces for coffee, bagels & fruit.  And, of course, conversation with fellow RBS students, staff & faculty.  Classes begin, as Michael reminds all, promptly at 8:30.  But only after washing one’s hands!  RBS has one of the largest, if not THE largest, working collections extant.  Material is handled daily by LOTS of students, so ‘hand washing’ an understandable act of preservation.

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The Vandercook

Our week in G-65 covered, amongst other things, mechanics of printing [relief, intaglio & planographic], including actual printing from a Vandercook; paper attributes; divers means of repair & conservation; sophistications; pen facsimiles; the relevance of provenance, and [of course] visits to UVa’s Albert & Shirley Small Special Collections to look at numerous examples of that we were studying.

Of especial note during the week was the Wednesday night lecture, in this instance, given by my bookseller colleagues Heather O’Donnell & Rebecca Romney of Honey & Wax Booksellers.  They talked about their belief the trade needs to reach out to the next generation of collectors, and in doing so, should consider a paradigm shift from well established paths.  Quite thought provoking.  After, a group of us, including Heather & Rebecca, went to a local restaurant for dinner & conversation.  That evening, I learned Rebecca, in concert with Brian Cassidy, will soon be opening her own shop, Type Punch Matrix, in the Washington DC area.  We wish her every success!

RBS classes conclude on Friday, with the usual highlight of the day a class luncheon.  In our case, we trouped over to Michael’s Bistro & Tap House, a RBS favorite watering hole in the Corners.  I’m sure I speak for all my classmates when I say it was probably the most enjoyable lunch of the week.  The day concludes with a closing reception, where all friendships forged during the week are cemented.

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Vic’s Friday class luncheon!

And so another week at RBS had drawn to a close.  I can say with some surety this course was one of the best I have ever taken, and I’ve taken a few!  That said, I already look forward to number 22 next summer, whatever it may be.  Perhaps see you there?

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In Honor of Emily

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“Hope is the thing with feathers” by Emily Dickinson is the first poem I remember reading and analyzing as part of a school assignment. 

The first time I read it, I definitely did not “get it”. I honest to goodness remember my initial reaction to my teachers’ analysis of the poem itself. It was the first time I asked myself the question… how do we know that that is what the author wanted us to read into it? How do we know for sure that she meant for the bird to signify the innocence of the emotion of hope? With some authors it is harder than others – as some authors left… well… less of a trail of breadcrumbs for us to follow. One of those authors was Emily Dickinson – the recluse who, to this day, inspires many with her words, whilst we know relatively little about her innermost thoughts during her most productive literary period. On today the anniversary of her death, we’d like to give a brief background on this interesting poet and focus not on exactly what her words mean to us, but rather on the lasting legacy she left behind. 

emily3Emily Dickinson was born in Amherst, Massachusetts, on December 10th, 1830. She was the second of three children, with one elder brother named Austin and a younger sister, Lavinia. Her father was not only a lawyer by trade, but a trustee of Amherst College, where his father had been one of the founders of the school. With their background in education, the Dickinson children were given a thorough education for the time, certainly when it came to the two girls. At the age of 10 Emily and her sister began their studies at Amherst Academy, which had begun to allow female students a scant two years before their studies began. Emily remained at the school for seven years, studying math, literature, latin, botany, history, and all manner of respected academia. Upon finishing her studies at the Academy in 1847, Dickinson enrolled in the Mount Holyoke Female Seminary (now Mount Holyoke College). Although the Seminary was only 10 miles from her home, Dickinson only remained at the school for 10 months before returning home – for reasons many have tried to unearth but none can be sure of. 

emily2Though throughout her late teens Dickinson seemed to enjoy life in Amherst socially, and was certainly already writing poetry (a family friend Benjamin Franklin Newton hinted in letters before his death in this time that he had hoped to live to see her reach the success he knew possible), by her twenties Emily was already feeling a melancholy pull, exacerbated by her emotions when it came to death, and the deaths of those around her. Her mother’s many chronic illnesses kept Emily often at home, and by the 1860s (Dickinson’s 30s) she had already largely pulled out of the public eye. By her 40s, Dickinson rarely left her room, and preferred to speak with visitors through her door rather than face-to-face. Unbeknownst to any, Dickinson worked tirelessly throughout this period on her poetry, and by the end of her life had amassed a collection of roughly 1,800 poems neatly written in hand sewn journals. That being said, less than one dozen of her poems would be published during her lifetime. The first book of her poetry, published four years after her death on May 15th, 1886 by her sister Lavinia, was a resounding success. In less than two years, eleven editions of the first book had been printed, and her words spread across nations. 

“Hope” is the thing with feathers -
That perches in the soul -
And sings the tune without the words -
And never stops – at all -
 
And sweetest – in the Gale – is heard -
And sore must be the storm -
That could abash the little Bird
That kept so many warm -
 
I’ve heard it in the chillest land -
And on the strangest Sea -
Yet – never – in Extremity,
It asked a crumb – of me.
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It is only now, in researching her life and rereading a few of her best-loved poems that I can see the answer to my question of long ago. We don’t know what Emily Dickinson wanted each word to signify. We don’t need to know. It is the way her poetry made and makes the public feel that gave it the popularity it still holds to this day. “Hope”, indeed. 

Today we honor Emily Dickinson and her lasting impact on the world of poetry. 

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