Category Archives: Events

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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And now, for some book-related history!

There comes a time in every bibliophile’s life when you have to sit back, relax… and read an online blog instructing you on the history of books! Not all books are created equal (this is where you should start taking notes). Some books are newer than others, some books are flimsier than others. Some are made of pigs skin, some of human skin. (But not that many, thank god). Some are so delicate that to touch them is to risk their disintegration. And some changed the way books were bought, read, and used by the world. We speak, of course, of the modern paperback novel – on today, its 83rd birthday. 

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A paperback is defined as being a book between stiff sheets of paper or paperboard, held together by glue (more often than by stitching or staples, as would be more likely to be found on paperbound pamphlets or booklets). Though paperbound works existed long before in forms of pamphlets and yellowback copies of existing works or dime novels, the modern paperback as we know it was only recognized in 1935, when the UK’s Penguin Books released their first paperback title, André Maurois’ Ariel. Now, credit where credit is due… Penguin Books actually took over design elements initially brought forth by Germany’s Albatross Books and their paperbound book idea in 1931 (cut short by the rapidly approaching onset of WWII). 

Allen Lane, publisher of the UK's Penguin Books.

Allen Lane, publisher of the UK’s Penguin Books.

The paperback revolution, as it is sometimes called, was something bordering on the revolution that the printing press made upon its release in the world. Penguin Books offering the first selections in English, published ten titles (all reprints of existing works, of course) in a relatively short period of time. British publisher Allen Lane, who invested large amounts of capital in Penguin Books for the publication of these paperbacks, ordered 20,000 copy runs for the first titles – keeping costs low. (According to history, as long as Penguin sold at least 17,000 titles of a run, they would break even – which they did – by a long run.) The books ran cheaper than a dozen cigarettes at the time – more than affordable to the average citizen. Though at the initial onset paperbacks were considered trash by booksellers of the day, once British department store Woolworths agreed to carry the novels and they sold unimaginably well, booksellers soon changed their tune.

After all, within the first year of existence, Penguin Books had sold over 3 million copies of their titles. 

(We are only human, you know…)

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America’s Simon & Schuster began their own line of “Pocket Books”

Penguin Books were a godsend during World War II. They were small enough to be carried in the pockets of soldiers, and brought more joy to the men on the battlefield than much else available in those days. Penguin Books was not alone for long, however. Simon & Schuster was part of the initial run of the American Pocket Books label, and soon “Pocket Book” and “Paper Back” became synonymous for small, paperback books, affordable to the public. In France they began to call the books livre de poche – pocket book. No matter where you turned, paperbacks had changed civilization in the western world as we knew it. 

With the advent of the e-book, one has to ask – where do we see paperbacks in the future? Surely they still serve the same services they once did – the ability to read on the go, carry a title around with you with less weight and at a lower cost. The antiquarian book world is an interesting place – we feel a bit removed from the new advances in book reading technology. If anything, with more and more e-book reading and online activity, books should become even more collectible and valued. But what of the mass-market paperbacks that are being made every day?

Send us or comment your thoughts! 

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Highlight on the 2018 Tavistock Books Educational Scholarship Winner Ellen Saito and her business, Excelsa Scripta Rare Books!

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The 2018 Tavistock Books Educational Scholarship Award Winner Ellen Saito and Bibliography instructor Joel Silver this month at RBS.

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Welcome, Ellen! As the latest recipient of the Tavistock Books Educational Scholarship to Joel Silver’s course at RBS, what were you most excited about, in terms of RBS? The class? Meeting more like-minded people?

Thrilled to secure the Tavistock scholarship, I was elated to attend this course as my first choice by far. For months, I was in a tizzy of anticipation of this course, ESSENTIAL to everyone in the rare book world. It was most exhilarating to meet Joel Silver, prominent librarian, kind and generous teacher and master storyteller, who shared his discerning knowledge of 350+ top rare book research sources, including their free websites and affordable reprints. Develop your inner librarian; you, too, can be privy to any topic related to rare books. Your lost invitation to a secret society for smart, down-to-earth and humorous adults has been found. You are most welcome to join this warm, embracing community. Applicants are sought. Scholarships and affordable housings abound. It is a bargain. Invest in yourself!

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What is your general impression of RBS? Did things run smoothly, were people enjoying their classes and themselves? Etc.

6RBS provides you with the ultimate learning environment. The faculty is a who’s who of rare book experts, who unselfishly divulge their secrets, meant to be shared further with others. Students are free to select their favorite course(s) only, but once you experience this wonderful place, you will want to return soon and often. There is no competition, no cramming, no grades. This is learning at its best. Hint: get to know your peers; they will be delightful and VERY helpful to you. The RBS staff made hard work look easy; everything ran without a hitch. People enjoyed their chosen course, each a shortcut to expertise garnered over a lifetime. Casual, well-attended get-togethers formed naturally during breaks; people were very happy to be there. It felt like a week-long vacation from reality.

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How did you like the course? As you, but possibly not everyone, knows – Vic offers a scholarship to this amazing Bibliography class every year! We love to see booksellers taking the time and effort to cite their sources properly – one mark of great bookseller, in our opinion! How did you find it?

Joel Silver.

Joel Silver.

I learned of the RBS at the Colorado Antiquarian Book Seminar (CABS) and enjoyed the course immensely! You might expect Joel Silver, professor of librarianship, to have a vast and deep database of detailed and accurate knowledge of all things book-related in his laptop. Wrong. It is all committed to MEMORY. Well worth the time, effort and tuition, this course is an excellent introduction to the RBS: just take notes as you like, while Joel Silver instructs you and keeps you laughing with astonishing real-life stories. Explore the clear RBS website. The RBS staff is truly helpful, so call in or email any questions. The online application requires a personal statement and CV, then you write an essay for Joel Silver – that’s it. You are considered for all RBS scholarships. Outside scholarships are available.

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The beautiful gardens at Monticello - Thomas Jeffersons home, just a short drive from RBS.

The beautiful gardens at Monticello – Thomas Jefferson’s home, just a short drive from RBS.

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Did you hear about any courses that were of interest to you you’d like to pursue in the coming years?

I am most interested in twelve courses: Introduction to Bookbinding, Introduction to Descriptive Bibliography, Illustration to 1900, Printing to 1800, Introduction to Typography, Provenance, Forgery (detection), Collection Development, Indigenous Sovereignty, Book History 200-2000, Introduction to Illuminated Manuscripts and English Handwriting 1500-1750. I am currently doing the reading for Printed Books to 1800.

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Tell us a bit about your business!

Excelsa Scripta Rare Books, where “excelsa scripta” is Latin for “sublime writing,” is an online boutique bookstore specializing in social justice as a source of inspiration, while reaching back over the centuries. Emphasis is placed on historically significant books about striving for social and economic equality in a safer, more civilized world with better protection of freedoms and rights. Subjects that are prioritized include, but are not limited to: Women’s History, Black History and topics addressing civil disobedience, disability, poverty, L.G.B.T.Q., Native Americans, racism and ethnic cleansing. First editions in original bindings prevail. Expect truth in advertising and attention to customer care. Eco-friendly packaging products make use of recycled, renewable and biodegradable materials to support sustainability.

Thank you, Ellen!

More information on the scholarship can be found here.

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To Neverland… and Beyond!

“Life is a long lesson in humility.”

Would you imagine that the person who wrote this somewhat jarring quote above also once wrote,

“‘Wendy,’ Peter Pan continued in a voice that no woman has ever yet been able to resist, ‘Wendy, one girl is more use than twenty boys.’”?

Well you might be surprised to find out that indeed it was the very same author. J.M. Barrie was a man of many talents (not least of which being so obviously a feminist before his time)!

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James Matthew Barrie was born on May 9th, 1860, the ninth of ten children born to Margaret Ogilvy and David Barrie, a weaver in Kirriemuir, Scotland. James had a happy childhood until he was 6, when his elder brother died in a skating accident just before his 14th birthday. His mother was confined to her bedroom for months on end, ill with grief. Barrie tried to cheer her up by dressing in David’s clothes and walking around as him. Though by doing so he scared his mother out of her wits, their relationship was eventually strengthened by it. For the next couple years, before James was sent away to school, he and his mother shared a love of literature – reading aloud works like Pilgrim’s Progress, Robinson Crusoe, and poems by Walter Scott. 

Throughout his youth Barrie remained a voracious reader – and even formed a drama group with his friends during his teenage years. He left school wanting to become an author, and despite pressure from his family to join the religious order, he was able to attend university and study literature! After graduating the University of Edinburgh he worked for over a year as a journalist at the Nottingham Journal, and then returned home to his mother in Kirriemuir and began writing her childhood stories into a series eventually named “Thrums”. The editor of the St. James’s Gazette in London liked the series so much that he commissioned and published these stories. Though now not Barrie’s most popular work, these stories made him a well-known figure in the literary world and allowed him to begin writing plays – as he wanted.

barrie5Barrie wrote several successful plays (and a couple flukes), but his third script brought him into contact with a young actress of the day – Mary Ansell – who would later, in 1894, become Barrie’s wife. For their union Barrie gifted Mary a St. Bernard puppy – who would become the inspiration for “Nana” in later years. They settled in London but kept a country home in Farnham, Surrey. In 1897 Barrie became acquainted with a nearby family – the Llewelyn Davies family.  Barrie spent most of his free time with the family – and despite this relationship being depicted in movies and tv these days, it was a bit different than we see! Barrie met the family when the father Arthur was still alive, and was there for the five sons through the death of their father and eventually their mother, prematurely. Around this time Barrie unfortunately found his 10-year marriage falling apart. Amid rumors that their marriage was never consummated, Barrie’s wife took a lover twenty years her junior – Gilbert Cannan – an acquaintance of Barrie’s through theatrical politics. Barrie and Ansell’s marriage ended in divorce, though Barrie continued to support Mary throughout her subsequent marriage to Cannan and for the rest of her life. 

barrie2Inspired largely by the stories he told to the Llewelyn Davies family, Barrie began to formulate a story of a boy who wouldn’t grow up, who flew around and had adventures. Not unlike Charles Dodgson’s Alice a century before, Barrie began to write his story into a play and once debuted in 1904, the play Peter Pan; or the Boy Who Wouldn’t Grow Up was an immediate success. George Bernard Shaw said of the performance, “ostensibly a holiday entertainment for children, but really a play for grown-up people” – a wonderful description of the meanings and metaphors found in Peter Pan. Though children may see the adventure story on the outside, the adults in the audience could see what was really at play (pun intended) – Barrie’s social commentary on the adult’s fear of time and growing old and losing their childish innocence and fun, to name just a few.

After Sylvia’s death in  1910, she named Barrie as co-guardian of the boys, along with her mother. Barrie remained close to the boys all their lives (though tragically two of the elder sons died young and Barrie seemed to suffer the trauma of losing a child). In 1911 Barrie wrote the novel Peter and Wendy as a follow up to the play, and in 1929 he donated all the proceeds from Peter Pan to the Great Ormond Street Children’s Hospital in London – which the hospital still holds to this day. 

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Barrie continued to write several plays until his death in 1937 – though to hear the names of them, you wouldn’t think to associate them with the author of Peter Pan! Titles like Pantaloon (1905), Half an Hour (1913), A Kiss for Cinderella (1916), Shakespeare’s Legacy (1916), Mary Rose (1920), Cricket (1926), and The Boy David (1936) are some of the few that stand out, but are among dozens. He passed away in 1937 at the age of 77 from pneumonia in a London nursing home.

To the author of (arguably) the most beloved children’s story of all time (that wasn’t really intended for children), we have one thing to say to you on your birthday…

we hope that second star to the right is everything you imagined for all of us! 

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Tavistock Books Welcomes Samm Fricke to the Team!

Tavistock Books welcomes its newest member into the fold – Ms. Samm Fricke! After over a decade of experience in new/used book business, Samm is beginning the next phase of her life in the antiquarian book business – a step we are happy to watch her take, right here at Tavistock Books!

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Where are you from? Tell us a bit about yourself.

I grew up in Sonoma County, Ca.  I have worked in bookstores on the West Coast and East Coast for about 10 years.  I started this bookstore career endeavor after graduating high school when I concluded I did not want to go to college. My thought was why would I pay to learn and most likely go into debt when I can read what I want when I want and still make a living.  I don’t regret this decision.   Though most of these have been “new” bookstores, it was in Philadelphia where I finally started working at a general used bookstore as well as a public library, something I wanted to try for some time.

What is your favorite book and why? Do you have a favorite literary genre?

I have never been one to narrow things down to one favorite, whether a book, a record or a food.  I love the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy series, I do have the words ‘don’t panic’ tattooed on me.  Audre Lorde is a personal hero for me, Sister Outsider changed the way I think and move through the world; especially the essay The Transformation of Silence into Language and Action.  To sum it up though: literary fiction, science fiction, essays/criticism, social politics and music genre/musician biographies.

What drew you to rare books in the beginning? We know that this is not your first job in the book world, but it is your first job in the antiquarian book world! Tell us more about your book journey.

To be honest, I wasn’t necessarily drawn to antiquarian books specially, I was drawn to the book trade as a whole.  Being from the Bay Area I see technology exploding and the printed word is dying (though there are many people bring it back and preserving it now).  I started by getting a bookstore job instead of going to college but then that lead me to meet other book nerds, women who have been slinging books for 20 years, authors (local and well-kown) next thing I knew I was engulfed in a the multi-demensional world of books.  I told myself I wanted to dapple in a little bit everything regarding books and the printed word before I conclude what type of work I wanted to start on my own in the field.  So far I am moving right along.  I started with Copperfield’s in Sonoma County, then moved to Books, Inc. in Alameda for 8 years.  It was through Books, Inc. I met Michael Grant (childrens’ author of the GONE series) where I worked as his email assistant for a couple years. 

I moved to Brooklyn, NY in 2010 where I got a job at BookCourt in downtown Brooklyn, a family run literary bookshop.  After I came back from NY, I changed it up and worked as a secretary for a veterinarian (I also love animals!).  I needed to reassess, I needed to move onto something besides ‘new’ books. I then moved to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, where I got a job with Curtis Kise at Neighborhood Books. He ran a general used book shop and he really taught me a lot in the year I worked with him. It was very different from the new book stores I had been working. As that was part-time I also (luckily!) got a job at a small community library- another side of books I wanted to explore.  Now I am back in the East Bay giving antiquarian books a try, so far it is not disappointing! 

What would you say is the neatest or most interesting bookstore/library that you have ever been inside of? What would you consider the most interesting book or item you’ve ever been exposed to in the antiquarian trade?

I have been visiting bookstores for years, in every city I have been in.  An independent bookstore is a work of art, it caters to a neighborhood, a specific genre or shows the personality of the owner/buyer.  Each one is unique, it’s difficult to pick one.  The big ones, The Strand and Powell’s are obviously amazing, but the smaller,  more intimate ones are very special to me i.e Modern Times (closed), Green Apple, Pegasus etc.   As for libraries, I use them regularly and visit them in each city.  They always strike me with their beauty, especially the older, main branches.  I actually have a favorite spot in the Oakland Public Library downtown, a hidden table in a corner by a window where I go to read or work.  The staircase at the Philadelphia Library (main branch) always makes me feel like royalty when walking it! 

As for the most interesting item or book I have seen in the antiquarian trade, I would have to say some art books and the local history books/items.  But honestly I have not been in the trade long enough to answer that question fully.

What are you most looking forward to with the position at Tavistock Books?  

There is so much I am looking forward to!  Cataloguing books will fill my desire and love for research, getting exposed to new titles that interest me that I otherwise would not have known existed and learning about book and paper production- I have a special interest in book making and repairing!

What do you think will be the toughest part of learning the antiquarian book business? And what do you think will be easy? 

The toughest part, based on what I have experienced in the past month with Tavistock Books, is learning all the different parts and materials of the books.  Pretty much just mastering the ABC for Book Collectors by John Cater.  Vic gave me this as required reading when I started and I just need to apply the terms and hold in my hands examples of them, which will come with time. The easiest is how to research titles, once I know all the resources I think it will be really fun and easy to gather information and pricing on titles.

Where do you eventually hope to take the position? Are you planning on using your knowledge of the book trade to open a business yourself one day, etc?

Like I mentioned earlier, I am trying out all the moving parts of the book business.  But I would like to open my own store some day, not sure much more beyond that. I am still in my learning stages, I think Tavistock Books is a great place to start in the antiquarian trade and I feel  honored that Vic gave me chance!

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Samm’s first foray into Tavistock Books was to recently assist Vic at the March Sacramento Antiquarian Book Fair!

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The Statute of Anne, and Other Copyright Tales

As antiquarian booksellers we all know what the copyright of a title is. We know where to find it, how to interpret it and what it means. But do we know how it came into being? I would venture to guess that more than a few of us are in the dark about how copyright laws came into existence to begin with! Today we would like to particularly focus on the Statute of Anne – otherwise known as the Copyright Act of 1710, which went into effect 308 years ago today – and how it drastically changed how copyright law worked in Great Britain, naming the author, rather than the publisher, as the holder of the copyright!

The crest of the Stationers Company in Great Britain.

The crest of the Stationers Company in Great Britain.

Prior to 1710, the law in effect in Great Britain was the Licensing of the Press Act 1662. Following the spread of the printing press brought over to the UK by William Caxton in 1476 (a prior blog on which you can read here), publishing and printing was widespread and copyright virtually nonexistent. The Licensing of the Press Act was enforced by a highly regarded guild of printers – the Stationers’ Company – who were given the “exclusive power to print and responsibility to censor literary works”. The censorship was thoroughly hated and disputed often, leading to public protests throughout Great Britain. As the Act needed to be renewed every two years to remain valid, authors and smaller printers protested its renewal repeatedly. Finally their efforts paid off in 1694, when Parliament refused to renew the Licensing Act, acknowledging that the ability of only a select few to print the works of an entire country had led to an unhealthy monopoly in the printing business.

After the dissolution of the Copyright Act, authors were finally able to join the fray - standing up beside the stationers/publishers petitioning Parliament for a new system. Jonathan Swift and Daniel Defoe were two of the most notable authors of the time calling for new licensing (in particular calling for authors to have power over their own work). In 1705 Defoe wrote that without current licensing, “One Man Studies Seven Year, to bring a finish’d Peice into the World, and a Pyrate Printer, Reprints his Copy immediately, and Sells it for a quarter of the Price … these things call for an Act of Parliament”. Suddenly the lobbyists saw an opportunity – rather than lobbying because they were losing out on profit due to lack of licensing, they chose to lobby for the authors instead – their “hearts-of-gold” (we use this term loosely) winning out in the end. They argued for licensing to be reinstated, but with reference to authors – to guarantee them an income – and arguing that without the ability to make a profit from their work, “learned men will be wholly discouraged from propagating the most useful Parts of Knowledge and Literature” (stationer John Howe, 1706).

With the sudden support of authors and other “learned men”, stationers had bigger and better forces and petitioned Parliament in both 1707 and 1709 to write a bill providing copyright to authors (and the publisher they are able to use, obviously). Parliament finally took note and, whatever the motivations of the passage, a bill was finally passed on April 5th, 1710, and is known as the Statute of Anne due to its being passed during Queen Anne’s reign. It consisted of 11 main sections, and its most important and obvious part was the right to copy, “to have sole control over the printing and reprinting of books”, [with no provision to benefit the owner of this right after the sale. Problematic]. The right would “automatically be given to the author as soon as it was published, although they had the ability to license these rights to another person or company.”

Anne

Though the Statute of Anne was by no means perfect, and lawsuits arose after copyrights expired and other booksellers began printing works that had been copyrighted but not re-upped… yaddah, yaddah – it was absolutely the first time that the treatment of authors by printers was recognized and the first step toward a more public law - pressing for less monopoly on printing and therefore, simultaneously, easier spread of the written word.

 

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