Some Books-on-Books Titles That Might Be Missing from Your Reference Library

Do you ever wonder what the most useful reference books are for your collection? Whether you are a bookseller, a librarian or even just a customer, it is important to know what you are buying, what you are selling, and what you’ve got! Reference books are one of the keys to being a responsible cataloguer, no matter your position. We at Tavistock Books boast a collection of over 3,000 reference titles from all walks of the antiquarian book world. Noting proof of what we’re selling is a top priority for us (as it should also be for you)! Not only do we offer a semi-annual Reference Book Workshop at Tavistock Books in August, but we also offer our library to trusted friends and colleagues anytime they have use of it. Interested in attending our Reference Book Workshop? Email for more information on it! In the meantime, allow our master Vic Zoschak, Jr. to give you a run-down on some of our all-time favorites and the ones that come in most handy around Tavistock Books on a regular basis! Don’t forget – though we have certain specialties, we operate mainly as a generalist store with a variety of interests, and therefore have favorites in many categories!

A shot from our workshop in August, 2014.

A shot from our workshop in August, 2014.

1.  New Cambridge Bibliography of English Literature, 660 – 1950.  Cambridge, 1970s.  5 vols, with the 5th vol an Index volume.  More a checklist than a detailed bibliography, it’s nevertheless voluminous in its coverage of UK authors, and probably is the only bibliographic source for many.  I’ll probably have to get Vol 3 (19th C) rebound, I’ve used it so much over the years.  It sits within arm-reach of my desk.

Screen Shot 2016-07-06 at 10.29.19 AM2.  Cowan.  A Bibliography of the History of California, 1510 – 1930.  First published in 1914, with a revised edition issued in 1933.  I use the 1964 reprint, which includes the supplemental Vol IV, issued that year.  If you’re a California bookseller, you’ll get asked for California books & so you’ll need it. And if you collect, or sell, books regarding the far West, it’s indispensable.


3.  Bibliography of American Literature.  Otherwise known as the BAL.  First volume [Adams to Byrne] issued by the Yale University Press in 1955, compiled & edited by the incomparable bibliographer, Jacob Blanck.  Final, and 9th volume [Westcott to Wylie], was edited & compiled by Michael Winship, and issued by the Press in 1991, so the 9 volumes almost 40 years in the making.  It includes all 1sts [plus other stuff, see “Inclusions”, volume I], chronologically listed, of the authors included in the set, which were those that died 1930 or earlier.  All the major names [and many minor names] are included, e.g., Alcott, Clemens, James, et al.  If you’re going to do pre-1930 American lit, this set a must.

Our 1st edition copy of Eckel's Bibliography from 1913 is for sale here>

Our 1st edition copy of Eckel’s Bibliography from 1913 is for sale here>

4.  Eckel.  The First Editions of the Writings of Charles Dickens Their Points and Values.  London: 1932.  2nd Revised Edition.  As a Dickens specialist, this a ‘must have’ for me, as it covers all his primary writings, his secondary ones, and loads of other stuff.  In other words, much bang for the buck.  And even though published over 80 years ago, with some data superceded by more recent scholarship, it’s still a relevant bibliography for a general antiquarian bookseller, or Dickens collector.  For the budget minded, there are many less-costly reprints out there.


5.  Baumgarten.  Price Guide and Bibliographic Checklist for Children’s & Illustrated Books 1880 – 1970 [2004 Edition, which is the latest I believe].  Again, a good ‘bang for the buck’ reference for the general antiquarian shop and/or collector of children’s literature.  Over 18,000 entries, it gives you the data necessary to identify first editions, and while the pricing info is dated, it does give you a starting point with which one can extrapolate.

Now keep in mind that these are just the beginning of the pickings! We, as booksellers, use many, many reference books on a daily basis. And again, if you’ve ever been curious to know what you’ve got or how to figure out what you’ve got… they are indispensable! That is just one more reason to attend one of our Reference Book Workshops – where you’ll get a much broader idea of the important and most well-known reference books, what they cover and how to cite them correctly! Not to mention the ability to ask any reference question you need of the Reference-King Vic Zoschak! Contact us for more information! 


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