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!
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!