Tag Archives: Rare Book School

A Post-RBS Report from Tavistock Books Scholarship Winner Travis Low

Rare Book SchoolThis year Tavistock Books was pleased to offer a scholarship to Joel Silver’s excellent course, “Reference Sources for Researching Rare Books,” at Rare Book School (RBS). We found a worthy winner in Travis Low of Ken Sanders Rare Books. Travis started out as a shipping clerk and has taken advantage of numerous opportunities to expand his role. His new responsibilities often include researching new inventory, making this RBS course ideal. Travis checked in with us to share his RBS experience.

TavBooks: Tell us a little about the class you took, “Reference Sources for Researching Rare Books,” with Joel Silver.
Travis: A group of us sat around a large table taking copious notes while Mr. Silver imparted his reference book wizardry, guiding us through labyrinths of bibliographies, exhibition and auction catalogues, various lists of books, etc. While we mainly focused on reference books, we also learned a lot of valuable information about reliable online sources for researching books. This was extremely useful for the booksellers (like me), librarians, and collectors in the class, giving us the tools to do better research in any field for collecting or selling. For me, the class also sparked a lot of new ideas and strategies for cataloguing and book buying and selling.

TavBooks: How was the class structured? What was the learning environment like?
Travis: It was a fairly traditional lecture and discussion class, but with a lot of interaction with the books under discussion. We also had two very useful workbooks to interact with and take notes in. The floor was always open for questions and discussions. Mr. Silver’s knowledge base and ability to teach through instruction, interaction with material, storytelling, and personal anecdote were very impressive.

TavBooks: What was the most useful or immediately applicable lesson you learned?
Travis: It quickly became clear to me that, to some extent, any bookseller, librarian, or collector is about as good as their abilities to navigate and effectively use the reference materials in their relative fields and specialties. The class really opened my mind to the wealth of resources that are available in all fields. So, I’ve immediately become more interested in familiarizing myself with the reference literature in new and unfamiliar fields of interest, while making sure that I have all my bases covered in the fields that I already deal in on a regular basis.

TavBooks: What was the most challenging part of the course? The most interesting?
Travis: The most challenging part is simply grasping the breadth and depth of information that is available and learning the best methods and practices for engaging the material that is available. Sometimes it takes a clever mind to figure out which resources to consult to do effective research, especially with new or obscure material. The most interesting parts of the class were the stories that Mr. Silver shared about the formation of notable and well known collections, or the processes by which many of the bibliographies and catalogues were produced and the eccentric personalities that created them. These stories gave interesting perspectives and insight into various ways of approaching book collecting and selling. I find this very valuable as I continue to try to learn and grow and find my way in the book trade.

TavBooks: How did RBS complement your experience at the Colorado Antiquarian Book Seminar (CABS)?
Travis: CABS was amazing for giving a broad and general overview of many of the aspects of the book trade — a detailed map of the book world and how to engage with it. RBS goes deep into the details and particularities of specific subjects and areas of interests. I felt that CABS was the perfect gateway to attend RBS. Many of the things that I learned at CABS prepared me and gave me the proper background and context to be able to make the most out of my experience at RBS.

TavBooks: How would you describe RBS to someone who’d never heard of it before?
Travis: It is an enlightening and invigorating experience. Be sure that you are ready to absorb a lot of information, and take a lot of notes that you can use later. The classes go into a lot of depth, are very detailed, and are taught by the most interesting and knowledgeable professionals in the field. The campus and the living experience are a lot of fun at the University of Virginia, especially on ‘The Lawn’ where I stayed. The social experience is a lot of fun, providing many great opportunities for networking between classes, at lunches and dinners, and at other evening events, etc.

TavBooks: Which course are you hoping to take next?
Travis: I’m currently forming and deciding on a personalized course of action for the RBS’s new Certificate of Proficiency Program, which “allows students to create a specialized focus for their coursework at RBS and to earn formal recognition for their concentrated studies at the School.” My next class will probably be either “Introduction to the Principles of Bibliographic Description” or “Printed Books Since 1800: Description and Analysis.” But so many of the courses sound interesting! I hope to eventually take “Developing Collections: Donors, Libraries, and Booksellers,” and several of the courses that explore various aspects of illustration.

Based at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, Rare Book School offers a wide variety of courses addressing the art, history, and bibliography of the book. Taught by world experts in the field, these classes are geared not only toward antiquarian book sellers, but also librarians, collectors, and anyone else who embraces the book as an object. Please visit RBS online for more information.


Congratulations to Travis Low, Winner of the Tavistock Books RBS Scholarship!


Photo: Ashley Thalman, Fine Books & Collections

We’re extremely pleased to announce that Travis Low of Ken Sanders Rare Books has won this year’s Tavistock Books Scholarship to Rare Book School (RBS). Travis will take Joel Silver’s course, Reference Sources for Researching Rare Books, at RBS in Charlottesville, Virginia.

Rare Books through the Back Door

As many of us in this field do, Travis wears many hats at Ken Sanders Rare Books. He came in, almost literally, through the back door, starting out as a shipping clerk. Travis, who is also a documentary filmmaker, was shooting a documentary about writer and performance poet Alex Caldiero. Ken Sanders, a friend of Caldiero’s, appeared in the documentary, so Travis got to meet him. He’d been a customer of Ken Sanders Rare Books and asked if there were any employment opportunities.

He found the bookstore an incredibly collegial environment and has gotten involved in other aspects of the trade as opportunities arose. “Ken has been extremely supportive, and I’m gradually getting more involved in acquisition and description, so this RBS course seems like an excellent place to further my understanding,” says Travis.

As he delves further into the rare book world, research becomes increasingly important. “My favorite aspect of the book trade is when new books come into the store and we get to start digging through them. I find that pretty engaging and have a real affinity for the research required to learn something new about the publishers, the authors, and the books’ subject areas as well.”

The Start of an Ongoing Education

Last summer Travis attended the Colorado Antiquarian Books Seminar (CABS). The program gave him an excellent introduction to the world of rare books, and RBS will allow him to take a more specific, focused course in an area where he needs to grow. Travis noted that he’s been encouraged to further his education through RBS by many respected professionals: Ken Sanders, Melissa Sanders, and Terry Belanger had all stressed the value of the experience.

Travis says that he hopes this will be the first of many courses he takes at RBS. “I’ve spoken several times with Tavistock Books’ proprietor, Vic Zoschak, and he always talks about RBS as his way of continuing his education, and about how he feels an obligation to do that as a professional. That really resonated with me, and I feel compelled to constantly better myself.” After taking Reference Sources for Researching Rare Books, Travis would like to take the Introduction to the Principles of Bibliographical Description.

Travis Low grew up near Logan, UT. He studied Philosophy, Humanities, and Film at Utah Valley University. In January 2010, Travis began working at Ken Sanders Rare Books where he has found an encouraging and instructive working environment. In addition to being a full-time bookseller, he is also an active documentary filmmaker and a hibernating musician. He currently lives in Salt Lake City, UT.


Hit the Books with Us at RBS

Rare-Book-School-University-VirginiaWhen’s the last time you were in school? If you’re into antiquarian books, bibliography, or any other aspect of the printed word, it’s time to re-enroll. Rare Book School (RBS) offers an incredible array of courses taught by leading scholars in the field. This year, Tavistock Books is pleased to offer a scholarship to an RBS course for an excellent class taught by expert Dr. Joel Silver.

About Rare Book School

Founded in 1983, Rare Book School had its first home at Columbia University. The program moved to its current home, the University of Virginia, Charlottesville, in 1992. Each year RBS offers about 30 five-day courses related to old and rare books, special collections, and manuscripts. These courses, mostly offered in Charlottesville, are quite intensive; students attend all-day classes and often opt to participate in lectures and other bookish events in the evenings.

As RBS has grown, it has become much more than a collection of bookish classes; it’s now a mainstay of bibliographic education in the English-speaking world. Schools following the RBS model have been established globally. Meanwhile, in 2005 RBS expanded to offer courses at the Morgan Library & Museum and the Grolier Club, both in New York City. Some courses are now also offered in Washington, DC and Philadelphia.

Our RBS Scholarship

Tavistock Books is pleased to offer a full-tuition scholarship for Joel Silver’s course, “Reference Sources for Researching Rare Books” (L-25). The scholarship is available to all antiquarian booksellers interested in the course, and preference will be given to individuals who are early in their careers or who may not be able to attend RBS without the assistance of a scholarship.

The scholarship is offered every year that the course is taught at RBS, and the deadline for 2013 is rapidly approaching! To apply, you’ll need to submit your 2013 RBS summer application along with a cover letter that outlines your reasons for applying for the scholarship, your work in the antiquarian book trade, and any other relevant information.

About Joel Silver and His RBS Course

First offered in 2012, “Reference Resources for Researching Rare Books” (L-25) offers students a comprehensive overview of the myriad resources available for researching rare books. Emphasis is on early printed works; American and British literature; maps and atlases; science and medicine; historical Americana; voyages and travels; and the book arts. Students will systematically learn about approximately 350 printed and electronic reference sources, along with how each was compiled and the strengths and weaknesses of each resource.

Dr. Joel Silver is Associate Director and Curator of Books at Indiana University’s Lilly Library in Bloomington, where he’s been on the faculty since 1983. His articles have appeared in Fine Books & Collections Magazine and AB Bookman’s Weekly. Dr. Silver has taught many rare books-related courses at the Indiana University school of Library and Information Science, where he is the Director of Education for Special Collections.

If you have questions about RBS or the Tavistock Books Scholarship, please don’t hesitate to contact us!