Tag Archives: University of Virginia

An Interview with… A Record Breaking Rare Book School Attendee! (Who also Happens to be the Head of Tavistock Books)

The Lord and Master of Tavistock Books recently finished his 21st course at Rare Book School in Charlottesville, Virginia, having started this love-affair back in 1998! To know more, read on!

So, Vic, you’ve just finished another summer at RBS! How was it?

Let’s start with the word, “Inauspicious.”  Not a word one would normally associate with Rare Book School, at the University of Virginia, Charlottesville [or, to those with some familiarity, C'Ville].  But the word applies this year.  Why?  Because after flying 5 hours Saturday from SFO to IAD, then waiting another 7-1/2 hours for the regional flight down to C’Ville [scheduled 10 pm departure, delayed 3 times], IT WAS CANCELLED BY UNITED AT 12:30 am that night!  Can you say Super Shuttle?  The end result- I didn’t get to sleep till 3 am that Sunday morning.  Yikes, was I a tired puppy that day!
However, as in most such situations, there was a silver lining.  Guess who was also waiting for the flight to C’Ville?  Terry Belanger, Founding Director of Rare Book School.  So, at least, during that ‘delay’ time Terry & I were able to converse on many divers topics.
And you ask, “How was it?”   Simply…  great.  I’ve taken a goodly number of courses [21, since 1998], and all have had aspects of greatness.  This one, THE HANDWRITING & CULTURE OF EARLY MODERN ENGLISH MANUSCRIPTS, taught by the paleography expert, and very personable, Heather Wolfe, Curator of Manuscripts of the Folger Shakespeare Library, I would rate in my Top Ten.
How many times have you been to RBS? You hold the record for attendance, no?

Yes, with 21, I’ve been told I now hold the record for “Most courses attended”.

The beautiful Alderman Library, where, deep down inside you can find dozens of RBS students!

The beautiful Alderman Library, where, deep down inside you can find dozens of RBS students!

Why go every year?

A couple reasons…  first, RBS is the premier place where one can find week-long subject-specialty courses on the many divers aspects of the ‘Rare Book World’.  And I believe knowledge is a ‘critical success factor’ for those in the antiquarian book trade, so these courses add to my  knowledge base.

Second, there are few other places where you’ll find, all at one time, ~ 60 other like-minded folks all not only willing, but eager, to discuss rare books.  Such not the case in Alameda CA, where on a given day, I’ll see Steve the Postman & that’s about it!  So in C’Ville, one can’t help but make bookish friends…  I’m still in touch with folk I met at RBS in 1998, and subsequently.
Third, it’s just plain fun!  C’Ville is a fantastic college town, with some wonderful restaurants, and a goodly number of bookstores.  What’s not to like?
What, in your opinion, was the best thing about the course you took this summer?

The course focused on the English Secretarial hand, a script, for the most part, totally impermeable to me prior to July 20th.  This not to say I’m now fully conversant, not by a long shot, but now I have the tools to decipher much of what I’ll find in front of me.  The challenge going forward will be to maintain that little progress I made during the week.

As to the day-to-day schedule, I haven’t detailed that here, for Cynthia Gibson did it recently for an ABAA blog post.  My day-to-day was similar, albeit with a different subject.
Not that it’s a contest, but could you tell us your favorite course ever taken?

Probably ILLUSTRATIVE PROCESSES, my first course, taught by Terry Belanger, taken back in 1998.

Would you tell every book enthusiast to go to RBS every year?

Well, certainly I advocate it.  I so much believe in what RBS can provide to an antiquarian bookseller that I established the Tavistock Books Educational scholarship back in 2011 [2012?].  For a young bookseller, I’ll pay the tuition to the RBS course REFERENCE SOURCES FOR RESEARCHING RARE BOOKS, taught by Joel Silver, Directory of the Lilly Library [for those interested, details can be found on the RBS website].  So yes, you could say I would tell all to go every year, as I certainly follow my own advice!

When book-minded people get together, dinners and drinks are common occurrences! What is your favorite social aspect of the weeks?

Vic (far rear on the right) and clan at Hamilton's on the last night of RBS!

Vic (far rear on the right) and clan at Hamilton’s on the last night of RBS!

Sunday night, after the opening reception/talk, folks sign up for a meal at a nearby restaurant.  It’s a great ice-breaker for ~ 10 people to get to know each other, as well as sample the fare of the local eateries.  Our 10 ended up at Michael’s Bistro & Taproom, a C’Ville institution.  And then Thursday night is bookseller night, where the local bookstores stay open a bit later to accommodate the RBS student’s schedule.  After, I always get a half-dozen or so folk to join  me at Hamilton’s on the Mall.  Been going there since ’98, and haven’t ever had a bad meal, not even a so-so one.

If you stay on the Lawn, then one social aspect is the gathering of folk outside one room or another, and drinking, talking, playing music.  Very social…  and one can always tell the next morning those that joined in!
All-in-all, a lovely week, and I met some terrific folks I know will be friends for a long time.  And while I’m a bit wistful that it’s all over so quickly, I look forward to next October, when the RBS staff announces the 2016 schedule.  I’ll be there, you?
Click here to learn more about Rare Book School!

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!