Books About Books, Bibliography and the Oak Knoll Fest
Catalogue 270 from Oak Knoll Books.
By Michael Stillman
Oak Knoll Books' latest catalogue, number 270, offers a new selection of titles in their areas of specialty, books about books and the book arts. This catalogue is divided into three sections, Oak Knoll Fest books, books about books, and bibliography and reference books. There are 703 items listed.
Oak Knoll Fest is the bookseller's annual gathering in New Castle, Delaware, which brings many specialty printers together. Of course, others who would like to meet representatives of these presses are welcome, so mark your calendars for October 7 and 8 of this year for the next annual get together. This section of the catalogue contains items from the presses of firms that participated in at least one of the last three Oak Knoll Fests. This includes names like Aralia, Arion, Bird and Bull, Incline, Tern, Whittington, and many more. In most cases, it's more the quality of the printing, binding, illustration, etc., that is of significance than the particular title itself. However, a few titles are notably intriguing, such as The Area Code of God, The First Poet Travels to the Moon, and Being Boring. I'm not sure I'd like to read the latter.
Next, here are a few samples of the "books about books" being offered. Here's an interesting title for those who collect early children's books: A Moral Tale, Children's Fiction and American Culture, 1820-1860. This 1975 books describes how children's fiction of the era reflects American culture and values of the time. After all, while children's stories ostensibly are meant to entertain, they are a primary method of inculcating the values and beliefs we want our offspring to adopt. Item 232, written by Anne MacLeod. Priced at $25.
Here's a worthy addition if you are one of the many who collects Grabhorns: Memorium Edwin Grabhorn 1889-1968, by David Magee. This is one of 150 copies of this 1969 tribute printed at the Grabhorn Press and presented to members of the Roxburghe Club. It includes photographs of Grabhorn on the job and samples of his work. Item 291. $375.
This is an item that's even better than a complete bibliography - it's all of the author's works themselves. Item 335 is a Limited Editions Club printing, The Complete Andersen: All of the 168 Stories by Hans Christian Andersen (Some never before translated into English, and a few never before published)... This six-volume 1949 set is perfect for either a Limited Editions Club or Andersen collector. $450.
Item 480 will make great reading for anyone interested in book forgeries. It consists of letters between two of the most notable forgers of our or any time. The title of Fannie Ratchford's book is, Between the Lines, Letters and Memoranda Interchanged by H. Buxton Forman and Thomas J. Wise. Wise, in particular, is noted for his skillful forgeries, many of which ended up unwittingly in the University of Texas' library. The "between the lines" heading indicates the two attempted to be circumspect in what they wrote, but Oak Knoll notes, "This amazing book establishes beyond doubt the fact that Wise and Forman conspired to produce forgeries." $120.
Books About Books, Bibliography and the Oak Knoll Fest
Illustration by Joan Hassall.
Here is the story of another master forger. Mark Hoffman made a name for himself in Mormon circles by creating historic documents, some of which raised questions about the foundations of the faith. His most notable document was the so-called "Salamander Letter," which showed Mormon founder Joseph Smith involved in folk magic. As so often happens with a life of crime, questions arose and the tumbling of Hoffman's house of cards led him to commit two murders. Item 311 is Salamander, the Story of the Mormon Forgery Murders, by Linda Sillitoe and Allen Roberts. Today, manuscript dealer Hoffman resides at the Utah State Penitentiary, where he shall remain for eternity. $35.
Now for an unusual title, The Snouters, from the Life of the Rhinogrades, by Harald Stumpke (say, his name is unusual too). Snouters are technically members of the family of Rhinogrades, animals that have well-developed snouts. Some can actually walk upon them; others catch food with their snouts. They are apparently somewhat akin to elephants, but with far more developed noses. They lived only on a Pacific island, but unfortunately, they accidentally perished as a result of atomic bomb testing. Sadly, so too did Professor Stumpke, their discoverer. Of course, if you believe any of this, you are quite gullible. "Stumpke" was Gerolf Steiner, a German zoology professor, who invented the entire natural history spoof. However, the story is entertaining enough for the work to have been translated into several languages. Item 445 is in English, published for the American Museum of Natural History in 1967. $17.50.
Joan Hassall was one of the more notable illustrators of the 20th century, most noted for her wood engravings. While her work is well known, its creator is more obscure. Item 276, edited by Brian Lee, will help correct that shortcoming. The book is Dearest Joana, a Selection of Joan Hassall's Lifetime Letters and Art. Published in 2001 (Ms. Hassall died in 1988), it includes letters to family and friends over much of her life. Sixty of her wood engravings plus other art is pictured. This is from a limited edition of just 40 copies. $1,350.
The final catalogue section contains bibliographies. They run from the familiar, such as bibliographies of famous authors, events, and presses, to the obscure, such as Books on Poultry and Cockfighting... or The Lighter Than Air Society Collection (balloons). If you are looking for a bibliography on any subject, no matter how obscure, give Oak Knoll Books a call. They just might have it. Their phone number is 302-328-7232. The website is www.oakknoll.com.