Books About More Than Just Books From Oak Knoll
Oak Knoll's Catalogue 273.
By Michael Stillman
Oak Knoll Books has issued its 273rd catalogue, and this fits the Oak Knoll mold. The firm specializes in "books about books" and bibliography, and its catalogues are always among the most extensive we receive (this one has almost 900 items). However, some of the items seem hard to categorize as "books about books," so collectors not focused on this field should also take a look at their catalogues. Some of the items are a bit unexpected.
This edition includes many biographies written by booksellers, or books about them. There are too many to mention, and we would not want to be partial anyway, but if you are interested in the careers of famous booksellers, or perhaps are looking for some tips from them, you should get a copy of this catalogue. There is also a good selection of children's books, and again, for the sake of impartiality, we don't want to mention any names (but how could we ignore that of Babar, the French elephant?). Additionally, there are several local histories and genealogies, particularly from around Oak Knoll's neighborhood (Delaware, Pennsylvania, New Jersey). Here are a few books we found in their latest catalogue.
Item 49 is not the typical Oak Knoll Book. It is Point Lookout Prison Camp for Confederates, by (and signed by) Edwin Beitzell, published in 1972. This book looks at the Civil War prison camp through which some 50,000 Confederate prisoners passed. When prisoner exchange programs were discontinued in 1864, the population swelled far beyond official capacity, and conditions became horrific. Additionally, rations were cut to prisoners in retaliation for poor conditions in Confederate prisons. Almost 4,000 prisoners died there, at least according to official statistics, though some people believe the number was higher. This book contains the names of those known to have died in the prison, along with information gathered from many sources, including personal diaries, to tell the story of this most unhappy place. $75.
Item 381 is John Peter Zenger and his Fight for Freedom of the American Press. Zenger was the 18th century crusading New York newspaperman who established the right to print the truth, even if it was unpleasant to those in authority. This book was edited by Charles Heartman, the famed bookseller from the first half of the twentieth century (many of his catalogues and auction records are available to subscribers of the AE database). This book was published during the bicentennial celebration of Zenger's famous trial (1934), and includes bound in a copy of one of Zenger's four-page newspapers. $250.
For those who like fakes, item 542 is The Third Eye, the Autobiography of a Tibetan Lama, by Tuesday Lobsang Rampa, published in 1957. Rampa was supposedly a well-studied Tibetan who had trained to become a lama. He had then undergone an operation to open a third eye in the middle of his forehead which gave him amazing psychic powers. One can only wonder how anyone could have taken this story seriously, but apparently people did. However, some suspicious British scholars hired a private investigator to check up on Rampa, and the investigator found that he was actually Englishman Cyril Henry Hoskins, son of a plumber, who had never been to Tibet nor had any surgery on his forehead. He was no more a lama than a llama. $35.
Books About More Than Just Books From Oak Knoll
One of the many catalogues in the Thomas Nelson and Sons collection.
For those who collect a more serious type of fraud, item 235 is the auction catalogue for The Library of the Late H. Buxton Forman (3 volumes). Forman was master forger Thomas Wise's comrade in unarmed frauds. However, his forgeries would not be discovered until more than a decade after Forman's death. At the time Anderson Galleries auctioned Forman's library (1920), the revelation of Wise's fraud and Forman's complicity was still a long way off. In looking over the catalogue, Oak Knoll notes that "even a brief spot check using one of the standard lists reveals the presence of several forgeries in this sale." One of the books in this sale contained correspondence between Wise and Forman tucked inside the cover which clearly established their conspiracy, though the buyer, noted collector Carl Pforzheimer, kept it under wraps for many years. $120.
Speaking of these frauds, item 718 is a genuine Wise forgery, if that isn't an oxymoron. The book is The Devil's Due, A Letter to the Editor of "The Examiner." The pamphlet is dated 1875. Bound in is a letter to the original buyer, John Spoor, stating that "less than" six copies are known, and that it was suppressed, no copies being known until 1897. "It is still quite unknown to many collectors." Oak Knoll points out that the reason this "1875" work was unknown until 1897 was that Wise didn't create the forgery until 1896. $1,000.
After his death, the library of the duped Mr. Spoor went up for sale at Parke-Bernet in 1939. Spoor purchased some 50 Wise forgeries. His auction catalogue is titled First Editions of English XVIII-XIX Century and American XIX Century Authors. Item 866. $65.
One more Wise item. It is a 1930 edition of his Ashley Library, a Catalogue...Collected by Thomas James Wise. This one includes an inscription by Wise to legendary bookseller A.S.W. Rosenbach. Rosenbach later revealed that he had known Wise to be a forger fifteen years before he was exposed, but did not want to say anything which would damage the reputation of a friend. Rosenbach was indeed a good friend to Wise, but perhaps not so to the others who unwarily purchased his forgeries. Item 887. $750.
Item 618 is Lester Sobel's Pornography, Obscenity and the Law (1979). We know at least two of those topics are of great interest. $25.
Item 830 is a large collection of catalogues and other material from British publisher Thomas Nelson and Sons. Items run from 1878-1973. This will be a wonderful resource for anyone who handles many of Nelson's books. Among their specialties were religious, educational and children's books. There are over 170 items in the collection. $850.
Oak Knoll Books may be found at www.oakknoll.com, phone number 302-328-7232.