Books About More Than Just Books From Oak Knoll
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.