Rare Book Monthly

Articles - September - 2010 Issue

Reference Books Can Help Set Value - Zoschak class earns a following in the trade

Vic zoschak

Vic Zoschak of Tavistock Books.


By Susan Halas

Why do book dealers need bibliographies? Why do book buyers and collectors need them too? Aren't those things that only benefit librarians and archivists?

Not so, says Vic Zoschak, 57, owner of Tavistock Books, an antiquarian bookseller in Alameda, Ca. He has gained quite a following with his annual class on using reference sources. Usually held in the spring, the free one day event will celebrate its seventh year in 2011. Space is filled on a first-come-first-serve basis and students arrive at his door from around the nation.

Zoschak is a firm believer in the "knowledge is power" approach. He advocates the use of the reference tools as a way to help set market value. "I see a lot of people making the transition from just selling used books to the antiquarian trade." In his opinion learning how to make good use of reference works is the fastest way to make upward progress in the world of bookselling.

"If people are going to spend serious money with you, they want the assurance you know what you're doing. One way to give that assurance is to cite a recognized authority."

Accurate citation important
That's where bibliography comes in - an accurate citation that you've actually looked up yourself from the appropriate source goes a long way toward establishing credibility. Perhaps more importantly, according to Zoschak, using and understanding the reference tools can go a long way toward setting accurate commercial value.

"On the internet everybody looks like an expert," he said. "But frequently they're not. I've had people sell me books with bibliographic citations that they've copied from somebody else. They didn't check it themselves; they were wrong. This kind of mistake hurts their credibility. The way I see it, the customer can get his money back, but the dealer will have a much harder time getting back his reputation."

The class is a fast tour through some of the basic reference works in Literature including Modern First Editions, Americana with an emphasis on California and the West, Children's Books, Hand-Printed Books, and On-Line Reference Sources.

Answers three questions
According to Zoschak students, dealers, collectors and librarians typically want the answers to three questions:

1. What is it? (usually edition, though not always).

2. Is it complete, i.e., all text, illustrations, maps, etc, present?

3. Why is it important?

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