More "Books About Books" from Oak Knoll
By Michael Stillman
Oak Knoll Books has released their Catalogue 294 of Books About Books. Oak Knoll defines "books about books" as "a large field encompassing books on bibliography, printing, binding, illustration, papermaking, bookplates, type specimens, calligraphy, bookselling, publishing, book design, book-collecting, and examples of fine printing." In other words, just about anything pertaining to the physical book or its appearance, as opposed to the textual material within, fits the "books about books" category. Oak Knoll has for decades been a leader in supplying such material. Here are some of the titles from this latest catalogue.
Everyone would love to own a Gutenberg Bible, but even if you could find one for sale, it would be financially out of reach of most everyone. These days, a single leaf goes for $50,000. It is hard to imagine how many tens or hundreds of millions of dollars a complete copy would be worth. However, it is available in a more affordable edition, a facsimile of the complete Bible published in 1968 by Brussel and Brussel. This is as close to the real thing as you are likely to come, and it is available for the much more affordable price of $250. Item 112.
Item 14 is sort of a biography of a book, which comes with two unused plates intended for the original issues of it. The title is Jacob Bigelow's American Medical Botany, 1817-1821. An Examination of the Origin, Printing, Binding and Distribution of America's First Color Plate Book, by Richard J. Wolfe. Bigelow was both physician and botanist, as well as a self-taught artist. However, despite his forward-thinking ideas in terms of the use of botanical ingredients to help cure disease, as opposed to harsher chemicals used at the time, he is probably better remembered for producing America's first color-plate book. He originally published this book with plates produced the old-fashioned way - colored by hand. However, to increase production, he devised a system of color printing. This brings us to the two leaves that accompany this 1979 "biography." Bigelow printed extra plates for later binding as demand was expected to continue for his book, but once he devised his color printing process, he no longer needed the extra plates intended to be colored by hand. They remained unused, until this limited edition of 300 copies called for the inclusion of 600 of them. One of the accompanying plates was colored in advance for inclusion in later copies, while the other is uncolored. $600.
Item 187 is certainly a book about books. It is a bound edition of five salesman's dummies for books published circa 1909. In those days, salesmen would solicit subscribers, often door-to-door, to order their books. This salesman must have been representing at least these five. Included in this collection are samples from Good Times at Home, a book of all sorts of entertainment such as poems, games, songs, biographies and such, designed to keep the pre-television, even pre-radio home entertained, and Roosevelt's African Trip, an account of a trip by the then recently retired and extremely popular former President into the wilds of Africa. $135.
Item 5 is an interesting work for the field of papermaking: Three Lions and the Cross of Lorraine... by Howell Heaney, Lotte Hellinga and Richard Hills. This collection of four essays was published by Henry Morris' Bird and Bull Press in 1992. It pertains to the first book printed on paper made in England, De Proprietatibus Rerum, circa 1495, from the press of Wynkyn De Worde. It includes 19 facsimiles of woodcuts from that work, along with two actual leaves taken from a defective copy. $2,250.
For those seeking that special lady from Baltimore, there's The Baltimore Society Directory, and Ladies Visiting and Shopping Guide, Containing the Names and Addresses of Ladies Residing in Baltimore. Those hoping to track down a Baltimore lady at home through this guide should have a taste for older women as it was published in 1878. The book contains numerous advertisements for various Baltimore businesses, including a color chromolithograph for lithographer A. Hoen & Co. Item 29. $250.
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