Rare Book Monthly

Articles - November - 2012 Issue

Oak Knoll at 300

The only way to get to 300 is to issue 300. Congratulations!

Bob Fleck, the founder of Oak Knoll Books in New Castle, Delaware recently passed by one of those milestones you cannot quickly reach, the issuance of his 300th catalogue.  Few houses get this far and many that have are now the famous, even storied stalwarts of the valuable and collectible book field.  Maggs Brothers, Sotherans, and Bernard Quaritch in London, George MacManus in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania, and Goodspeed’s in Boston come to mind as prolific multi-generational booksellers who have reached this mark.   There are others of course but its an exclusive group.  Like hitting 300 major league home runs it takes skill, luck and many years.
   

Bob, an engineer by training and a bibliophile himself, brought a flexible approach to his business that has helped him find success into his fourth decade as a bookseller.  “Staying relevant has required staying focused.  The business has been changing.”

He recalls posting his material on line for the first time in the mid-1980s.  “It was easy then.  There weren’t so many listings.”  Over the past 10 years it has become much more competitive.

Since 1978 he’s also been publishing as the Oak Knoll Press and found the symbiotic relationship of these businesses beneficial to both.  The Press publishes about 25 titles a year.

Looking ahead he’s optimistic and explains, “It’s in my nature.  I see possibilities.”  His son Rob, now 27, is working with him and this is something he appreciates.

 

Reflecting on the many changes since he started in 1976 he mentions the slow decline in traditional book fairs and bookshops.  An ever-higher percentage of our sales are on line and subject to very competitive pricing but also notes that the Oak Knoll Fest [XVIII] with symposiums and discussions that he runs in New Castle [and just completed recently] is very strong.  “It’s part of being flexible.”

Catalogues of course remain important although the number of catalogues issued has declined.  “For years we issued 12 a year.  This year its 4.”  The business is increasingly online.

It is perhaps best to think of Bob as a bronco rider.  He knows how to ride but you never really know the horse.  The book field is like that anymore.  It changes and Bob is an old hand at adjusting.

For the signal event of issuing his 300th catalogue his team has assembled a 271 item, 152 page full color 8x11” catalogue.  It includes material in many of the categories he has been active in over the past 36 years:

Bookbinding

Book Collecting, Bookselling and Publishing History

Book Illustration

Cartography

Delaware History

Book and Graphic Design

Private and Fine Press

Papermaking

Printing History

Reference and Bibliography

Type Specimens

Writing and Calligraphy

Here are links to Catalogue 300.  You can order by phone or email.  On the Oak Knoll site you can also search all of their roughly 22,000 items.

The Oak Knoll website:  http://www.oakknoll.com/

Telephone:  302.328.7232

Rare Book Monthly

  • Il Ponte, Feb. 27-28: KUPKA, Frantisek (1871-1957) - Quatre histoires de blanc et noir. Paris: Marcel Baque, 1926. €5.000-€8.000
    Il Ponte, Feb. 27-28: VASI, Giuseppe Agostino (1710-1782) - Raccolta delle più belle vedute antiche, e moderne di Roma disegnate ed incise secondo lo stato presente. Rome: A. Vasi, 1786. €4.000-€6.000
    Il Ponte, Feb. 27-28: SALAMANCA, Antonio (1478-1562) - [First map depicting the bay of Naples]. [Rome: 1538]. €3.000-€5.000
  • Bonhams, Ending Feb. 21: A JAMES MADISON THANKSGIVING PROCLAMATION. $12,000 - $18,000
    Bonhams, Ending Feb. 21: A JAMES MONROE PRESIDENTIAL SERVICE SOUP BOWL. $6,000 - $9,000
    Bonhams, Ending Feb. 21: A FRANKLIN PIERCE BRUSHED SILK TOP HAT. $10,000 - $15,000
    Bonhams, Ending Feb. 21: LINCOLN ENDORSEMENT: "I AM ALWAYS FOR THE MAN WHO WISHES TO WORK." $15,000 - $20,000
    Bonhams, Ending Feb. 21: A RUTHERFORD B. HAYES CIVIL WAR-ERA TRAVEL DESK. $4,000 - $6,000
    Bonhams, Ending Feb. 21: FRANKLIN D. ROOSEVELT'S FINAL PRESIDENTIAL AUTOMOBILE FLAG. $20,000 - $30,000
    Bonhams, Ending Feb. 21: GARFIELD LS AS PRESIDENT ALLUDING TO THE "STAR-ROUTE" SCANDAL: "REGRETTING THE EMBARRASSMENTS WHICH THE EVENT HAS CAUSED US BOTH." $25,000 - $35,000
    Bonhams, Ending Feb. 21: AN 18K GOLD AND ENAMEL WILLIAM MCKINLEY INAGURATION POCKETWATCH. $15,000 - $20,000
    Bonhams, Ending Feb. 21: A JOHN F. KENNEDY PRESIDENTIAL MOTORCADE FLAG. $80,000 - $120,000
    Bonhams, Ending Feb. 21: PRESIDENT KENNEDY'S LAST DAY: OFFICIAL SCHEDULE ANNOTATED BY SPECIAL ASSISTANT DAVE POWERS WITH A MINUTE-BY-MINUTE DETAIL OF THE DAY'S ACTIONS. $40,000 - $60,000
  • Sotheby’s
    Modern First Editions
    Available for Immediate Purchase
    Sotheby’s, Available Now: Winston Churchill. The Second World War. Set of First-Edition Volumes. 6,000 USD
    Sotheby’s, Available Now: A.A. Milne, Ernest H. Shepard. A Collection of The Pooh Books. Set of First-Editions. 18,600 USD
    Sotheby’s, Available Now: Salvador Dalí, Lewis Carroll. Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. Finely Bound and Signed Limited Edition. 15,000 USD
    Sotheby’s
    Modern First Editions
    Available for Immediate Purchase
    Sotheby’s, Available Now: Ian Fleming. Live and Let Die. First Edition. 9,500 USD
    Sotheby’s, Available Now: J.K. Rowling. Harry Potter Series. Finely Bound First Printing Set of Complete Series. 5,650 USD
    Sotheby’s, Available Now: Ernest Hemingway. A Farewell to Arms. First Edition, First Printing. 4,200 USD

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