Rare Book Monthly

Articles - May - 2019 Issue

Vic Zoschak and Tavistock Books: A 30th Anniversary for the President of the ABAA

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Vic Zoschak, 30 years in the trade and current President of the ABAA

For Vic Zoschak of Tavistock Books this April marked his 30th year in the rare book trade.  His experience as a rare book collector and dealer has spanned the most tumultuous years in modern times for what was once a rather sedentary, cerebral trade.  But, in considering this career that continues today, at the ripe age of 66, and which he hopes to continue on into his 80s, he expresses gratitude for the books, friends, travel and adventure the trade has brought him.  “I would absolutely do it again” and today he encourages, mentors and sponsors young [to the trade] booksellers as they find their footing in what continues to be the complex interaction of skills, experience, and material.  People who become bookdealers do not play checkers.  For them it’s chess.

 

Not surprisingly dealers often prefer the written word and so I sent a list of subjects and questions to which he replied.  We then talked the talk and I then prepared this piece which I asked him to edit and review for accuracy.

 

So here goes, the man behind the counter.

 

How I became a bookseller.

 

I started Tavistock Books in 1989, while still active in my U. S. Coast Guard career, and as an active collector of Charles Dickens material, then using the fledgling business to dispose of duplicates one invariably accumulates as a collector, and to, ahem, avail myself of the traditional trade discount on my purchases.  I got serious about bookselling in the early-to-mid 1990s, knowing my day job as a Coast Guard officer was coming to an end.  I retired from the Coast Guard 1 July 1997.  Coincidentally, that same year the Naval Air Station in Alameda, California closed, which occasioned depressed rents in the Alameda west end, creating an affordable opportunity to open a shop on Webster Street.  My shop's opening day, 15 July 1997, then came, 2 weeks after my CG retirement, where the Alameda mayor cut the ceremonial ribbon, and I officially opened my door to the book-buying hordes.  Well, that was the initial idea anyway. Even though the hordes never really appeared, that day was a highpoint in the 30 year career recently celebrated. I had become a full-fledged bookseller, although I’ve never entirely separated myself from the collector I’d long been.  Hence, to this day, as a memento, I’ve kept the ribbon the mayor cut as the doors opened and the throngs... well, I’ve learned to survive by other means.

 

My business concept always centered on “first editions, rare & collectible” [I had it painted on my shop windows] but I soon realized that meant a focus on mail order: catalogues and direct quotes.  Webster Street was fine as a place to keep the books, if not to actually sell them.  What would, in time, make the difference for me, was the then fledgling Internet that was blossoming into life.  Without it, I was in a quiet neighborhood in Alameda.  With it, I was out in the world and able to both buy and sell nationally and internationally.  In addition, in 1995, sponsored by Peter Howard, the bookselling guru on University Avenue in nearby Berkeley, I was accepted for membership in the ABAA and this ABAA membership offered important opportunities for gaining colleagues, knowledge, friends, networking and book show opportunities, not to mention conferring a stamp of professionalism and legitimacy.

 

As to my perspective on my 30 years as a bookseller, the field has been in transition.  Early on I would send letters with offers, wait several weeks for a reply and, frequently enough make a sale.  Understanding both the buyer and the material was crucial.  With the coming of the Internet the world grew smaller and my sales shifted from offers to sell to requests arriving from clients finding my material on line.  As to patterns in the trade, I’ve found them difficult to predict with any certainty, but as I’ve gained experience and knowledge, I’ve been able to acquire material based on this instinct honed by 30 years in the trade.  If, when I was younger I hesitated, with advanced age, I’ve become decisive.

 

I’ve more than once been asked what precipitated this 3 decades of bookselling…  looking back, I always recall my first big 4-figure sale, which happened in the early 90s.  It was a sleeper found in a San Francisco shop, purchased for $40 [less trade discount] and sold for $1250.  That was cool!   If only it was that easy every day!  Long term success, I tell new booksellers, depends on two factors: what you know and who you know.  Invest in yourself, it will pay dividends.

 

And as I now contemplate my twilight years, I’m honored to have been elected, in February 2018, President of the Antiquarian Booksellers’ Association of America [ABAA], which is, to my mind, and in the minds of many, the leading booksellers' association in the world.  The ABAA has long stood for honesty and accuracy and it’s a matter of personal pride to have this responsibility.  In specific terms it means fostering communications and new membership and it’s a good fit for a person on the sunny side of 70 [yes, I’ve sponsored members who were in their seventies at the time of their application], who enjoys mentoring and sponsoring younger booksellers.  I’m proud to say that over the last 3 decades I’ve played a sponsorship role for some 30 ABAA members.

 

And as to the future, I think the antiquarian book trade will be fine.  We sell artifacts, and just like the antique furniture trade and classic car trade, I don’t see peoples’ desire to own, really possess, going away.  Buying and selling informs and conveys who we are.  And I’m a bookseller who delights in introducing and sharing with others my enthusiasm for the printed word.  And now at this 30th anniversary I can clearly say, given the chance, I would absolutely do it all over again. It’s a wonderful life.

 

Rare Book Monthly

  • <b>Swann Auction Galleries Feb 20:</b> Jane Austen, <i>Sense and Sensibility: A Novel, By a Lady,</i> 3 volumes, London, 1811. $30,000 to $40,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Feb 20:</b> Virginia Woolf, <i>Kew Gardens,</i> limited edition, signed by Woolf & Bell, London, 1927. $5,000 to $7,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Feb 20:</b> <i>[Arabian Nights],</i> Calcutta II version, 4 volumes, Calcutta & London, 1839-1842. $12,000 to $18,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Feb 20:</b> Princess Diana, 6 ALS to <i>Harper’s Bazaar</i> editor, anticipating Christie’s sale of her dresses for charity, 1995-97. $6,000 to $9,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Feb 20:</b> Jane Austen, <i>Emma,</i> first edition, London, 1816. $15,000 to $20,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Feb 20:</b> Hirohito & Nagako, Emperor & Empress of Japan, 2 photographs signed, showing Nagako in kimono & obi bearing the imperial seal. $6,000 to $9,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Feb 20:</b> Princess Diana, 6 autograph letters signed to <i>Harper’s Bazaar</i> editor Elizabeth Tilberis, anticipating Christie’s announcement of a sale of her dresses for charity, 1995-97. $6,000 to $9,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Feb 20:</b> Sarojini Naidu, complete galley proof of <i>The Broken Wing</i> signed with several holograph pages & an autograph letter signed to writer Edmund Gosse, 1916. $6,000 to $9,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Feb 20:</b> Fernando Pessoa, <i>Mensagem,</i> first edition, presentation copy, signed & inscribed, Lisbon, 1934. $5,000 to $7,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Feb 20:</b> Graham Greene, <i>The Basement Room,</i> first edition, Greene’s personal copy, signed with annotations throughout, London, 1935. $4,000 to $6,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Feb 20:</b> Abraham Lincoln, partly-printed document signed, call for troops issued during America’s first national draft just days before the NYC draft riots, 1863. $15,000 to $25,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Feb 20:</b><br><i>Les Chansons de Bilitis</i> by Pierre Louÿs, illustrated by George Barbier & F.L. Schmied, Paris, 1922. $8,000 to $12,000.
  • <b>Bonhams, Mar. 6:</b> Helvelius. Two Autograph Letters Signed to Francis Aston, Royal Society Secretary, noting his feud with Robert Hooke, 5 pp total, 1685. $70,000 to $100,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 6:</b> Newton, Isaac. Autograph manuscript on God, 4 pp, c.1710, "In the beginning was the Word...."?$100,000 to $150,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 6:</b> Beethoven's Ninth Symphony. First edition, first issue. Untrimmed copy in contemporary boards. $30,000 to $50,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 6:</b> Lincoln, Abraham. Signed photograph, beardless portrait with Civil War provenance. $80,000 to $120,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 6:</b> IMPEACHMENT. Original engrossed copy of the first Andrew Johnson impeachment resolution vote. $120,000 to $180,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 6:</b> Mucha, Alphonse. 11 original pencil drawings for?<i>Andelicek z Baroku,</i> "Litte Baroque Angel," Prague, 1929. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 6:</b> Einstein, Albert. Annotated Galley Proofs for <i>The Meaning of Relativity.</i> 1921. $25,000 to $35,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 6:</b> Silverstein, Shel. Original maquette for <i>The Giving Tree,</i> 34 original drawings. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 6:</b> Roth, Philip. Typed Manuscript with substantial autograph corrections for an unpublished sequel to <i>The Breast.</i> $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 6:</b> Taupin, Bernie. Autograph Manuscript, the original draft of lyrics for Elton John's "Candle in the Wind," 2 pp, 1973. $100,000 to $150,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 6:</b> HARVEY, WILLIAM. <i>De Motu Cordis et Sanguinis in Animalibus Anatomica Exercitatio.</i> Padua: 1643. $12,000 to $18,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 6:</b> CESALPINO, ANDREA. <i>Peripateticarum Quaestionum Libri Quinque.</i> Venice: 1571. $30,000 to $40,000.
  • <b>ALDE, Feb. 26:</b> Leon TOLSTOÏ. <i>Anna Karenina.</i> Moscou, 1878. First and full edition of the Russian novel, in the author’s language.<br>Est. 3 000 / 4 000 €
    <b>ALDE, Feb. 26:</b> Mark TWAIN. <i>Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (Tom Sawyer's comrade).</i> New York, 1885. First American edition.<br>Est. 5 000 / 6 000 €
    <b>ALDE, Feb. 26:</b> Walt WHITMAN. <i>Leaves of Grass.</i> Brooklyn, New York, 1856. Second edition gathering 32 poems. Est. 3 000 / 4 000 €
    <b>ALDE, Feb. 26:</b> Karen BLIXEN. <i>Out of Africa.</i> Londres, 1937. First edition in the UK, before Danish translation and American release.<br>Est. 1 500 / 2 000 €
    <b>ALDE, Feb. 26:</b> Ernest HEMINGWAY. <i>A Farewell to Arms.</i> New York, 1929. First edition with $2.50 on the dust and A on the copyright page.<br>Est. 2 000 / 3 000 €
    <b>ALDE, Feb. 26:</b> James JOYCE. <i>Ulysses.</i> Paris, Shakespeare and Company, 1922. First edition published by Sylvia Beach. Est. 3 000 / 4 000 €
    <b>ALDE, Feb. 26:</b> James JOYCE. <i>Dubliners.</i> Londres, 1914. First edition. Nice copy in publisher’s cardboard. Est. 2 000 / 3 000 €
    <b>ALDE, Feb. 26:</b> Franz KAFKA. 8 novels in German first edition, published in München, Leipzig and Berlin 1916-1931. Est. from 300 / 400 to 2 000 / 3 000 €
    <b>ALDE, Feb. 26:</b> David Herbert LAWRENCE. <i>Lady Chatterley's Lover.</i> Florence, 1928. Privately printed first edition. Est. 4 000 / 5 000 €
    John STEINBECK. <i>The Grapes of Wrath.</i> New York, 1939. First edition. Nice copy with $2.75 on the cover. Est. 1 000 / 1 200 €
  • <center><b>Cowan’s Auctions<br>The Road West: The Steve Turner Collection of African Americana<br>February 20, 2020</b>
    <br>Cowan’s, Feb. 20:</b> Harriet Tubman Cabinet Card by H.S. Squyer, Auburn, NY, 1892. $10,000 to $15,000
    <br>Cowan’s, Feb. 20:</b> Scarce <i>Events of the Tulsa Disaster,</i> First Edition, 1922. $4,000 to $6,000
    <br>Cowan’s, Feb. 20:</b> Unpublished CDV of Frederick Douglass by Benjamin F. Smith, 1864. $3,000 to $5,000
    <center><b>Cowan’s Auctions<br>The Road West: The Steve Turner Collection of African Americana<br>February 20, 2020</b>
    <br>Cowan’s, Feb. 20:</b> California Imprint of <i>President Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation</i> Broadside, 1864. $10,000 to $15,000
    <br>Cowan’s, Feb. 20:</b> John C.H. Grabill Cabinet Card of Buffalo Soldier Wearing Buffalo Coat, ca 1886. $8,000 to $10,000
    <br>Cowan’s, Feb. 20:</b> Rare <i>What Mrs. Fisher Knows About Old Southern Cooking,</i> 2nd Cookbook Published by African American. $6,000 to $8,000
    <center><b>Cowan’s Auctions<br>The Road West: The Steve Turner Collection of African Americana<br>February 20, 2020</b>
    <br>Cowan’s, Feb. 20:</b> Frederick Douglass Walking Stick, 1888. $3,000 to $5,000
    <br>Cowan’s, Feb. 20:</b> Only Known Slave Narrative Published Independently in California, <i>Life and Adventures of James Williams.</i> $2,000 to $4,000
    <br>Cowan’s, Feb. 20:</b> Rare First Edition of History of Black Literature, Abbé Grégoire <i>De La Littérature des Nègres</i>. $2,500 to $3,000
    <center><b>Cowan’s Auctions<br>The Road West: The Steve Turner Collection of African Americana<br>February 20, 2020</b>
    <br>Cowan’s, Feb. 20:</b> African American Soldier and Medal of Honor Winner Christian A. Fleetwood CDV, PLUS. $8,000 to $10,000
    <br>Cowan’s, Feb. 20:</b> Jack Johnson vs. Jim Jeffries Pennant, 1910 Reno, Nevada. $2,000 to $4,000
    <br>Cowan’s, Feb. 20:</b> Joe Gans Photograph at 1906 Goldfield, Nevada Fight by Percy Dana. $600 to $800

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