Rare Book Monthly

Book Catalogue Reviews - July - 2006 Issue

Oak Knoll Books Celebrates 30th Anniversary

Oak Knoll celebrates its 30th anniversary.


By Michael Stillman

Oak Knoll Books
has issued its 275th catalogue, in support of the antiquarian bookseller's 30th anniversary. That's a lot of years and a lot of catalogues, but the New Castle, Delaware, bookseller shows no signs of slowing down. In fact, their catalogues are the most extensive in terms of listings we receive. This is a short one, about half the typical size, and yet it still offers 566 items. It contains mostly books within the various divisions of Oak Knoll's "books about books" specialty: bibliography, bookselling, booksellers, binding, printing, bookplates, even forgeries. Then, there is also a catchall "other" section, so that anything is possible. Here are a few items from this indomitable bookseller whom we have no doubt will be around for another thirty years, or until melting ice caps turn New Castle into New Atlantis.

The Private Papers of Henry Ryecroft is something of an autobiography, but not Ryecroft's. Henry Ryecroft was the creation of author George Gissing, but there were many similarities between his real life and Ryecroft's fictional one. Gissing struggled for much of his life, literate and smart, but financially poor. Along the way, he would make a few unwise choices that helped create his difficult situation. A promising student, he took up with a prostitute, stole to support her, was kicked out of school and briefly imprisoned, married her, and was miserable until she died. His second wife was no better; another woman with whom he had little in common, who went insane. The book starts with Gissing's take on Ryecroft's obituary, which mentioned when he was born and died, and the titles of a few of his books, but little else. An unremarkable obituary for an unremarkable man. Perhaps that was how Gissing saw his own life. Ryecroft struggled to get by, occasionally had a little extra to spend on travel, and persevered. However, the fictional character, out of the blue, is bequeathed a healthy life annuity by a friend, which allows him to live a more relaxed, contemplative life, which he expounds upon in the diaries written in these later years by Ryecroft/Gissing. Perhaps this was Gissing's ideal world. Item 510 is the first American edition of this imaginary diary, published in 1903, the year Gissing died. Priced at $125.

Item 441 is a particularly unusual selection for Oak Knoll, the log book for a merchant ship (the Lama or Lamas) which sailed from Boston to Brazil to Cape Verde and back in 1829-1830. There were no mutinies or shipwrecks in this voyage, but the log book does present a window on trade at this time. Vinegar, tar, rosin and soap are among the commodities traded. This was the era of shoe manufacturing in the Boston area, and the Lama carries shoes to Brazil. In return, she transports cowhides back to Boston. Salt, fish, and vegetables are picked up in the Cape Verde Islands. Included is additional correspondence from the log-keeper, Isaac Bradford. $1,975.

Rare Book Monthly

  • 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
  • Potter & Potter Auctions
    How History Unfolds on Paper:
    Choice Selections from the Eric C. Caren Collection
    Part IX
    Starting 10AM CST
    April 18, 2024
    Potter & Potter, Apr. 18: [RUTH, George Herman “Babe” (1895-1948)]. Signed photograph. Circa 1930s. 191 x 248 mm. $1,500 to $2,500.
    Potter & Potter, Apr. 18: HARRISON, Benjamin. Document signed (“Benj Harrison”) as governor of Virginia, certifying the service of Daniel Cumbo, a Black Revolutionary soldier. $6,000 to $9,000.
    Potter & Potter, Apr. 18: ONE OF THE FIRST PRINTED ANNOUNCEMENTS OF THE DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE. $4,000 to $6,000.
    Potter & Potter Auctions
    How History Unfolds on Paper:
    Choice Selections from the Eric C. Caren Collection
    Part IX
    Starting 10AM CST
    April 18, 2024
    Potter & Potter, Apr. 18: FIRST PRINTING OF LINCOLN’S IMMORTAL GETTYSBURG ADDRESS. $4,000 to $6,000.
    Potter & Potter, Apr. 18: HIGHLY IMPORTANT MORMON ARCHIVE. ALLEY, George. Archive of 23 Autograph Letters Signed by Mormon Convert George Alley to His Brother Joseph Alley. $10,000 to $20,000.
    Potter & Potter, Apr. 18: [AVIATION]. [ARMSTRONG, Neil A.] Aviation Hall of Fame Gold Medal MS64 NGC, Awarded to Neil Armstrong in 1979. $2,000 to $3,000.
    Potter & Potter Auctions
    How History Unfolds on Paper:
    Choice Selections from the Eric C. Caren Collection
    Part IX
    Starting 10AM CST
    April 18, 2024
    Potter & Potter, Apr. 18: NEWLY DISCOVERED FIRST PRINTING OF "WITH MALICE TOWARDS NONE... " FROM THE ONLY NEWSPAPER ACTUALLY ALLOWED TO PARTICIPATE IN LINCOLN’S SECOND INAUGURAL PROCESSION. $4,000 to $8,000.
    Potter & Potter, Apr. 18: THE MOST IMPORTANT GEORGE WASHINGTON DOCUMENT IN PRIVATE HANDS; GEORGE WASHINGTON’S COMMISSION AS COMMANDER IN CHIEF, 1775, ONE OF ONLY TWO ORIGINALS. $150,000 to $250,000.
    Potter & Potter, Apr. 18: A VERY RARE ACCOUNT OF BLACKBEARD’S DEATH AND ONE OF THE MOST IMPORTANT PIRATE ITEMS EXTANT. $3,000 to $5,000.
    Potter & Potter Auctions
    How History Unfolds on Paper:
    Choice Selections from the Eric C. Caren Collection
    Part IX
    Starting 10AM CST
    April 18, 2024
    Potter & Potter, Apr. 18: EDISON, Thomas. Patent for Edison’s Improvements on the Electric-Light, No. 219,628. [Washington, D.C.: U.S. Patent Office], 16 September 1879. $2,000 to $3,000.
    Potter & Potter, Apr. 18: [VIETNAM WAR]. The original pen used by Secretary of State William P. Rogers to sign the Vietnam Peace Agreement, Paris, 27 January 1973. $10,000 to $15,000.
    Potter & Potter, Apr. 18: SONS OF LIBERTY FOUNDER COLONEL BARRÉ ANNOTATED TITLE-PAGE, “WHICH OUGHT TO ROUSE UP BRITISH ATTENTION”. $4,000 to $6,000.

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