Bob's Favorites Highlight Latest Oak Knoll Catalogue
By Michael Stillman
Catalogue 285 has been released by Oak Knoll Books. It includes three broad sections - A Selection of Bob's Favorites about Book Collecting and Bookselling, Books About Books, and Bibliography. Considering that Bob Fleck has been in the business of selling books long enough to publish 285 catalogues, we will assume his favorites to be something special. Before we take a look at some of the individual titles offered, we note that there is an exceptional collection of Limited Editions Club works being offered, too many to select any in particular to describe. In all there are 162 such items, and suffice to say the works from this fine, limited edition publisher are some of the most attractive books printed during the past century. Now, we will describe a few of the other 200+ items presented in the catalogue.
We will start with perhaps the masterpiece of the first of the notably obsessive collectors, Thomas Frognall Dibdin. Dibdin was obsessed with book collecting, though he did not have the funds to collect at the very highest level. He wrote several treatises on book collecting, including this item, Bibliographical Decameron; or, Ten Days Pleasant Discourse upon Illuminated Manuscripts, and Subjects Connected with Early Engraving, Typography, and Bibliography. In it, Dibdin uses imaginary conversations to display his thoughts on the book arts. Shortly after the book was printed, Dibdin dramatically destroyed the plates in front of the Roxburghe Club. The point was to make clear there would be no further printings or editions to reduce the value of the limited number he had produced. Item 11, three volumes published in 1817. Priced at $2,250.
If Dibdin was obsessive, Sir Thomas Phillipps was downright maniacal. Phillipps was the mid-19th century British collector who tried to accumulate a copy of every book and manuscript in existence. While such is impossible, he probably came as close any anyone could. He filled his House floor to ceiling with everything from notable books to scraps of paper with something written on them. The expanding collection in his home worked its way from his dining room, which went from cramped to unusable, all the way to his bedroom, which eventually only had book-free space set aside for a bed and dresser. His collection reached an estimated 100,000 books and 60,000 manuscripts before Phillipps passed on and his collection was dispersed through numerous auctions. However, in the process, Phillipps did achieve much of his goal, that is, preserving printed and manuscript material that might otherwise have disappeared forever, even if it is now scattered among many collections. Item 28 is the definitive study of Phillipps, Phillipps Studies, a five-volume 1951-1960 work by A.N.L. Munby. It covers the formation of the Phillipps library, his cataloguing and printing, his personal affairs, and the dispersion of his collection, which was still going on long after this set was completed. $400.
Item 65 is a complete run of a hard-to-find periodical, The Book Collector's Packet. It was published between 1932 and 1946, but not continuously. Part of what makes it difficult to find is that it stopped and restarted publishing twice before finally closing down for good. During its run, it published articles about fine presses, book production, private presses and various other topics pertaining to the book arts. $450.