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

  • <center><b>Koller International Auctions<br>Books, Manuscripts & Autographs<br>23 September 2020</b>
    <b>Koller Auctions, Sep. 23:</b> Diderot, [Denis] - D'Alembert, [Jean Le Rond]. <i>Encyclopédie, ou dictionnaire raisonné des sciences, des arts et des métiers...</i> 17 text volumes, 4 supplement volumes, 11 plate volumes. €21,930 to €30,700.
    <b>Koller Auctions, Sep. 23:</b> [Philipon, Ch.]. <i>La Caricature,</i> Journal. No. 1-251 in 4 volumes. With 526 lithographs by H. Daumier, Grandville, A. Devéria, P. Gavarni, M. Delaporte, Adam, Raffet, Huot et al. €7,020 to €10,530.
    <b>Koller Auctions, Sep. 23:</b> Chagall, Marc. <i>Le Cirque</i>, Paris 1967. With 38 (of which 23 coloured and 3 double-page) original lithographs by M. Chagall. €61,400 to €78,950.
    <b>Koller Auctions, Sep. 23:</b> L'Isle, Guillaume de. <i>Atlas nouveau, contenant toutes les parties du monde.</i> [AND:] Sanson, Guillaume. <i>Inleidinge tot de geographie. 3 volumes.</i> €19,300 to €28,070.
    <center><b>Koller International Auctions<br>Books, Manuscripts & Autographs<br>23 September 2020</b>
    <b>Koller Auctions, Sep. 23:</b> Roberts, David. <i>The Holy Land, Syria, Idumea, Arabia, Egypt, & Nubia…</i> Lithographed by Louis Haghe. 6 parts in 6 volumes. 238 original lithographs and 2 engraved maps. €19,300 to €28,070.
    <b>Koller Auctions, Sep. 23:</b> Berlèse, Lorenzo and Johann Jakob Jung. <i>Iconographie du genre camellia ou description et figures des camellia les plus beaux et les plus rares.</i> 3 volumes. With 301 coloured engraved plates. €17,540 to €21,930.
    <b>Koller Auctions, Sep. 23:</b> Merian, Maria Sybilla. <i>Over de voortteeling en wonderbaerlyke veranderingen der Surinaamsche insecten...</i> With engraved frontispiece, title vignette and 72 copperplates. €17,540 to €26,320.
    <b>Koller Auctions, Sep. 23:</b> Burckhardt, Johann Ludwig, Explorer. Collection of 24 handwritten letters from his youth and student days to his eldest (step) brother, Johann Burckhardt-Gemuseus and his wife Anna Elisabeth. €2,630 to €4,390.
  • <center><b>Forum Auctions<br>Fine Books, Manuscripts<br>and Works on Paper<br>25 September 2020</b>
    <b>Forum Auctions, Sep. 25:</b> Chagall (Marc). <i>Cirque,</i> one of 270 copies on Arches signed by the artist, 38 lithographs, 23 colour, Paris, Tériade Éditeur, 1967. £100,000 to £150,000.
    <b>Forum Auctions, Sep. 25:</b> Sangorski (Alberto).- Poe (Edgar Allan). <i>Annabel Lee and Other Poems,</i> illuminated manuscript in gold and colours, bound in turquoise morocco tooled in gilt and inlaid with 35 jewels, [c.1928]. £50,000 to £70,000.
    <b>Forum Auctions, Sep. 25:</b> Darwin (Charles) and Alfred R. Wallace. “On the Tendency of Species to form Varieties...,” contained in <i>Journal of the Proceedings of the Linnean Society,</i> 1859. £12,000 to £18,000.
    <center><b>Forum Auctions<br>Fine Books, Manuscripts<br>and Works on Paper<br>25 September 2020</b>
    <b>Forum Auctions, Sep. 25:</b> Ornament.- Basque metalwork.- Zuloaga (Eusebio) and Workshop. Collection of twenty-three original ornament designs for damascening, [19th century]. £8,000 to £12,000.
    <b>Forum Auctions, Sep. 25:</b> Arms and Armour.- Rugendas.- <i>Der Harnisch Von Seinem Entstehen Bis Zu Seinem Wiedervergehen In Bildern Dargestelt Und Gezeichnet,</i> [1714 and later]. £6,000 to £8,000.
    <b>Forum Auctions, Sep. 25:</b> Webster (John). <i>A Monumental Columne, erected to the liuing memory of the euer-glorious Henry, late Prince of Wales,</i> rare first edition, Printed by N[icholas]. O[kes]. for William Welby, 1613. £6,000 to £8,000.
    <center><b>Forum Auctions<br>Fine Books, Manuscripts<br>and Works on Paper<br>25 September 2020</b>
    <b>Forum Auctions, Sep. 25:</b> Donne (John). <i>Poems, by J.D. with elegies on the Authors Death,</i> first edition, Printed by M[iles]. F[lesher]. for Iohn Marriot, 1633. £6,000 to £8,000.
    <b>Forum Auctions, Sep. 25:</b> Brangwyn (Frank). <i>Venice,</i> oil on canvas, [c. 1908]. £4,000 to £6,000.
    <b>Forum Auctions, Sep. 25:</b> Sewell (Anna). <i>Black Beauty: his Grooms and Companions. The Autobiography of a Horse,</i> first edition, original cloth, [1877]. £3,000 to £4,000.
    <center><b>Forum Auctions<br>Fine Books, Manuscripts<br>and Works on Paper<br>25 September 2020</b>
    <b>Forum Auctions, Sep. 25:</b> Gray (John Edward). <i>Gleanings from the Knowsley Menagerie and Aviary at Knowsley Hall,</i> first edition, one of c.100 copies privately printed for the author, 1850. £3,000 to £4,000.
    <b>Forum Auctions, Sep. 25:</b> George III (King). Warrant signed "George R" for the payment of £60,634 granted for the North American Provinces to the Province of Massachusetts Bay, D.s., manuscript, [c. 1761-62]. £2,000 to £2,500.
    <b>Forum Auctions, Sep. 25:</b> Mecca, Medina & Damascus.- 2 manuscript plans of Mecca and El Medinah and a map of Damascus, 3 detailed pen and ink drawings with 3pp. of manuscript notes, [late 19th century]. £1,000 to £1,500.
  • <center><b>Hindman Auctions<br>Selections from the Library of<br>Gerald and Barbara Weiner<br>Live and Online<br>October 8, 2020 / 10am CT</b>
    <b>Hindman Auctions, Oct. 8:</b> DARWIN, Charles Robert. <i>On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection.</i> London: W. Clowes and Sons for John Murray, 1859. [With] autograph note signed. $60,000 to $80,000.
    <b>Hindman Auctions, Oct. 8:</b> [FINE PRESS & LIVRE D'ARTISTE]. -- [KELMSCOTT PRESS]. CHAUCER, Geoffrey. <i>The Works ... now newly imprinted.</i> Edited by F.S. Ellis. Hammersmith: Kelmscott Press, 1896. $60,000 to $80,000.
    <b>Hindman Auctions, Oct. 8:</b> LAWRENCE, Thomas Edward. <i>Seven Pillars of Wisdom, a triumph.</i> [London: Privately Printed], 1926. $60,000 to $80,000.
    <center><b>Hindman Auctions<br>Selections from the Library of<br>Gerald and Barbara Weiner<br>Live and Online<br>October 8, 2020 / 10am CT</b>
    <b>Hindman Auctions, Oct. 8:</b> SHAKESPEARE, William. <i>Mr. William Shakespear's Comedies, Histories, and Tragedies…</i> London, Printed for H. Herringman, E. Brewster, R. Chiswell, and R. Bentley, 1685. $60,000 to $80,000.
    <b>Hindman Auctions, Oct. 8:</b> AUDUBON, John James. <i>The Birds of America…</i> [1839-] 1840-1844. -- AUDUBON, John James and John BACHMAN. <i>The Quadrupeds of North America.</i> 1849-1854. $60,000 to $80,000.
    <b>Hindman Auctions, Oct. 8:</b> OGILBY, John, trans. [MONTANUS, Arnoldus]. <i>America: being the latest, and most Accurate Description of the New World…</i> London: Printed by the Author, 1671. $30,000 to $40,000.
    <center><b>Hindman Auctions<br>Selections from the Library of<br>Gerald and Barbara Weiner<br>Live and Online<br>October 8, 2020 / 10am CT</b>
    <b>Hindman Auctions, Oct. 8:</b> HOBBES, Thomas. <i>Leviathan, or The Matter, Forme, & Power of a Common-Wealth Ecclesiasticall and Civill.</i> London: printed for Andrew Crooke, 1651. $20,000 to $30,000.
    <b>Hindman Auctions, Oct. 8:</b> BLACKWELL, Elizabeth. <i>A Curious Herbal, containing Five Hundred Cuts of the most useful Plant which are now used in the Practice of Physick…</i> London: John Nourse, 1739. $15,000 to $20,000.
    <b>Hindman Auctions, Oct. 8:</b> MILTON, John. <i>Paradise Lost.</i> London: Printed by S. Simmons ... to be sold by T. Helder, 1669. $12,000 to $18,000.
    <center><b>Hindman Auctions<br>Selections from the Library of<br>Gerald and Barbara Weiner<br>Live and Online<br>October 8, 2020 / 10am CT</b>
    <b>Hindman Auctions, Oct. 8:</b> MALCOLM X. Typed letter signed ("Malcolm X"), to Alex Haley. Cairo, Egypt, 18 September 1964. " 1 page, 8vo. $6,000 to $8,000.
    <b>Hindman Auctions, Oct. 8:</b> TOLKIEN, John Ronald Reuel. Autograph letter signed (“JRRT”). To George Sayer, Oxford, 7 August 1952. 2 pages, 8vo, creased; morocco folding case. $4,000 to $6,000.
    <b>Hindman Auctions, Oct. 8:</b> WRIGHT, Frank Lloyd. Autograph manuscript signed ("Frank Lloyd Wright"), entitled "To the Countryside." N.p. [Taliesin?], [June 1926]. 2 pages, 4to, creased. $4,000 to $6,000.
  • <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 24:</b> John Richard, sketchbook kept by soldier-artist during last months of Civil War, 55 drawings, 1865. $25,000 to $35,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 24:</b> Guest register for Catskill Mountain House, with signatures of many notable guests, 1839-43, 1846-52. $5,000 to $7,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 24:</b> Manuscript confirmation of arms & nobility, Esquivel y Vargas family, Salvatierra, Guanajuato, Mexico, 1731. $5,000 to $7,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 24:</b> Elizabeth Shoumatoff, 3 watercolor studies for famous “Unfinished Portrait” of FDR, 1945. $40,000 to $60,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 24:</b><br><i>Sa Ga Yean Qua Rash Tow, Coning Vande Maquas alias Coning Brant,</i> engraving by Pieter Schenck, Netherlands, c.1710s. $3,000 to $4,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 24:</b> Stamp from the Stamp Act of 1765, embossed, “II Shillings VI Pence.” $6,000 to $9,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 24:</b><br><i>The Law of God,</i> five volumes, first edition, first Jewish translation of the Pentateuch into English, 1845-46. $6,000 to $9,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 24:</b> Diary of James W. Bentley, a cavalry officer protecting settlers on the Overland Trail, 1865. $15,000 to $25,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 24:</b> Pedro de Arenas, <i>Vocabulario manual de las lenguas castellana y mexicana,</i> complete first edition, Mexico, 1611. $12,000 to $18,000.
  • <center><b>Forum Auctions<br>A further selection of<br>16th and 17th century English books from the Fox Pointe Manor Library<br>24 September 2020</b>
    <b>Forum Auctions, Sep. 24:</b> Locke (John). <i>An Essay Concerning Humane Understanding in Four Books,</i> first edition, second issue, 1690. £12,000 to £18,000.
    <b>Forum Auctions, Sep. 24:</b> Plutarch. <i>The lives of the noble Grecians and Romanes, compared together by that graue learned philosopher and historiographer, Plutarke of Chæronea,</i> first edition of this translation, 1579. £8,000 to £12,000.
    <b>Forum Auctions, Sep. 24:</b> [Allott (Robert, editor)]. <i>Wits Theater of the little World,</i> first edition, 1599. £5,000 to £7,000.
    <center><b>Forum Auctions<br>A further selection of 16th and 17th century English books<br>from the Fox Pointe Manor Library<br>24 September 2020</b>
    <b>Forum Auctions, Sep. 24:</b> Execution of Quakers in Boston.- Stephenson (Marmaduke). <i>A Call from Death to Life,</i> first edition, 1660. £4,000 to £6,000.
    <b>Forum Auctions, Sep. 24:</b> Boyle (Robert). <i>The sceptical chymist: or Chymico-physical doubts & paradoxes…,</i> 2 parts in 1 vol., second edition, 1680. £3,500 to £4,500.
    <b>Forum Auctions, Sep. 24:</b> Atlases.- Morden (Robert). <i>[Geography Rectified: or, A Description of the World],</i> [c.1688]. £3,000 to £4,000.
    <center><b>Forum Auctions<br>A further selection of 16th and 17th century English books<br>from the Fox Pointe Manor Library<br>24 September 2020</b>
    <b>Forum Auctions, Sep. 24:</b> Bread.- Penkethman (John). <i>Artachthos or a New Booke declaring the Assise or Weight of Bread,</i> 1638. £2,000 to £3,000.
    <b>Forum Auctions, Sep. 24:</b> Anatomy.- Collins (Samuel). <i>A Systeme of Anatomy, treating of the Body of Man, Beasts, Birds, Fish, Insects, and Plants,</i> 2 vol., first edition, 1685. £2,000 to £3,000.
    <b>Forum Auctions, Sep. 24:</b> Wine.- [Ames (Richard)]. <i>The Bacchanalian Sessions; or The Conten' tion of Liquors: With a Farewel to Wine,</i> first edition, 1693. £2,000 to £3,000.
    <center><b>Forum Auctions<br>A further selection of 16th and 17th century English books<br>from the Fox Pointe Manor Library<br>24 September 2020</b>
    <b>Forum Auctions, Sep. 24:</b> Witchcraft.- Bekker (Balthasar). <i>The World Bewitch'd; or, An Examination of the Common Opinions Concerning Spirits,</i> vol. 1 (all published), first English edition, 1695. £2,000 to £3,000.
    <b>Forum Auctions, Sep. 24:</b> Great Plague and Great Fire of London prophesied.- Lilly (William). <i>Monarchy or No Monarchy in England,</i> first edition, 1651. £1,500 to £2,000.
    <b>Forum Auctions, Sep. 24:</b> Swimming.- Thevenot (Melchisédec). <i>The Art of Swimming. Illustrated by Proper Figures. With Advice for Bathing,</i> first edition in English, 1699. £1,500 to £2,000.

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