Thursday, February 26, 2009

Oak Knoll Press - The Bookseller to the Book World

If you like any aspect of the book arts, history of the book, bookselling, or library history, you need to know about Oak Knoll Press in Delaware. They have made the books about books field their own, publishing new titles for any budget and distributing books for smaller publishers that might be overlooked without them.

And they even have a festival.

As you can see from their front page, Oak Knoll was started in 1978 by Bob Fleck, to fill a void of booksellers who sold books about books. They issue 35 titles a year, on such topics as book collecting, book design, binding, forgery, papermaking, typography, calligraphy, and more. Some of the titles, like Rostenberg & Stern's OLD BOOKS IN THE OLD WORLD, are quite affordable, in the 20-25 dollar range, while others like Bennett's TRADE BOOKBINDING IN THE BRITISH ISLES 1660-1800 are specialty publications with excellent illustrations and sell north of $80.00.

Oak Knoll has deep and important ties to other organizations and publishers as well. They co-publish books with the British Library and the Library of Congress, for example. They are the exclusive distributor for 10 firms, and for selected titles from 13 more. These firms include the American Antiquarian Society, the Bibliographical Societies for the US & UK, the Caxton Club, and many others. These publishing and distribution arrangements allows them to be almost one stop shopping for books on any niche of the book world.

The other important aspect of Oak Knoll to note is the quality of production they bring to their books. Without exception, any book published by them, and virtually all distributed by them, are well made and attractive. Good paper, solid binding, and good layout are hallmarks. The previously mentioned TRADE BOOKBINDING IN THE BRITISH ISLES is a prime example. It is scholarly but accessible, well illustrated, with a unique focus, and is most definitely practical. That work alone would make one notice a publishing house, and Oak Knoll has dozens.

From a bookseller's standpoint, Oak Knoll stands out for two features. The utility of the publications they carry for the trade, and the commitment they have to publish books directly about bookselling past and present. Not a day goes by that I do not use either a bibliography or reference work they did not have a hand in publishing or distributing. The memories they have published of American and European bookshops and booksellers both inspire me and help me be a better, more professional bookseller. If a bookseller's reference library is their tool set, then Oak Knoll is the equivalent of the Craftsman company. You can't go wrong with them.

Oh, and the festival is called Oak Knoll Fest. The next one is in October of 2009, but they generally do not have information on the next event up til summer. It is definitely on my list of book festivals to visit.

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Blogger Laura R. Williams said...

Thank you for your kind words.

4:34 PM  

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