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, July 30:</b> Adam Smith, <i>Wealth of Nations,</i> first edition, descended from William Alexander, London, 1776. $70,000 to $90,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries, July 30:</b> George Gershwin, photograph signed & inscribed with autograph musical quotation, <i>An American in Paris,</i> 1928. $8,000 to $12,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries, July 30:</b> Friedrich Engels, <i>The Condition of the Working Class in England,</i> first edition, NY, 1887. $5,000 to $7,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries, July 30:</b> <i>Bury St. Edmunds Witch Trials,</i> first edition, London, 1682. $2,000 to $3,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries, July 30:</b> Robert Rey, <i>Estampes,</i> complete portfolio of 12 wood engravings, Paris, 1950. $12,000 to $18,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries, July 30:</b> Archive of 47 letters by Enrico Caruso to a lady friend, 1906-20. $7,000 to $10,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries, July 30:</b> Books of Hours in Flemish, Netherlands, 15th century. $8,000 to $10,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries, July 30:</b> Jack Kerouac, <i>Doctor Sax,</i> deluxe limited edition, signed, NY, 1959. $4,000 to $6,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries, July 30:</b> Walt Disney, signature on title-page of Ward Greene’s <i>Lady and the Tramp,</i> first edition, first printing. $3,000 to $4,000.
  • <center><b>Forum Auctions<br>Fine Books, Manuscripts<br>and Works on Paper<br>July 16, 2020</b>
    <b>Forum Auctions, July 16:</b> Ptolomaeus (Claudius). <i>Cosmographia,</i> first edition, Vicenza, Hermann Liechtenstein, 13 September 1475. £150,000 to £200,000.
    <b>Forum Auctions, July 16:</b> Schoener (Johann). <i>Opera mathematica,</i> 3 parts in 1, first edition,The Honeyman copy in contemporary binding, Nuremberg, J. Montanus and U. Neuber, 1551. £30,000 to £40,000.
    <b>Forum Auctions, July 16:</b> Lucian of Samosata. <i>Dialogoi, editio princeps,</i> with fine illuminated title-page, Florence, Lorenzo de Alopa, 1496. £20,000 to £30,000.
    <center><b>Forum Auctions<br>Fine Books, Manuscripts<br>and Works on Paper<br>July 16, 2020</b>
    <b>Forum Auctions, July 16:</b> Pian (Jean Baptiste de). [Architectural Alphabet], 26 chromolithographs by Leopold Muller after Pian, Vienna, 1842-44. £15,000 to £20,000.
    <b>Forum Auctions, July 16:</b> Rogers (Bruce).- Holy Bible (The)..., one of 200 copies on handmade paper, designed by Bruce Rogers, bound in modern crimson morocco, gilt, Oxford, 1935. £10,000 to £15,000.
    <b>Forum Auctions, July 16:</b> Jenner (Edward). <i>An Inquiry into the Causes and Effects of the Variolae Vaccinae…,</i> first edition, Printed for the Author, by Sampson Low, 1798. £8,000 to £12,000.
    <center><b>Forum Auctions<br>Fine Books, Manuscripts<br>and Works on Paper<br>July 16, 2020</b>
    <b>Forum Auctions, July 16:</b> Voyages.- Cook (Capt. James).- Parkinson (Sydney). <i>A Journal of a Voyage to the South Seas, in his Majesty's Ship the Endeavour,</i> second edition, Charles Dilly...& James Phillips, 1784. £4,000 to £6,000.
    <b>Forum Auctions, July 16:</b> [Clemens (Samuel Langhorne)] "Mark Twain". <i>Adventures of Huckleberry Finn,</i> first edition, first state, New York, Charles L. Webster and Company, 1885. £4,000 to £6,000.
    <b>Forum Auctions, July 16:</b> [Voight (Hans Henning)], "Alastair". Herod, for 'Salome: Drame en un Acte', original drawing in red & black ink over pencil, [c.1922]. £4,000 to £6,000.
    <center><b>Forum Auctions<br>Fine Books, Manuscripts<br>and Works on Paper<br>July 16, 2020</b>
    <b>Forum Auctions, July 16:</b> James (M.R.) <i>Ghost Stories of an Antiquary,</i> first edition, signed presentation inscription from the author to A.C. Benson, 1904. £3,000 to £4,000.
    <b>Forum Auctions, July 16:</b> Remarque (Erich Maria). <i>All Quiet on the Western Front,</i> first English edition, signed presentation inscription from the author, 1929. £3,000 to £4,000.
    <b>Forum Auctions, July 16:</b> Ashendene Press.- More (Sir Thomas). <i>A Fruteful and Pleasaunt Worke...Utopia,</i> one of 100 copies, bound in black goatskin by J.Franklin Mowery, Ashendene Press, 1906. £3,000 to £4,000.
  • <b>Mayfair Book Auctions, July 16:</b><br>Lot 1. Albertus Magnus, De Natura Locorum, 2nd edn, 1515. £3000 to £4000.
    <b>Mayfair Book Auctions, July 16:</b><br>Lot 22. George Cooke, Scenery of the East India Islands, 1811-13. £4500 to £5500.
    <b>Mayfair Book Auctions, July 16:</b><br>Lot 23. J.M. Crozet, Nouveau vouage a la Mer du Sud, 1st edn, 1783. £4000 to £6000.
    <b>Mayfair Book Auctions, July 16:</b><br>Lot 27. J.P.J.Du Bois, Vies des Gouverneurs Generaux, 1st edn, 1763. £1200 to £1800.
    <b>Mayfair Book Auctions, July 16:</b><br>Lot 28. Wm Ellis, Authentic Narrative...Captain Cook, 1st edn, 1782. £2500 to £3500.
    <b>Mayfair Book Auctions, July 16:</b><br>Lot 31. Thomas Forrest, Voyage to New Guinea, 1st edn, 1779. £1500 to £2000.
    <b>Mayfair Book Auctions, July 16:</b><br>Lot 32. Forster & Forster, Voyage round the World, 1st edn, 1777-78. £4500 to £5500.
    <b>Mayfair Book Auctions, July 16:</b><br>Lot 38. Gianetti, Elogy of Captain James Cook, 1st edn, 1785. £2500 to £3500.
    <b>Mayfair Book Auctions, July 16:</b><br>Lot 46. Otto von Kotzebue, Entdeckungs Reise, 1st edn, 1821. £3500 to £4500.
    <b>Mayfair Book Auctions, July 16:</b><br>Lot 52. Alejandro Malaspina, Viaje politico-scientifico, 1st edn, 1885. £2000 to £3000.
    <b>Mayfair Book Auctions, July 16:</b><br>Lot 60. Sydney Parkinson, Journal of Voyage to the South Seas, large paper, 1773. £4500 to £5500.
    <b>Mayfair Book Auctions, July 16:</b><br>Lot 64. Nathaniel Portlock, A Voyage round the World, 1st edn, 1789. £4000 to £6000.
  • <center><b>Sotheby’s<br>Fine Books and Manuscripts<br>Including Property from<br>The Eric C. Caren Collection<br>Bidding Closes July 21st</b>
    <b>Sotheby’s:</b> Albert Einstein. Typed letter signed “A. Einstein” to Ensign Guy H. Raner Jr. $70,000 to $100,000.
    <b>Sotheby’s:</b> Alfred Swaine Taylor. Early "photogenic drawing" photograph of a fern. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Sotheby’s:</b> The Chicago Seven. Cook County Jail identification cards. $5,000 to $7,000.
    <center><b>Sotheby’s<br>Fine Books and Manuscripts<br>Including Property from<br>The Eric C. Caren Collection<br>Bidding Closes July 21st</b>
    <b>Sotheby’s:</b> Harper Lee. A fine group of letters to Claudia Durst Johnson and other manuscript material. $60,000 to $80,000.
    <b>Sotheby’s:</b> A. R. Gurrey Jr.. The Surf Riders of Hawaii. Honolulu, Territory of Hawaii. $30,000 to $50,000.
    <b>Sotheby’s:</b> George Herman “Babe” Ruth. The Babe Ruth Story by Babe Ruth as told to Bob Considine. $10,000 to $15,000.
  • <center><b>Fonsie Mealy Auctioneers<br>The Collectors’ Sale<br>July 7 – 15, 2020</b>
    <b>Fonsie Mealy, Jul. 7 – 15:</b> O'Fihely, Maurice Abp. <i>Questiones subtilissme Scoti in metaphysicam Aristotelis</i>, Venice (Octavianus Scoti) 20th November 1497. 8,000 to 12,000 €
    <b>Fonsie Mealy, Jul. 7 – 15:</b> Pococke (Richard). <i>A Description of the East and some other Countries,</i> 3 vols. in 2, L. (W. Bowyer) 1743. 2,250 to 3,500 €
    <b>Fonsie Mealy, Jul. 7 – 15:</b> Keogh (John). <i>Botanalogia Universalis Hibernica, or A General Irish Herbal Calculated for this Kingdom, giving an account of the Herbs, Scrubs…</i>, Corke (George Harrison) 1735. 1,000 to 1,500 €
    <center><b>Fonsie Mealy Auctioneers<br>The Collectors’ Sale<br>July 7 – 15, 2020</b>
    <b>Fonsie Mealy, Jul. 7 – 15:</b> Perry (Charles). <i>A View of the Levant particularly of Constantinople, Syria, Egypt and Greece,</i> L. (T. Woodward) 1743. 800 to 1,200 €
    <b>Fonsie Mealy, Jul. 7 – 15:</b> Shaw (Thomas). <i>Travels, or Observations Relating to Several Parts of Barbary and the Levant,</i>, Oxford (The Theatre) 1738. 600 to 700 €
    <b>Fonsie Mealy, Jul. 7 – 15:</b> [French (Nicholas) Bishop of Ferns] Attributed, <i>Recit Exact et Fidele de la Vente et Partage du Roiaume d'Irlande Fait Sous Charles II…,</i> Milan (Chez Charles Joseph Quinto) 1724. 500 to 700 €
    <center><b>Fonsie Mealy Auctioneers<br>The Collectors’ Sale<br>July 7 – 15, 2020</b>
    <b>Fonsie Mealy, Jul. 7 – 15:</b> [French (V. Rev.Dr. Nicholas, Bp of Ferns.)] <i>The Unkinde Desertor of Loyall Men and True Frinds,</i> 12mo, n.p. 1676. 500 to 700 €
    <b>Fonsie Mealy, Jul. 7 – 15:</b> Yeats (W.B.) <i>Plays and Controversies,</i>, N.Y. (The MacMillan Company) 1924, Signed Limited Edn. 500 to 700 €
    <b>Fonsie Mealy, Jul. 7 – 15:</b> Barrie (J.M.) & Thomson (Hugh) illus. <i>Quality Street, a Comedy in Four Acts,</i> L. (Hodder and Stoughton) 1901, Limited Edition, signed by the artist. 500 to 700 €
    <center><b>Fonsie Mealy Auctioneers<br>The Collectors’ Sale<br>July 7 – 15, 2020</b>
    <b>Fonsie Mealy, Jul. 7 – 15:</b> Molyneaux (William). <i>The Case of Ireland's being bound by Acts of Parliament in England Stated,</i> [London 1719]. 200 to 300 €
    <b>Fonsie Mealy, Jul. 7 – 15:</b> Johnston's (W. & A.) Map of South Africa, to illustrate the Military Operations 1900. 100 to 150 €

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