Oak Knoll Books is an independent bookseller/publisher that specializes in books about books. The 25-year-old firm publishes 40 titles per year in addition to stocking approximately 100,000 new and antiquarian books in its bookstore inventory. The company recently expanded its New Castle, Del., headquarters to 15,000 square feet. And while the company is "not very big size- and personnel-wise," said marketing and publicity director Michael Guessford, "we are international and known internationally."
Publisher Robert Fleck, a chemical engineer turned antiquarian book dealer, started Oak Knoll in 1976, using his own collection to fill his first catalogue. Initially, he told PW, antiquarian books were his primary interest, but two years later, he began publishing new titles and reprinting classics in the book arts genre. The publishing arm of the business, Oak Knoll Press, published a few books each year and began growing rapidly 10 years ago, when Fleck hired a publishing director.
Oak Knoll Press now prints 800 to a few thousand copies of each title and designs them for a long shelf life—acid-free paper, full cloth cases and sewn bindings. Most of the output consists of research and resource volumes in the areas of book collecting, papermaking, illustration, library history, printing, typography and bookselling. One bestselling title is John Carter's ABC for Book Collectors, a concise dictionary of collecting terminology. Oak Knoll's publishing program is supplemented by copublishing and distribution agreements with the British Library, the Library of Congress's Center for the Book and the Bibliographical Society, among many others. The company is not yet publishing e-books, but Guessford said, "We're observing what's going on, and we definitely have plans to go digital when the time comes."
On the bookselling end, Oak Knoll runs a store in colonial New Castle, issues frequent catalogues and fulfills orders online. Fleck, past president of the American Antiquarian Booksellers' Association and current v-p of the International League of Antiquarian Booksellers, said most of the business is still through the 4,500 printed catalogues mailed to private collectors, libraries and dealers.
To attract book arts connoisseurs, Oak Knoll holds an annual festival to celebrate fine press work, which is open to the public and usually draws a crowd of 600 book lovers. This year's Oak Knoll Fest VIII, to be held on October 13 and 14, will feature guest speakers, a two-day book sale, 40 fine press and art book exhibits from France, the U.K., Canada and the U.S., and a book signing for Nicholas A. Basbanes's October release from HarperCollins, Patience & Fortitude: A Roving Chronicle of Book People, Book Places, and Book Culture.
For more information, visit the company's Web site at www.oakknoll.com.