In 1976, a chemical engineer named Bob Fleck changed his profession and became a bookseller. He opened Oak Knoll Books, and two years later expanded to open Oak Knoll Press. Fleck ran the business and contributed greatly to the antiquarian book world until he passed away in 2016. His son, Robert Fleck III, now serves as the Antiquarian Director of Oak Knoll Books and Press.
When Bob Fleck first opened Oak Knoll, he traded and sold his personal collection in exchange for inventory, a stock that has now grown to about 23,000 books. While the company has expanded, its mission has remained relatively unchanged over the last forty-one years: to specialize in books about books, in the broad sense of the term. From the history of the book trade to the art of bookmaking and publishing, Oak Knoll has explored the objecthood of the book throughout its existence. The dual life of Oak Knoll as a collector and creator of books, specializing in books about books, is explored through trade catalogs and personal testimonies of the Fleck family in “Collecting and Creating.”
Oak Knoll is located in New Castle, Delaware, the first capital of the First State and the landing point of William Penn. Fittingly enough for its historic setting, Oak Knoll is situated in a building with a history of its own. What began as a Masonic Temple continued its life as the New Castle Opera House before eventually becoming home to the bookshop and press. To learn more about the building’s storied past, check out “The Locations of Oak Knoll Books.”