Bright Young Things: Katharina Koch

Our series profiling the next generation of antiquarian booksellers continues today with Katharina Koch, daughter of Joachim Koch, the proprietor of Books Tell You Why in Mount Pleasant, South Carolina:

BYT Interview Picture.jpgNP: As your father is Joachim Koch, you must’ve grown up around rare books.  Did you develop an interest in them early in life? Or did it come to you later?

KK: While I always read books as a child and my bookshelf was always full, I would say that my interest in collecting rare books came later.  Then came Christmas 2002: In my stocking I found a scroll of papers packaged in a tube that tennis balls would usually come in. This package contained the beginnings of Books Tell You Why, which was at that point the smallest bookstore in the world.  Little did I know that this Christmas present, a bookstore, would change the rest of our lives.

NP: What is your role at Books Tell You Why?

KK: I coordinate all of the marketing efforts at Books Tell You Why (although, sometimes they coordinate me). This includes designing and updating print advertisements, helping with newsletters, supporting social media activities on Google Plus, Facebook, and Twitter, as well as organizing six book fairs we currently attend each year. 



NP: What do you love about the book trade?

KK: What I love most about the book trade is that there is so much to discover.  Whether traveling to book fairs and seeing new places, or cataloguing a pile of books, I am always learning something new and I am constantly exposed to interesting literature.  Oh, and interesting people.  There are so many great people in the trade; I have seen exciting collections, and the people who built these are fascinating.

NP: 
Favorite or most interesting book that you’ve handled?

KK: After being introduced to Walt Whitman in my AP Language & Composition/American Literature class, I became truly interested in Walt Whitman, his life, and his career. After learning about how Whitman was inspired by human interactions and the magnificence of nature, my classmates and I deeply considered his work and created written analyses on his life. We explored how Leaves of Grass is designed to show the world sensations of humanity through poetry. To write our analyses, we received a packet of documents to reference in our paper, and the first document was a print-out of an Abebooks search showing first editions of Leaves of Grass. I recognized some of the booksellers on the print-out and knowing that I would soon be going to the ABAA California Book Fair, anticipated that a particular bookseller would bring his copy. It was amazing to see a first edition of this book, published in 1854, in an original print run of only 795 copies, being kept in such good condition. With the class experience, I was able to much better understand and see first-hand the cultural significance of such an important piece of American literature.

NP: What do you personally collect?

KK: I personally collect The Night before Christmas titles and Charles van Sandwyk books. Christmas has always been my favorite holiday of the year by far.  When I started collecting books and wanted to collect something I actually enjoyed, I knew it would have to be The Night before Christmas books! Of course, as collecting doesn’t come without having the right bibliography, Nancy Marshall’s The Night before Christmas: A Descriptive Bibliography is sitting on my shelf.

I also collect Charles van Sandwyk books, which I started after visiting the Seattle Antiquarian Book Fair one year. Van Sandwyk, an author and illustrator who divides his time between Canada and Fiji, adorns his hand-sewn works with whimsical fairies and woodland scenes that are reminiscent of Arthur Rackham’s work. I fell in love with his works and enjoy collecting them, since they are so charming and magical!  He has a great publisher whom I enjoy working with.

NP: If you could live inside the pages of any rare book, which would it be?

KK: Living within five minutes of the ocean for most of my life, I have become dependent on the sensation of sand between my toes and life on the seashore. Like Santiago in The Old Man and Sea, I love feeling the warm sun beating down on my head and the salty breeze whipping the hair around my face.  I would love to live inside the pages of this book by Hemingway, watching and learning from the old fisherman who struggles to bring home the giant marlin he has caught out in the middle of the Gulf Stream.

NP: Do you plan to continue in the family business?

KK: My current plans are to attend the University of St. Andrews in Scotland and study Biology; then we’ll see what happens. As many things at Books Tell You Why can be done remotely, I am most definitely going continue working on my marketing and collecting endeavors. As part of that, I am looking forward to doing some book hunting in Scotland and the United Kingdom as well!



NP: How do you feel about the future of the book trade, being the youngest member of the ABAA?

KK: 

I feel positive about the future of the book trade and do not think that anyone considering starting in the book trade or collecting should be discouraged in any way. While technology such as the Kindle or iPad will constantly be developing and improving, I think that people will always enjoy curating their collections. I think that there is definitely something alluring and satisfying about holding a rare book in your hands, and admiring how well it was made and the work and art that went into its creation.


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