Tuesday, June 13, 2006

First Day of Summer School

I decided that this summer I need to learn more bookselling terminology and ordered a few books to help me in this cause. My first textbook arrived yesterday, Dealer's thesaurus: 6,000 ways to describe books & historical paper and if you are a bookseller I'd say you should run right out and buy it except the cheapest copy out there is $65.00, so it's not an impulse buy. A couple of weeks ago, before I ordered my copy, the cheapest copy was $99.00. I hesitated for several days (have I ever spent $65 for a book? perhaps not) and, lo and behold, a seller listed a copy for $65.00, so I bought it.

If you're not a bookseller you probably can't imagine why this book is so interesting. There are no paragraphs or complete sentences. It's 195 pages of lists of phrases used to describe books. It was published in 1993, pre-internet. The author combed through the paper catalogs of other booksellers. "I spent hours wondering how to describe faults I would encounter," she explains in the introduction. "I quickly learned that collecting useful phrases on index cards when I came across them was more efficient than searching for a phrase to fit the situation at a given moment."

These useful phrases are in this book and I've already used a couple of them in my descriptions. Some of the phrases are a hoot, such as this one under binding faults: "some moron used tape to secure the front cover." Here are some other phrases:

  • marginal worming injuring letters in the running heads
  • pages are slightly cockled
  • occasional foxing to terminal leaves
  • one page carelessly opened
  • a few leaves ruffled
  • pages lightly damp-rippled; otherwise very good
  • with the spine largely perished
  • generally shaken

How does one carelessly open a single page? One better not carelessly open a book with a largely perished spine. I like the words "cockled" and "damp-rippled." I've noticed that the word "leaves" is often used instead of "pages." So that's another way to sound like a professional bookseller. Maybe I should start saying, "don't color on the leaves" and "don't rip the leaves" to the children.

Booksellers who write those descriptions, which I see way too often, that do everything but describe the book ("We ship fast - U save $") or, worse, don't write any description at all, obviously haven't read the Dealer's Thesaurus. This book will always be at hand when I list books.

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