Friday, June 16, 2006

Leaves Again

Another "summer school" text arrived yesterday: ABC for Book Collectors. It was written in 1952 by John Carter and is now in its eighth edition.

This is not a cover to cover read but rather a reference work of 450 alphabetical entries of the technical terms of book collecting. In my last post I wrote about The Dealer's Thesaurus and the tendency of old school booksellers to use the word "leaves" instead of "pages" when describing a book. I immediately turned to the Leaf entry in ABC for Book Collectors. This book pulls no punches: "The inaccurate and slovenly misuse of page for leaf appears to be on the increase and should be pilloried when found." I'm not sure which I appreciate more: his strong opinion on leaves, or his use of the word "pilloried." I will now have to give even more serious consideration to using the word "leaves" in lieu of "pages." After all, how many Amazon descriptions have this word?

Some more entries from ABC for Book Collectors:
  • Dropped Head - "..which means that there is no title-page, the title being placed at the head of the first page of text; chiefly applicable to pamphlets, leaflets, etc."
  • Wrappers - "A wrappered book, in antiquarian parlance, is what would now be called a paper-back, and it has nothing to do with dust-wrappers or dust-jackets."
  • Bastard Title - It was a bit of a surprise to see a brash term like this, considering that the author thinks the word "pages" is unsophisticated. A bastard title is the same thing as the half title page: "the leaf in front of the title-page."
  • Extra-illustrated - "...copies which have been added to them, either by a private owner or professionally."

I'm tempted to take this new knowledge and write a description like this for one book, just for fun, just to see if the book would ever sell or generate customer inquiries: "The bastard title has marginal worming, the wrappers are slightly cockled, but otherwise a sparkling copy, save for one carelessly opened page and a dropped head on the terminal leaf rather than on the header leaf due to a printer error."

I removed a book from our inventory the other day because Fourth Daughter paged through it too enthusiastically but perhaps I should have changed the description to the following: "Every leaf carelessly opened and extra-illustrated by a young artist using a crayon and strawberry jam mixture, the book is generally shaken, a wad of chewing gum tipped in, soil on head and tail of text block complete affecting the interior, but a pristine copy in all other respects."

Who says writing descriptions can't ever be fun?

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2 Comments:

Blogger Mimi said...

Giggle, that is fun!

12:54 PM  
Blogger Amber Benton said...

Just a note about 'opened leaves'... I think this refers back to when you bought books with pages uncut. The 'leaves' :) were printed on larger sheets of paper, folded and bound, and the reader carefully slit the pages along the top and one side to actually be able to read the book. One of my Jane Austen's that I picked up from a thrift store, though not a valuable copy had some uncut pages near the end of the book. (Obviously someone never finished reading it!) I opened the pages myself, and let me tell you a couple were 'carelessly done' even though I was trying to be careful. It is not such an easy thing to master I think!

5:44 AM  

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