Relying on a general internet search for some information on a new book titled Great Graves of Upstate New York, Google asked, “Did you mean Great Grapes of Upstate New York?” This reminds me of another time some automated spellchecker didn’t like how I abbreviated New York Public Library down to NYPL. “Wrong. Try nipple.”
From the dust jacket rear panel of The Triumph of the Fungi: A Rotten History, by Nicholas P. Money (NY: Oxford University Press, 2006).
“What a wonderful collection of fungal vignettes!”
We learn from the inside rear flap that Professor Money is also the author of Mr. Bloomfield’s Orchard: The Mysterious World of Mushrooms, Molds, and Mycologists; and Carpet Monsters and Killer Spores: A Natural History of Toxic Mold. I wouldn’t want to be his housekeeper.
Typo of the Day (Database Protectors: We are 170 librarians working together for better data.)
“Special Bonus Typo”
Normally, we take the weekend off, but we ran across this on the wacky news segment of Keith Olbermann’s Countdown. He claimed that this might be the typo of the century, and we can only imagine the impact it had. Reuters recently had to retract a story about the lives of bees, [as] somebody made an unfortunate substitution for the term “Queen Bee,” and provided the following information:
“Queen Elizabeth has 10 times the lifespan of workers and lays up to 2,000 eggs a day.”
Lesson to librarians – “Watch those macros.”
Ye Olde Booksellers
How many times can you use the word “book” in the title of a book without overbooking that title? John Power pulls it off with five occurrences in A Handy-Book About Books, for Book-Lovers, Book-Buyers, and Book-Sellers (London: John Wilson, 1876). The ten parts listed in the Table of Contents follow.
Books about books in all the principle Western languages, with annotations. You read the list of these early, highly esoteric bibliographies and just want to own them all.
His earliest references are kind of shaky, but there is much of interest.
B.C. 50: According to Chinese chronology the art of printing was discovered.
1285: Wood engraving invented about this year in Italy by “the two Curio.” This work is a representation in eight parts of the actions of Alexander the Great, with Latin verses.
1473: Collectorium super Magnificat, printed at Esslinga (Esslingen in Wirtemburg), by John Gerson. The first book in which printed musical notes are found.
1514: Historical subjects began to be used for stamped covers instead of arabesque.
1543-4: Zumarraga [first Bishop of Mexico] [his brackets], Dotrina breve, 8vo, Mexico. Supposed to be the earliest existing book printed in America.
1622, Aug. 23: The certain News of the present Week, small 4to, published; considered by some the first English newspaper.
1676: First book auction in England was Dr. L. Seeman’s, and sold by William Cooper, bookseller, in Warwick Lane.
1690: White paper first began to be made in England; all before was brown only.
More like recipes, for getting out stains, making paper water or fire proof, polishing bindings, etc. Many involve acids, liquid solutions, blotting paper, and hot irons, and a good number of these methods would probably be frowned upon today.
SCENT OF RUSSIA LEATHER.—This peculiar odour, which some persons like, but to many is very disagreeable, is given with Empyreumatic oil of the birch.
OLD WRITING, TO MAKE LEGIBLE.—In a pint of boiling water put six bruised gall-nuts, and let it stand for three days. Wash the writing with the mixture to restore the colour, and, if not strong enough, add more galls. [What gall!]
He also explains how to varnish old maps and prints to make them bolder, and gives a formula for strong paste which ends with, “This is poison.” The final page is partially blank for the stated purpose of adding your own favorites.
“List of Places Where Printing is Carried on in Great Britain, with the Date of Its Introduction.”
In four parts (London, Provincial, Foreign, and American), in alphabetical order by place and then by bookseller. There is an asterisk in front of the firm if it published catalogs. The author complains that booksellers themselves did not cooperate very well in the compilation of this list when solicited through Notes & Queries (“the book-lovers’ friend”). “The present list is mainly due to the kindness of correspondents who have forwarded from their localities such information as they were able to give.” “It is to be hoped, if a second edition of this work is called for, the dealers themselves will furnish the information: the publication of which is so obviously to their advantage.”
-Dictionary of Terms:
Twenty-four pages of generally outdated terms, for which he gives the sources, omitted here.
ALMANACK-DAY.—The day on which almanacks for the new year are ready by the publisher for delivery to the trade. It is by custom fixed on the 21st of November, though, under peculiar circumstances, it is sometimes later.
ANASTATIC PRINTING.—Gr., anistemi, to raise up. A mode of obtaining fac-simile impressions of any printed page or engraving without re-setting the types or re-engraving the plate. The printed page or engraving being saturated with dilute nitric acid, which does not affect the part covered with printing ink, a transfer is taken on a plate of zinc, which is soon corroded or eaten away by the acid from the non-printed parts of the page, leaving the printed portion in slight relief. A further application of acid deepens the corroding and heightens the relief to the extent necessary to enable the subject to be printed in the ordinary manner.
ARMARIAN.—An officer in the monastic libraries who had charge of the books to prevent them from being injured by insects, and especially to look after bindings. He had also to keep a correct catalogue.
BASTARD FOUNTS.—Small-faced type upon a larger body, such as nonpareil on minion, minion on brevier, &c., so as to give the printed pages the appearance of being leaded.
BEAD.—The little knot of the headband.
BIBLIOMANIAC.—Ger.,büchernarrr, book fool. An accumulator who blunders faster than he buys, cock-brained and heavy pursed; divided by the Abbé Rive into three classes: 1. The inordinate collector. 2. The collector of certain authors, editions, subjects, &c. 3. The collector of books for the sake of binding only. Perhaps this definition is rather too severe.
BIBLIOTAPHE.—One who keeps his books under lock and key.
CATCHWORD.—A term used by early printers for the word at the bottom of each page, under the last word of the last line, which word is the first at the top of the next page,—now generally disused, but still to be found in Acts of Parliament, Parliamentary papers, the ‘Quarterly Review,’ and a few other publications.
FILLETED.—When the bands of a volume are marked with a single gilt line only.
FOLDER.—The person who folds the book according to the pages previous to its being sewn. In large towns it is generally done by females.
FORRELL.—Rough undressed skins of beasts used in early times for bindings. Specimens are to be seen sometimes in old libraries.
GUARDS.—Shreds of strong paper interspersed and sewn in a book for the insertion of prints or other matter, to prevent its being uneven when filled; also the pieces projecting over the end-papers.
HALF-EXTRA.—Books forwarded carefully, and lined with marble paper, having silk head-bands and narrow roll round the sides, but plain inside.
INK.—Pancirollus says that kind of ink which was used by emperors alone and forbidden to others was called encaustum; from which he derives the Italian inchiostro. From the same source we may derive the French encre and the English ink.
LARGE PAPER COPIES.—Books printed on paper of extra size with wide margins. Dr. Dibdin says he never met with a book printed in this country on large paper before 1600, except a unique copy of Scot’s ‘Discovery of Witchcraft,’ 1584.
LONG PRIMER.—A type so called from having been used to print primers; used for dictionaries, works in 12mo, and other works, in which much matter is required to be got into a small space.
MACKLE.—When part of the impression on a page appears double, owing to the platen dragging on the frisket. [Editor’s note: I hate when that happens.]
NIELLO.—A pulverized substance, composed of silver, copper, lead, sulphur, and borax; used by the early engravers to fill the lines so as to make the design visible on silver or copper plates.
PAMPHLET.—Any work that does not exceed five sheets octavo is called a pamphlet. The derivations suggested for this word are par un filet, held together by a thread; or palme feuillet, as leaves to be held in the hand.
PEARL.—[A very tiny type is reproduced.] Very good for those blessed with strong sight.
RECTO.—The term formerly applied to the side of a sheet of parchment that was written on. The blank side was called VERSO, or the REVERSE. It is now used to denominate the page of a book printed on the right hand side—always the odd page.
REGISTER, or Registrum Chartarum.—A list of signatures and first words of a sheet, at the end of early printed books—now disused.
STET.—When a word has been struck out in a proof, and is afterwards decided it shall remain, the word is marked with dots underneath, and stet written in the margin.
-Miscellaneous: An interesting hodgepodge here. The following excerpt from Memoirs of Libraries by Edward Edwards, on degrees of rarity, volunteers to serve as an example.
1. Books not current in the trade and hard to find, are of unfrequent occurrence. 2. Books not common in the country in which sought for, and those not easily met with, are rare. 3. If the copies are hard to find in neighbouring countries, they are very rare. 4. If only 50 or 60 copies are printed, or the work so dispersed as not to make its appearance more frequently than if 60 copies alone were in existence, it is extremely rare. 5. Books of which there are not 10 copies in the world, are excessively rare.
“Mr. Edwards adds that it is implied; though not stated, that these terms apply only to such books as, for some cause or other, are sought for, and in this Brunet agrees with him.”
-Appendix: “All the additions that have been procured while the foregoing pages were at press, and also such corrections as have been found necessary, are given in this part.”
The ninth and tenth parts of Power’s impressive effort are the index and a section of interesting book-related advertisements. There are close to 25 copies of A Handy-Book About Books available online, starting at reasonable prices and topping out near $500. One modern bookseller opines thusly in his description. “A curious work of reference, attempting to convey too much information in much too short a space—for a wide audience of bibliophiles—and accomplishing the job only about half as well as it ought to have (the author does tender certain apologies in his Preface).” Even if that was true though, half is better than nothing, so good job, John Power.
Made in IOBA
Leonard Roberts of Leonard Roberts, Bookseller is the author of Arthur Hughes, His Life and Works: A Catalogue Raisonne (Woodbridge, Suffolk: ACC Ltd., 1997); and wrote the exhibition catalogue for Arthur Hughes: The Last Pre-Raphaelite (Museum of Richmond, Surrey, 10 Nov. 1998 to 13 Mar. 1999).
I don’t follow soccer all that much even though I played it, but it’s kind of relaxing to watch, and after a laborious day I sunk into the couch and stumbled onto the end of the 2006 MLS Cup championship game between the Houston Dynamo and the New England Revolution, which was pretty good for an American match. Regulation ended in a 0-0 tie, and two quick goals at the end of overtime made it 1-1. As the exhausted players girded their loins for an exciting penalty kick shootout, the phone rang. My wife indicated it was a book call, and as I have not been returning them as promptly as I should, and calculating I could dispatch it before the game resumed, I took the call.
The elderly woman on the other end had all fifteen books in front of her. It was my fate to learn their relatively worthless titles one by one. She did not believe they were not valuable after all, or that I don’t travel two counties away for one armload of common books. Nothing short of hanging up would dissuade her from a full recitation.
With mute on, the shootout began. There was a great stutter-step shot, and another skimmed off the cross post. It looked like the bald, yellow-clad goalie for one team took and easily scored a penalty kick against his usually distant counterpart, who had a little gray in his beard. What the heck? I never saw that before. Both teams had missed one shot. Time to shoo her off, restore volume for the commentary, and catch the final two attempts.
“So, as I explained, the books you have are not worth much at all, but you could look in the phone book in your area and get a second opinion from another bookseller. I really have to go now though.”
“Well, I have one in the next room I didn’t want to tell you about, but I’m told on good authority it is extremely rare and worth a lot of money. I’m not saying I would part with it.”
The chances were virtually nil, but as the fans held their breath and the penultimate ball rocketed toward the net like a Brian Ching bicycle kick, bookselling took over, and I ceded the end of this exciting match.
“Okay. What is the title of that one?”
“I have it right here. It’s The Life of George Washington.”
“I’m sorry to say this again, but that does not sound all that valuable.”
“Hold on, I’m not done with the rest of the title yet.”
The game was over. I don’t even know which forgettably named team won, but the margin was a single missed shot for a final score of 0-0, 1-1, 4-3. There was pandemonium at the stadium, and I imagined the commentators wrapping everything up nicely. The season was over, they were late for the next scheduled program, and it may be five years before I watch American soccer again.
“The Life of George Washington in Words of One Syllable.”
The Flyleaf is published by Rice University’s Friends of Fondren Library. In the Summer 2006 issue, Archivist Emerita Nancy Boothe tells the 1980 tale of lowlife library thief Robert Kindred, who specialized in removing valuable plates (flora and fauna, Harper’s Weekly engravings, etc.) from early periodicals and selling them in “antique prints” stores in Garland, Texas and in California. He was finally pinched in a nearby university library, and Boothe was called in to identify some Fondren Library material. (They eventually discovered 4,000 plates were missing from 257 volumes in 24 titles.) Police located Kindred’s blue Cadillac and found 140 plastic bags of pilfered material. Everything in the trunk got a property tag. “Other property tags showed, in addition to stolen plates, information as to the brand and size of his jockey shorts, a Ramada Inn key labeled: ‘Thank you for staying with us,’ tapes by Olivia Newton-John, and tons of photos of Annette Funicello, one of the original Disney Mouseketeers, with whom he was apparently infatuated.”
The Standard can always use interesting, well-written articles on subjects of interest to the bookselling trade. Please query first, however, to email@example.com. You will be supplied with submission guidelines, but to summarize, the material should be original, it is subject to editing, you retain copyright, and of course there is no payment other than most everyone’s satisfaction. You do not need to be a member of IOBA, except for the IOBA Bookseller Profiles section, though we would surely like you to join. We are very interested in the book trade outside the U.S. as well.
Currently we are seeking short pieces for the following self-explanatory columns. House Calls; Garage/Estate/Library Sale Tales; Auction Action; Book Show Impressions; Book Store Lore; and Library File.
Your title page is on the left hand side,
Ted Aber and Stella King’s History of Hamilton County,
with your copyright page facing it on the right!
From the Comic Weekly section of the New York Journal American dated 3/10/1946, half the panels of The Little King by O. Soglow.