lingo bingo

Before I even start this, I know I’m gonna get comments up the wazoo . . . well, have at it, as I always say what’s the point of writing things everyone agrees with?

For some strange reason newbie booksellers on the Bibliophile Mailing List, email me off list with basic questions about the trade. I don’t know if it is because they think I’m smarter or friendlier than anyone else, or if they think that I won’t think less of them just for asking what they think are dumb questions, but nevertheless for the last few years people have been asking me stuff.

Yesterday’s question centered around an obscure late 19th century title that had dueling copyright years; one on the verso and another on an interior illustration. The verso is the the back of the title page, where the copyright traditionally usually lives. Actually it’s the back of any page, and the recto is the front, but if someone just says ‘verso‘ this is the page you want. This verso said 1888 and the illustration said 1895. So, was someone smoking opium?

This newbie, like all newbies, is trying to speed teach themselves bookselling by using other people’s listings to research the books in hand. But not all listings are alike, in fact a good portion of the people listing books on the internet don’t know their verso from a hot rock. (my friends are laughing cause they know I usually insert a few vulgar epithets here) Never assume that what you are reading is gospel (including this) and figure out which booksellers KNOW a hot rock when they see one. But I digress.

Back to the book in hand, because of the later copyright date, one can conclude that the book was NOT printed in 1888 and hence is NOT a first edition, first printing. Another of my pet peeves: first versus later printings. RARELY will a book be refered to as a ‘first edition’ if it is NOT a first printing of that edition. I say rarely because it happens, but not so much as you would think. There is a trend on the internet, especially on fleabay, to present later printings as ‘first editions’. This is a shame (and a crime), since you shouldn’t HAVE to verify the printing, but then you shouldn’t have to ask someone not to drop kick your package all the way to the post office, but there you have it. Never assume, always ask, and a never call a reprint ‘a first edition’, call it what it is: a later printing. Sometimes, a 2nd or 3rd printing can be of interest, such as with Harry P. #1, where the first 3 printings were very small, and it’s nicer to have a 2 than a 4, but that’s rarely the case. I digressed again didn’t I?

After a tiny bit of research (read:Googling) the author I found that the book was indeed originally printed in 1888. Therefore, the illustration must have been added to a later print run. I have seen this happen more often with frontispieces, that’s the illustrated page that comes BEFORE the title page, sometimes the 1st printing HAD one and to save money they removed it from later printings, OR they decide that adding illustrations will cause renewed interest. Who knows? the late 19th was rife with printers, and they weren’t all conscientious about changing the information on the verso everytime they did something just for the benefit of people 100 years away.

Coincidentally, the question I had a few days ago regarded the difference between a printing and an edition. USUALLY the difference is obvious. If the same printing plates are used, it is usually just a later printing, as in our 1895 reprint. But if the textural contents are changed beyond fixing errata (mistakes), as in revisions, new introductions, forwards, etc it should be considered a new edition. If the publisher changes the size, format or resets the type, it’s a new edition. If the book changes publishers it’s a new edition. Use your eyes, if it looks different, it’s most likely a new edition.

So what have we learned Dorothy? We learned never assume as well as verso, recto, printing, edition, frontispiece and errata.

Ask yourself why does it matter if you know these words, “I can’t use them in my listings, my customers won’t know what I mean and they won’t buy my books, and I will go broke, and I will get evicted and I will have to live in a cardboard box and then I won’ be able to Tivo the Sopranos!” Oh ferchrissakes! you would think I was asking you to actually WORK for your money or something. Look you got a 10 dollar book, and a 5 dollar listing, fine, I agree. But as even a blind pig finds a truffle now and then, what if you are listing a $100, $1000 or $10,000 book? If you were the buyer would you settle for a $5 description? These should get much more professional treatment. You want people to trust you with the big bucks, you have to sound like you know your ass from a hot rock. And you can’t go around lifting other peoples descriptions, it’s not nice AND worst of all there may not be one. You are gonna have to write it from scratch yourself. You don’t even have to BUY research materials anymore, there are plenty of sites on the net with glossaries and diagrams, all free. Just root around for one. Teach yourself a new word every day. So that when you HAVE to ask someone for help, you are both on the same page. Thus endeth the lesson.

hmmm, perhaps I need to start an advice column.

IOBA Glossary of Book Terms
ABAA Glossary of Book Terms


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