Tuesday, February 21, 2017

ABC For Book Collectors

John Carter died more than four decades ago.  But his work lives on.  In 1952 his ABC for Book Collectors was published.  The fifth edition, revised, was released 20 years later, in 1972.  I came across a copy of that final edition, published by Knopf, and found it most interesting.

The book jacket aptly describes its contents and significance when it stated:

“Here, under more than 450 alphabetical entries, ranging in length from a single line to several pages, may be found definition and analysis of the technical terms of book-collecting and bibliography.

“This is an essential reference book for every book collector from aspirant to addict.  It belongs on the most omniscient of antiquarian booksellers.  And it will entertain any general reader who relishes the niceties of connoisseurship for their own sake.”

Carter was a vice president of The Bibliographical Society in Britain, a published author, and a regular contributor to The London Times Literary Supplement.

Library Journal praised his masterful work, stating:

“John Carter, already somewhat of a legend in the world of young bookmen, has performed a fine service for librarians and collectors in the carefully and delightfully prepared manual.  In a dictionary arrangement he has set fourth, with the authority of Webster and the wit of Ambrose Bierce, the essential terms of the world of books and illuminated them with specific references and practical examples.”

His first entry is “abbreviations,” where he goes on to identify over 100 terms, such as “printed by printed,” “signed,” “gilt,” and “binding” by their abbreviations.  He concludes with an entry for “yellow-back,” which used to describe a particular type of cheap edition of fiction that was usually colored yellow.”

Carter goes on to describe and define many terms, such as
·         Americana – books about or connected with or printed in America.
·         Association Copy – a book which once belonged to, was annotated by, the author.
·         Bibliography – the love of books.  A lover of books is a bibliophile.
·         Doublure – a binder’s term, meaning that the paste-down (or inside lining of the covers) is not of paper but of leather, usually decorated.
·         Emblem Books – A specialized type of illustrated book popular in the 16th and 17th centuries.
·         Provenance – the pedigree of a book’s precious ownership.
·         Quarter Bound – a book with leather back (spine), sides covered with cloth or paper, and no leather corners, is said to be quarter bound.
·         Watermark – a distinguishing mark or device incorporated in the wire mesh of the tray in which the pulp settles during the process of papermaking, and visible in the finished product when held against the light.

One can learn about the history and nuances of books and book publishing by consuming a book like this.  But, as Carter points out in his preface, this book has an intended readership.  He writes:

“This is not an encyclopedia.  It is an ABC and bibliography, or of printing or binding, or book production terms, though many of these come into it.  It is an ABC of book –collecting, for novices, would-be collectors and that section of the literate public which takes an interest in our pursuit without necessarily wishing to share it.”

The book now lives on, to a degree, as an artifact in the world of book collecting, a book for book collectors to now be seen as a collector’s item itself.

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Brian Feinblum’s views, opinions, and ideas expressed in this blog are his alone and not that of his employer. You can follow him on Twitter @theprexpert and email him at brianfeinblum@gmail.com. He feels more important when discussed in the third-person. This is copyrighted by BookMarketingBuzzBlog 2017©. Born and raised in Brooklyn, now resides in Westchester. Named one of the best book marketing blogs by Book Baby http://blog.bookbaby.com/2013/09/the-best-book-marketing-blogs 

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