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Every book has a story

Every book has a story.

Check in frequently to read the behind-the-scenes scoop on the Newberry’s popular Book Fair. The blog is maintained by “Uncle Blogsy,” otherwise known as Dan Crawford, Book Fair Manager.

Watch Your Language

It is not nearly so large as the Swedish collection, nor quite so varied, but here is the first exotic flavor to be added to the Book Fair blend for 2017. The Polish-American Museum sent over some 42 boxes of books, roughly half of which contained books in Polish.

The rules for pricing large numbers of books in Swedish apply to books in Polish. I do not read either language, but there are plenty of clues. A book with lots of maps, and lists of things with what are obviously opening and closing times is a travel guide. A book which lists a lot of words in bold face, with paragraphs following in regular face letters is a dictionary (if it includes lots of photographs, it can be called an encyclopedia. (If you keep an eye on the books, you will learn that the word for dictionary in Polish is Slownik, while the word for encyclopedia is Encyklopedia.) And if there are lots and lots of photographs, you put it in Photography instead of in Foreign Language.

There were plenty of big, heavy art and photography books in this collection, and a goodly number of them were filled with text explaining the whole history of the pictures under review. These went into the Foreign Language boxes. But there were also plenty which had just twelve or sixteen pages of explanatory text, followed by two hundred pages of beautifully reproduced pictures. In cases like this, I feel the pictures outvote the text. Surely you can enjoy a work of art without needing a translation of the caption.

Yes, this does occasionally confuse some people. I had one customer who reminded me every year, “You let me buy that great big book on Impressionist paintings and I didn’t realize until I got it home that it was all in Japanese.”

Just proves my point, bacon bundt cake: you were interested in the pictures. So interested that you never even looked at the text. Didn’t even notice that it was all in a different alphabet, eh? There’s a second-hand bridge over the Chicago River you might be interested in acquiring. I can give you a good price.

It’s much the same with photography books, many of which have little more text than what was put on the cover, identifying what part of the world you’re seeing. If the cover says “Polska” instead of “Poland”, is that really an excuse to put a picture book in Foreign Language?

To some degree, we do similar things with cookbooks. If there’s a picture showing an apple pie, and the recipe starts with “1 Kilo Apfel”, we kind of feel you can figure out the rest from there. It’s all a matter of where we think the book will find its audience.

Mind you, every year we have people who see Polish-English dictionaries out for sale and demand, “Shouldn’t these be in reference, with the other dictionaries? Half the book is in English!” These logical people are asked to work in some category where everything in the book is in the same language. (Even there I get grief: one year a volunteer pointed out that a book, though in English, had quite a French atmosphere and ought to go in Foreign Language.) Anyway, since this collection also included a number of Polish-French dictionaries, Polish-German dictionaries, and Polish-Russian dictionaries, it keeps the whole family together.

In any case, MOST of these books will be found in the Foreign Language section, on the shelves for Polish. If you should see a coffee table book about some Polish painter in the art section, you MAY wish to check on the text before you make a purchase.

And you might not. Because–before you ask, prune pierogi–we don’t HAVE an English translation of it.

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