A donor made out a receipt last week and, in the spot where we ask for a description of the donation, wrote “One large box of books—mixed”. I have some more vocabulary words I wanted to pass along, but outside of the fact that each has been significant in February this year, they don’t have much to do with each other. So this is a box of words—mixed.
Pre-Fire imprint: There are several watersheds in Chicago history, points so important that you can divide history into Before it and After It. One of the most definite of these was the Great Chicago Fire of 1871, a calamity devastating enough that the post-Fire city was a largely new entity. Books printed in Chicago before the Fire are known as pre-Fire imprints, and are highly collectible, since, for one thing, most of them went to ashes in 1871. Do be sure that yours was printed in Chicago, and not printed somewhere else and then distributed to store owners who printed their name and address on the title page. (As is still done, for example, with those magazine sections in your Sunday paper.)
Gamble-hinged: The Gamble-Hinged Music Company is still in business in Chicago as Gamble Music, a company which now, as then, sells musical supplies. One of the things that made it famous was Gamble-hinging. They took a piece of sheet music, pulled the pages apart, affixed a cloth strip to each page, and then sewed the strips together, creating a piece of sheet music which sat flat on a music stand, and which could be used a lot without having the paper split at the spine from constant opening and closing. This was easier to do in the days of inexpensive labor: a visitor to the Gamble-Hinged Music Company back in the day recalls the workroom where people sat sewing pieces of paper together. Collectors of sheet music prefer their music untouched by these refinements, but people who intend to play the music find them useful, as in most cases, the hinges still have not split.
With Content: If you find, as I recently did, a letter written by a man who won four Pulitzer Prizes and an Oscar, you have a nice little thing, known, in this case, as a typed letter signed, or TLS. If you find that the man has recalled a little anecdote about the author’s wife, you have something even better, a TLS “with content”. It’s a letter which might have some value beyond the autograph, since a researcher might learn something from it. If, as happened to me on another occasion, you pick up a letter and find a President of the United States discussing the recent death of his wife, you may have a TLS “with significant content”. All of these things add to the value of the letter.
Offprint: If you wrote an article which appeared in the Banana Box Fancier’s Gazette, this is obviously something you want to share with all your friends. Nowadays, you just send people the link to the website where they can read the journal online, but once upon a time, rather than sending everyone a copy of a magazine with a lot of worthless articles by OTHER people, you could get a number of offprints: copies of just your article, frequently with a neat little cover on it. These varied from pages ripped from the magazines stapled into a paper cover with your name, the title of the article, and the date of the issue (awkward if your article started on a lefthand page, since you’d get the last page of someone else’s article to start the booklet—almost always scored through with a thick lead pencil stroke) to specially printed booklets with a heavy colored paper cover. Once, not too long ago, we were given an entire tablet of offprints: the copies of the article had been done in a lump of about thirty, so that the author could tear them out of the tablet as needed and send them away. Offprints are almost always found autographed by the author, which in 95% of cases alters the price of the offprint by not a penny.
There is a word I use for the modern equivalent of this, the print-out of an article from a website, I am getting these more and more in scholarly collections, but the word I use for them is unscholarly, imprecise, and not something I want to put here anyway. Just pretend it fell through the hole in the bottom of the banana box.