Words Words Words

You made that resolution to add a new word to your vocabulary every day in the new year, right? Why not? Oh, you resolved to write down a book you wanted at the book fair for every day instead. Quite understandable. You are forgiven.

But here are a few words from the world of book catalogs that I thought I might throw at you, just in case you ever need to know them.

PRIZE BOOK: Once upon a time, schools had special books which were given as prizes for attendance, scholarship, good deportment, etc. These ranged from things that were bought in job lots of 50 or so and had a special sticker slapped inside each one by the principal’s secretary to books with special leather bindings that had the official seal of the school stamped in gold on the cover. Some of these are quite lovely, and a few are a little weird. That copy you gave me of Trotsky’s The Revolution Betrayed which was given as a prize in an English girls’ school around 1939 is a little too Prime of Miss Jean Brodie for me.

TISSUE GUARD: This is a piece of gauzy paper used in many illustrated books of the Victorian era to keep the ink of an illustration from getting on the page it faced, at least until sold. The buyer, I’m told, was supposed to pull all these out once the book got home. We’re just as happy with the people who left them in, because the ink will still sometimes print itself on the facing page.

LARGE PAPER EDITION: Once upon a time, believe it or not, publishers wanted to spend as little money as possible publishing a book. So a LOT of 18th and 19th century books have virtually no margins: the print goes nearly to the edge of the page. Some publishers would actually publish an edition, at a premium price, in which you could get extra large margins, suitable for scribbling notes or setting down a glass of port. These were saved the way collectibles are today and I own at least one such book myself of which no copy of the small paper edition seems to exist.

LARGE PRINT EDITION: There are lots of books which claim to have Big Type or Easy-to-Read Type. The Library of Congress expects real Large Print to be in at least 14-point type, and most publishers of official Large Print books use 18-point.

SET: A group of books with a beginning and ending, largely dependent on each other, as an encyclopedia

SERIES: A group of books independent of each other but published uniformly to present an ongoing theme: this may be a subject (the Time-Life series on the old West), a character or characters (the Twilight Series), or an intellectual gambit (the Great Books Series)

PRICE-CLIPPED: Someone has clipped off the part of the endflap that had the price on it. Two kinds of people do this: book givers, who don’t want the recipient to worry about the expense, and book dealers, who once upon a time so their customers would not assume that was the price in the store. Book dealers now consider it a bonus if the book is NOT price-clipped, which means all their predecessors were running up the value of the undamaged books for their successors

DOG-EARED: In the days before highlighters, people folded down a corner of a page to remind themselves to come back to it. This is NOT a good thing. Have I mentioned the donor who developed a system whereby she double-dog-eared and even triple-dog-eared important passages? Some of her books come in twice as thick at the top as at the bottom.

LIBRARY BINDING: It was the custom of publishers in the middle of the twentieth century to offer books bound in a special, heavy-duty binding, on which would be printed a variant of the dustjacket of the trade edition. It therefore looked like the trade edition if someone was looking for it by cover, but was able to stand up to more wear and tear. Not to be confused with Library-Bound, which is all those books you have in banana boxes for the Book Fair.

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