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ABC for Book Collector...
ABC for Book Collectors: Mercury Books [no 12]
by John Carter
John Carter's ABC for Book Collectors has long been established as the most enjoyable as well as the most informative reference book on the subject. Here, in over 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, interspersed with salutory comment ...more
JRTM: sewn on cords; rounded, glued, 'First Published in Mercury Books', 208 pages
Published 1961 by Mercury Books
(first published 1952)
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Containing a wealth of trivial-for-some-but-not-for-me information and terminology on book collecting, ABC... proved itself readable per sitting as well as a reference. I thought it (in 8th ed.) a bit expensive for its size (or format, ibid.), but it paid for itself when I saved $65 on a recent purchase of a translator-signed rarity. Descriptions of terms of condition, format (I always wondered what "8vo" meant), bindings, auction and cataloguers' lingo were succinct and easy to comprehend.
So, it's basically a dictionary for rare books and the antiquarian book trade. But don't expect scholarly non-biased descriptions. They are scholarly. But the author has a slight air of snobbery which is thoroughly entertaining. He knows his stuff and isn't afraid to talk snootily of the book trade and its less savory aspects. Seriously, read a dictionary shouldn't be this enjoyable. Also, these "biased" descriptions offer lots of subtle insight into the book trade for newbies.
I learned I do not really want to be a book collector. I like reading books to much. Rare books often can't be read since that could damage them. I would rather read a reprint. But it was still really interesting reading about old, rare, expensive books and the people who collect them.
I've no doubt that this is an indispensable reference book, but it is far less witty than the collector's accounts of it I've heard led me to believe. The most whimsical element is how it labels the material elements of the book itself (endpapers, verso, recto, etc.) in order to provide real evidence of definitions.
Had to read this for a summer class on the history of the book. Written dictionary style it was a bit of a slog to get through, but it also had some dry British humor mixed in. The entry for "misprints" was actually hilarious. Useful if you plan on collecting old books.