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A Brf Hist o Abbrev. (A brief history of abbreviations)

Used book dealers tend to use unusual terms in the descriptions of their wares. There are many reasons for this “code” but the main one is that booksellers do not, as a rule, make a lot of money. Up until the advent of the internet, if one wanted to sell books outside of easy traveling distance there were two choices.

1: Hire a book scout: someone with a list who knows how to determine the condition of the book and will find and deliver it for a fee.

2: Place an advert in an industry newsletter or magazine.

The first option was normally used for general items that were needed all of the time. For example if a resort wants “beach reads” a scout will be sent out to find the titles that fit the category in the fall and deliver them by end of winter. The scout will be reimbursed for the titles and given a set finder’s fee. If one is utilizing many scouts, there is a massive issue of duplication and the scouts could be buying books that the resort might not want. This will lead to a glutting in the market of some titles/subjects in local resale shops as the scout must get some money from them. Another issue is that the scouts are only being paid a small finders fee. Thus they tend to search near their homes or while on personal trips. Which will result in a gleaning of the area.

This is why most stores or buyers (like resorts, libraries or offices etc) would utilize scouts from different regions or would go on costly book buying trips themselves.

The second option is to place an advert in an industry newsletter or magazine. Of course they would also place one in the local classified pages, if they wanted whole collections of mass media books (like romance or Clancy), but for anything specialized they went to the industry papers.

Thing is, unlike a craigslist ad (which booksellers use today), you have to pay for a classified advert. Usually by the letter, font size and the frequency it is being placed. So if it costs $10 for an advert to be placed twice a week at 2 cent per letter it might not sound like much. But is it?

Here is an example.

My latest arrival is a book by Irene Claremont de Castillejo titled Knowing Woman: A Feminine Psychology. This is a paperback, printed by Harper & Row Colophone Books in 1974. I would like a first or second edition, with limited wear & tear and no writing or owners marks in the interior.

Seems simple. Now lets take the important information out of that and place it into an advert form.

Wanted

Irene Claremont de Castillejo

Knowing Woman: A Feminine Psychology.

Harper & Row Colophone Books 1974

1st edition or 2nd edition only

No interior writing or exterior damage.

Contact: E. Campbell @ 555-111-2222

33 words, 215 characters.

$4.30 for this one book, extra for the larger bolded font in the word Wanted. 172 characters without the header and the contact information. So if there are more books to be listed the cost for this one is already at 3.44$ Thus an advert for a lot of specific titles will probably cost more than the bookseller could sell them for.

After all we do have to eat.

So things got shortened.

Wanted

I. Claremont de Castillejo

Knowing Woman: A Fem. Psy.

HarperRow Colophone 1974

½ ed o

cl. int/ext

Contact: E. Campbell @ 555-111-2222

94 characters and $1.88

It can be shortened even more.

Wanted

I. Claremont de Castillejo

Knowing *

HarperRow 1974

½ ed

VG+

Contact: E. Campbell @ 555-111-2222

58 characters and $1.16. Which means that the bookseller can triple or quadruple the price, pay for the advert, get enough to cover the price of the title and still keep the cost down so that it will be bought. The * refers to any book by the author with the previous word being first in the title.  The * after the author’s name would mean that any book by that author & publisher  is needed.

Of course when one is dealing with antiquities and the issues the befall them, along with the variants involved ( it is leather bound, but cow is different from swine and ages differently depending on the dye used, and the process used to cure it.) a set code of terms or a sub language was needed. (Sub language is defined as a specialized language or jargon associated with a specific group or context. While slang is a type of language that consists of words and phrases that are regarded as very informal, are more common in speech than writing). This was started with the booksellers and was gradually picked up by the publishers. It used to be country specific and also genre specific, but over the decades it has developed in to a general system that allows the reader to understand the condition of a title without a visual image.

This sub language is easy to understand once it is explained. Sort of like text speak. In another post I will list the various words and their meanings. This way you, the reader, and hopefully the buyer, will understand what the heck we are saying during the description, so that the end result is a book you want to have on your shelf.

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