Posted on Leave a comment

Why are book listings so strange?

When looking for a book online the customer will stumble across a lot of abbreviations and strange words. Not that the words themselves are strange, but they don’t fit into the context very well.

The book has some minor foxing and is dogged.

Does that mean the book was part of some hunting expedition? Or is it saying that the book is all dressed up , yet ugly?  If one continues to read the listing the odds are there will be more than just the one comment. One might see..

 The book has some minor foxing and is dogged. DJ is G-/G with minor tears and fraying on edgs & corners. covs are dinged, glt letts is catted and somewhat marked. Minor fading on spine, w/sl foxing on interior. 

One might wonder if one has discovered some forgotten or  unknown  language and one would be almost correct.  This is an example of the book code language that sellers have been using since the beginning of writing to explain any differences between two identical works.

The reasons behind code are simple: time, space and money. A bookseller tends to have hundreds of items to sell, and must write, or type, all of the important information that the seller must know to create a visual image of the item so that the item does not get returned. This can take a lot of time to do. Even in these days of online selling, there are character limits  per item. Thus some things will be shortened. That leaves money. In the centuries past postage and paper was expensive, so requesting& listing books of a certain caliber held priority. But what if the copy of the very rare title The Sexual Appetites of Voles in the Springtime that one has to sell is not as pristine as the other three copies in existence?  How can one afford to describe it and still make money? What if you happen to have 15 pristine copies of The Worms I saw in My Midden and Other Epic Poems by Hermits with Lisps to off load and want to move them quickly?This situation occurred even into the 20th century when newspaper ads were charged by the word, and in some journals by the letter.  Well the sellers all had to agree to a code of abbreviations. This took a while as everyone had their own particular ways of doing so and was even worse when crossing the language barriers. With a few exceptions, the code has been unchanged for over a hundred years. But to they layman who only wants a book to read or give away this is akin to gibberish.

But why, does one ask,  do the booksellers not just take a photo?

I have over 3,000 titles that I am attempting to catalog and sell online. This is not as simple as just one photo per book. Some rarer books might have several problems that would require several photos and on most selling platforms there is a limit to photos per book and how much space those photos take up on the bandwidth. So for now the words will suffice.

Now you, dear booklover, might be wondering “Just what did that description mean and are those real books?”

I must confess that the first one, to my knowledge is not a real title. The second I found when I was 16 in a dusty resale charity shop. It was a self published booklet from 1885 and has gotten lost during one of the many moves I’ve made in the decades since.

And yes there was a love poem about the worms.

“Worms wiggle blindly into my heart from the baked goods you gifted upon me in the early days of spring, and with the waning summer of your affections they drift down drowning in my gutts solely to dance in naked glory in my midden at the sight of dawn.”

(Why do I remember that? )

Now on to the description.

The book has some minor foxing and is dogged. DJ is G-/G with minor tears and fraying on edgs & corners. covs are dinged, glt letts is catted and somewhat marked. Minor fading on spine, w/sl foxing on interior. 

If written fully out this is the description:

The book has some light tan speckles (or spots) due to the ageing process on some of the pages, while some of the pages have had the corners folded over for long periods of time. The dust jacket (or dust cover) is in somewhat good or good condition due to the age and use. There are rips in the edges that are less than a centimeter, but are noticeable and the corners & edges are worn enough from removing from the shelf that the paper is wearing out. The covers of the book have small marks on it, the gold colored lettering of the title have small scratch marks  and is worn. The color is lighter on the spine of the Dust Jacket than the rest due to sun exposure, and there are some tan spots on the non printed side. 

If being charged by the word this book’s price has now tripled.

So what good is this to you, the book lover and buyer?  Knowing the defects is good as you can know what you are getting.  So below you will find a list of the common terms and the definitions  to aid you in your purchasing.

Descriptions

RC/P/G-/G/G+/VG-/VG/VG+/NF/LN/N    Reader Copy/Poor/Good-/Good/Good+/Very Good-/Very Good/Very Good+/Near Fine/Like New/New

This is the list of general condition the book is in. From worst to best. Reader copy meaning you can still read it, but that is the only thing you can say about it. It might be missing a cover, it might have pages that are warped, but you can still read it. New is the best. New is fresh off the printer.  All of the other ones are subjective, and will have other descriptions included.

DJ/DC Dust jacket/Dust Cover

Used interchangeably, this refers to a separate, most often glossy, decorative paper that covers the book preventing damage to the boards.

Boards/Bds 

This is the cover of the book.

FEP or Free End Pages

This is the blank two or three pages at the front and back of the books. Most of the time this will include the one glued to the boards. This is where people tend to put a bookplate.

Dec ep or Decorative End page

This is when there is some art on the feps that was included by the publisher.  If it is a colored random pattern it is called Marbled or Mbld.

Sp or Spine

This is the slightly rounded part of the book where all of the pages are glued or sewn together.

Gutters

This is where the cover creases naturally when opens.

Foxing 

Tan spots caused by decaying paper

sunning

When the colored art or the boards or Dust Cover are lighter than the rest due to sun exposure.

Tanning

When the pages have darkened from white/off white to any shade of tan to dark brown due to age.

Gilt

Gold colored metallic (sometimes sparkling) lettering on the spine or covers.  Silvered Gilt is silver colored.

Dogged

Creasing that occurs when a corner of a page  folded like a dog ear.

Frayed

Happens in corners and near rips when the boards are worn enough that the threads are wearing out (like distressed jeans)

Ex-Library or Ex-Lib

This is a former library book. It is normally covered in library stamps, stickers and codes. Sometimes the DJ is in a plastic mylar cover (which is for cover protection) and it is taped to the book.

 

 

There are are many more and in the next post more will be explained.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *