To some extent, John Carter's ABC for Book Collectors takes up the slack. Not only does it address many collector's terms that Encyclopedia of the Book doesn't, but also, you really can take it to bed with you. It's similar in format and tone to Fowler's Modern English Usage in that many articles simply make good reading. There's insight, wit, etc., and additional, related terms which come up in the text and appear elsewhere in the book are italicized, so you can hop, skip and jump around and stay right on topic. This sounds like the perfect solution, but alas, ABC isn't complete either, and many of the articles are so short as to descend into dry definition.
I do have another suggestion for a book - one I actually prefer to the other two - to slip between these two and fill the gap almost completely. However, I'm hesitant to recommend it because of what happened when I featured the third book that appeared in the above article - Lynn Vigeant's Dealer's Thesaurus: 6,000 Ways to Describe Books and Historical Paper. The problem with Vigeant's book and the one I'm about to tell you about is that both are relatively uncommon, and what has happened in the past and will likely again happen is that, as soon as a dozen or so booksellers buy up the cheaper copies online, prices reach (or will reach) obscene levels - and I wince when I see a bookseller spend $50, $100 or more on a book that simply doesn't justify the expense. Anyway, fair warning. Here's the book.
In the Introduction to A Bibliographical Companion, author Roy Stokes writes:
"This book began its life with the intention of becoming a 'Glossary of bibliographical terms.' During the more than forty years during which I have been teaching bibliography, there have been many occasions on which students have asked, 'What does ___ mean?' Many such questions fell somewhere between John Carter's ABC for Book Collectors, with its emphasis on book collecting, and Glaister's Glossary of the Book, with its concentration on book production. Between these two there was a gap, but there is also a great deal of overlap. Those terms which occur in both of those books as well as this one should be read in all three in order to achieve as wide a perspective as possible."
There is indeed gap filling going on here. Example: "dog-eared." This term doesn't appear in either of the other two books, but clearly it's a commonly used bookselling term. Stokes both defines it and explains why it can be a significant flaw: "It is always a crude habit but it is of especial danger in books of those periods when the paper was poor and becomes brittle with age. In such cases the corner is liable to break off completely."
Besides gap-filling, there is another reason why I often go to Stokes' book first. Like ABC, it's reader friendly, but there's considerably more depth as well, and so often Stokes takes the trouble to explain why something is so (as he did in the previous example). This added context greatly aids in the retention of the term's meaning. Take gilding - in particular, gilt text block edges. Pretty, aren't they? But did you know that their purpose isn't solely decorative? Read this:
"The purpose was, and remains, twofold. On the one hand, it is a simple part of the decoration of the book; to make it look more attractive in general and, in particular, to blend well with the overall appearance of the binding. At a more mundane level, but extremely important, it is the most satisfactory method ever devised for keeping the dust out of a book and for providing a surface which is the easiest of all to clean. It is not uncommon to find the top edge lone gilded; it is the one most susceptible to dust and the practice cuts the cost considerably. In such cases the normal abbreviated description is 't.e.g.' [top edge gilt]."
Slap "t.e.g." into one of your book listings - or spell it out if you're feeling prolix - and a savvy collector will know that there will likely be no issues at all with text block soiling.
There's 298 pages of this stuff - not a wasted entry in it. Read it cover to cover, and you may end up doubling your income next year!
EDITOR'S NOTE: If you're still looking for a reasonably priced copy of Dealer's Thesaurus, click this link.
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