Thursday, 2 April 2015

Terms of the Trade (Bookhounds, Trail of Cthulhu)

A while ago I had reason to mention the Antiquarian Bookseller's Association, and now I want to draw your attention to it again. An article originally published in 2014 about terms of the bookseller's trade has appeared online, and I highly recommend it to all Bookhounds Keepers and players. Go read!

Now that you've read it, lets discuss. It's talking about catalogue description of books, best practice, and how a bookseller ought to advertise wares. Without wishing to reprint the entire article here, it gives a list of useful terms and phrases, under the following headings:

  1. Author or heading.
  2. Title
  3. Imprint
  4. Edition statement
  5. Physical description
  6. Binding
  7. Provenance
  8. General condition
  9. References
  10. Note
In order to build a world appropriate to the setting you've chosen, you need to remain true to that world. If your adventure is set aboard a U-Boat, for instance, you need to know what a U-Boat is like, what the common problems are, what the day-do-day routine is going to entail. It also means that you probably oughtn't call the Captain the Captain; he's the Kapitan, his executive officer is the Leutnant zur Zee, and so on. If the game is set during the Vietnam War, then you, as Keeper, probably ought to internalize at least some of the slang and terminology used. You need to know the difference between beans and dicks, and beans and motherfuckers, as well as what a bouncing Betty is, or a crispy critter. It's like background music. Nothing puts the players in their characters' state of mind quicker than using the language, and setting the scene with appropriate terminology.

Now, since this article is written in 2014, it records changes to best practice that you, running a game set in 1930, don't need to follow. For example, in the Date of Binding section it mentions the term Antique, which actually means modern; the article says the term is confusing, and so is no longer to be used. Perhaps not now, but you can bet your last shilling that your Bookhounds will want to use a confusing term to describe their books. Misdirection is what the trade's all about.  

What this means is, when describing a book, you as Keeper ought to cleave to ABA guidelines as closely as possible. Yes, this will mean extra work, but the reward is a better game.  Plus, with the way the ABA's laid things out, the work becomes much, much easier.

So, using the King In Yellow as a guideline, let's write up a description!

  1. [Henry Hubert Alexandre Kistemaeckers
  2. The King In Yellow
  3. Printed in translation by Russel of London
  4.  First Edition Thus, Pinckham illustrations
  5. Folio, 123p, grangerized with inserted throwout plate Boyle, stage set. Slight foxing, made up.
  6.  Half morocco, publisher's binding, rubbed.
  7.  Association copy, Sir Herbert Beerbohm Tree
  8. Good condition
  9. No references.
  10. Released in Paris without author attribution. Play in three acts, concerning the tragedy of Carcosa, following the arrival of a Masked Stranger.
Now let's talk you through it. 

Traditionally the King in Yellow's author is unknown. According to the ABA, you can cite a name supplied by secondary sources, where the author published anonymously. When doing so, the name is enclosed in square brackets. Now, this means I can attribute the King to almost anyone, up to and including the Pope of Rome. I needn't be right, or even accurate. All I need is a useful secondary source, so for this example I presupposed that there was a source out there somewhere who attributed the play to Kistemaeckers. Job done!

Russel of London is, of course, an invented book publisher. First Edition Thus means first in English translation, and Pinckham is an invented illustrator used to lend the description a little color. Grangerized means that there are additional illustrations added by a previous owner, perhaps Tree, perhaps someone else. The throwout plate is a folded-up illustration which can be unfolded to reveal a larger, detailed image. In this case it's a potential stage set design, created by someone named Boyle. Foxing you already know about, since the main text mentions it. Made up means that missing leaves have been added from another copy.

Association copy is a term meaning that this particular book is associated with someone of interest, usually connected with the author, but the term is also used when the book was previously owned by someone of interest. Sir Herbert was a very famous theatrical impresario, and manager of His Majesty's.  Exactly the kind of person whose ownership would lend interest to a copy of a play. 

Good refers to the condition. What's being said here is that the book is in good (not very good or original) condition. Probably there are some marks of wear, from previous owners, but otherwise it's in decent shape. If any of those marks were significant - if someone had spilled wine on page 3, for instance - that would have to be mentioned, but by just saying Good you're telling the potential purchaser that the condition is as to be expected, given that it's a previously owned copy that has been cared for. 

I hope you found this useful! We'll talk again soon.


No comments:

Post a Comment