TalkBooks on Books

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Sep 20, 2008, 11:10am

I would appreciate all advice on how to describe old/antique books. I have (several) copies of Carter, ABC foor bookcollectors, but that supposes you know where to look. I was thinking about a book that starts from the beginning. "You have a book,..." Titleplate, boards, spine,... Any tip would be welcome, as weel as possible info on the net on the same subject.

Edited: Sep 22, 2008, 10:10am

Try going to the site. (Other than as a customer, I have no association with them.) They specialize in the Books about Books genre, and the list of available books will just astound you.

I can't recommend a specific book, excep, possibly, ABC of Bookbinding. I suspect it's the same book pared down to that specialized topic.

Also, I have The Booklover's Repair Manual -- Most of it is storage for tools and materials for destroying a book you are actually trying to fix (tic), but it also contains a book on how to do the repairs, and it alone is more than worth the cost. ~EVERYTHING~ is labeled. EVERYTHING.

*edited to correct the spelling of the web site

Sep 21, 2008, 5:09am

Describing old books is a job of its own - I know because it's my job. It all depends on how thorough you want your description to be. And you need to understand how old books are made before you can decide on what's important for you. A very good start for that is A new introduction to bibliography by Philip Gaskell. If you're really serious you can also try to read Fredson Bowers' Principles of Bibliographical Description but it's dry as a desert. And because you're from Belgium I suppose I can talk about my own Handleiding voor de Short Title Catalogus Vlaanderen which you can download at .

Sep 21, 2008, 10:09am


Do you have an English language version of that book?????
If you do, I'll be your best friend for a week.
If you don't, you'll be stuck with me for LIFE!!!!

Sep 21, 2008, 12:37pm

Great stuff. Thanks for the professional tips. Ik zal zeker eens kijken naar je Handleiding. Hartelijk.

Sep 21, 2008, 12:41pm

Dit is grandioos. Nogmaals dank. Ik ga dit rustig doornemen en neem contact op wanneer ik meer info wens. Indeed great information. An english translation would be a plus.

Sep 21, 2008, 3:47pm

I'm sorry to say that an English translation will probably never happen - the manual was written specifically for the STCV project, and therefor necessarily local; but the project database itself can be consulted in English as well.

Anyway, Gaskell will put you on track for the background information, which is lacking in my manual. For the collation formula etcetera, you could try Bowers, but as I said it's very dry (I know of only 2 or 3 people who've read it entirely). Other useful manuals are :
- Ronald McKerrow, An Introduction to Bibliography for Literary Students (which is the predecessor of Gaskell's 'new introduction').
- M.J. Pearce, A Workbook of Analytical and Descriptive Bibliography.

There's also a really funny general overview by Neil Harris, online at: (don't worry, it's in English).

Good luck to you both!

Sep 22, 2008, 9:23am

That is indeed a lot of information. Do you have a 'similar' tip on information for the physical description of the book. The marbled boards, the spine, the leather binding,...
Thanks in advance.

Sep 22, 2008, 9:46am

The site; is this correct, as when I type it in it takes me to retirement homes! and I'm really intrigued about the site you are talking about!

Sep 22, 2008, 10:09am

My bad. I deopped a 'k'.

Here it is:

I'll correct it in #2 as well. Thanks.