Thursday, 8 April 2021

Slip cancellation in 1980

As Sarah Werner and Mitch Fraas observe (in a Folger library blog post, here) "Pasting in slips of paper to correct errors was not unusual practice in the hand-press period." Sarah went on to give a lot of examples of a variety of slip cancels from the hand-press period (here), with lots of fabulous photos.

Even after 1800, slip cancellation was not uncommon, and anyone who has handled a lot of old books will probably have seen quite a few imprints from the machine-press period that have been updated via little printed pieces of paper pasted over an old imprint—sometimes, half torn off again by curious readers. Most of the slip-cancells I have seen, or remember seeing, are from the late ninteenth and early twentieth century, but I have seen a few from the 70s and 80s too.

The present example is such a good one, since it is not just an imprint update, and such a late one, that I thought it might be worth posting. And, having looked online and found that there are almost no other "recent" examples, I decided to go ahead. I might even post a few more of these as I notice them (again) among my books.

Today's slip cancel is from Mariel Dewey, 12 Months Harvest (Edinburgh: John Bartholomew and Son Ltd., 1980), first published in 1975 by Ortho Books, San Francisco as A Guide to Preserving Food for a 12 Months Harvest: Canning, Freezing, Smoking, and Drying; Making Cheese, Cider, Soap and Grinding Grain; Getting the Most from Your Garden (the sort of comprehensive title that was popular in the 18C.).


I have had my copy of Dewey's 12 Months Harvest for thirty years, so I have often seen the cancel, and been struck by just how good an example it is of slip-cancellation.

As well as shortening the title, John Bartholomew and Son messed up the index. Probably, this was because—after they had compilied the Index—they made some late changes to the text and layout, which resulted in changes to the pagination, though it may be because they simply reprinted the American index without twigging that their own setting was different, and that this would result in changes to layout, index etc.


In any event, having printed the book with a faulty index, and realised that they had done so, they needed to either reprint the final gathering or paste in a slip explaining the error. Obviously the latter is cheaper and easier and so, as you can see, they opted for it (as printers have for hundreds of years).


As you can also see, by the shadow in the above photo, because the slip is pasted over the start of the index, it is attached by one edge only. You have to lift the left-hand side of the slip to see the index entries underneath for anything starting with an "A."

Saturday, 3 April 2021

Ron Abbey on the Cornerstones of Civilisation

In July 1968, Eve and Ron Abbey founded Abbey's Bookshop, a business which continues to this day at 131 York Street, Sydney (here).

Ron owned several other bookstores, most of which I remember: a Penguin bookshop, the Oxford and Cambridge Bookshop, Galaxy Bookshop, the Language Book Centre, and Henry Lawson's Bookshop, Pickwick Bookshop, and Ron Abbey's Bookhouse (according to his obituary).

Ron was vice-president of the Australian Bookseller's Association from 1973–75 and president from 1975–77 (according to Austlit); he died, aged 78, on 16 July 2005 (according to Informit).

I have recently been reading a little about Ron in an essay by Joan Lawrence on "Sydney Bookshops," which was published in December 2020 in Biblionews.

Given his significance in the Australian (particularly Sydney) book scene, it is disappointing that there is not more information readily available about Ron.

The photograph of Frank Moorhouse (right, speaking) and Ron Abbey (left, listening) is the only one I can find online (here). It was taken during Australian Library Week in September 1974, when Ron was vice-president of the ABA.


The most extensive account I can find comes from the obituary written by his son Alan Abbey (linked above). According to Alan:

Ron Abbey greatly admired the self-educated man, living his life by the words of Bertrand Russell: "Books and bookshops are the cornerstones of civilisation; as to self-education, what other kind is there?"

* * * * *

Although it has been years since I read any Bertrand Russell, I was once a great fan. Curious about this unfamiliar quotations, which Joan also quotes, I went looking for the source … and couldn't find one. In fact, I can't find anything even close to it.

It is possible that this quotation is beyond the reach of Google, that it was said in an interview rather than a book or article, and has never been quoted in print, but it is more likely that either Ron or Alan (or both Ron and Alan) have misremembered it, and rephrased it during many years of repetition.

However, Googling both "Books and bookshops are" and "are the cornerstones of civilisation" does lead to some interesting claims:

Books and bookshops are a beloved hobby (here)
Books and bookshops are full of nostalgia and imagination (here)
Books and bookshops are retail therapy (here)
Books and bookshops are doomed (here)
Books and bookshops are fighting back (here)
Books and bookshops are moving up (here)
Books and bookshops are reinventing themselves (here)
Books and bookshops are always essential (here)
Books and bookshops are flourishing (here)

Reading and writing are the cornerstones of civilisation (here)
Story, or discourse are [sic] the cornerstones of civilisation (here)
Knowledge and culture are the cornerstones of civilisation (here)
Knowledge and expertise the cornerstones of civilisation (here)
Liberty, equality and a cup of tea are the cornerstones of civilisation (here)
Families are the cornerstones of civilisation (here)
Humour and sex are the cornerstones of civilisation (here)
Toleration and respect are the cornerstones of civilisation (here)
Judgement and public shaming are the cornerstones of civilisation (here)

The closest match I could find for the (seemingly, faux-)Russell quote is: "At EIBF, we recognise the importance of books and reading in people’s lives. Books, and bookshops, are one of the cornerstones of our civilization. Booksellers enrich the communities they are part of, offering cultural, economic, and educational contribution to society" (here).

In the faux-Russell quote, "cornerstones" is plural: an acknowledgment that "Books and bookshops" are separate things, and that each is a cornerstone in its own right. This does raise the question: how many cornerstones can a building have? A rectangular building will have four, though many buildings have more corners than this, it is customary to only celebrate one, the first.

(In the image below we see three cornerstones, though only one has been dated—1909—and celebrated.)


So, faux-Russell / Ron Abbey is making a claim to double the usual number; whereas the European and International Booksellers Federation (EIBF) wants you to know they are only claiming one: weak! Pathetic! Are they setting aside scores of imaginary cornerstones for Reading, Writing, Liberty, Equality, Families, Humour, Sex, Public Shaming and a cup of tea!?

I would expect a Booksellers Federation to make a stronger claim these EU flunkies: why not either two cornerstones (if you allow more than one) or the only cornerstone (if one). I hope Ron Abbey's successors at the Australian Bookseller's Association reject this cowardly and pusillanimous EIBF statement, and embrace, instead, that of their one-time president.

[UPDATE 2021.04.08: Blogger tells me that this was my 300th post]