A couple weeks ago I found a copy of Robin Hobb's Assassin's Quest
online (at the Half Price Books website). The description stated that the book was in "Very Good" condition and while not actually being half off the cover price, I figured the price they were asking was good enough to risk being off by a condition point or two.
I took a chance and plopped my payment down, as it were, and ordered the book. Fast forward two weeks...
Today, when I opened up the package, what I found was something south of "Very Good." Oddly, the invoice shows the condition listed as "Very Good" but someone added a note at the bottom stating that the book was in "good or better condition."
I would say "good" is being rather nice, although the entire text block does appear to be present and there is only light tanning to the pages.
The dust jacket has several torn and creased spots both on the spine and front & back covers. The worst tear is at the bottom of the front cover where it looks like someone shoved it into a bubble mailer and it caught on the edge as it was going in.
I have since put it in a mylar dust jacket protector to keep it from tearing any further.
When I opened the book I noticed the front end sheets weren't quite sitting right. I flipped over to the half title page and saw that the end paper has pulled away from the text block. It appears ripped rather than just coming unglued.
Something that, with my knowledge of book conservation and book binding, I can probably fix, but the condition points keep dropping.
The text block itself is beginning to yellow (or tan) with age. That's just the nature of the beast with some older books. This one was published in 1997 and I would expect it to have fared a little better, but they apparently used a lesser grade paper. All of the book seller descriptions I could find mentioned tanning. This just means that I have to be a little more vigilant in keeping it in good condition (and away from sunlight).
The book boards are somewhat shelf-worn, but the whole lower corner of the text block has some major bumping going on. I mean, through a good 1/4 of the book block.
Some time in a book press may
help reduce that a bit.
And the fore edge of the book appears to have been splattered with something. I'm not sure that can be remedied, although perhaps a soft eraser might reduce the staining somewhat.
A note on condition
Antiquarian booksellers use the following guidelines to categorize a book's condition:
describes a book that shows some small
signs of wear, but no tears on either the binding, paper, or dust jacket. If there are any defects they should be small but noted.
describes an average used, worn book that has all its pages. The binding may be a bit looser. Defects should be related to wear and noted.
describes a book that has the complete text block, but may lack endpapers. The binding and dust jacket may also be worn.
describes a book that is sufficiently worn and may have missing pages. The copy may be soiled, scuffed, stained, or spotted and may have loose joints, hinges, or pages.
Let's compare these descriptions to my book:
- Has all of its pages [Condition: Fair, Good, Very Good]
- Torn and creased dust jacket beyond just regular wear [Condition: Poor, Fair]
- End sheets coming loose [Condition: Poor, Fair]
- Bumped corners / sufficient wear [Condition: Poor]
- Staining, scuffs, spots [Condition: Poor]
So what do you do with a hard to find book whose condition was improperly reported by a bookseller (who has little concern regarding collectibles)? Return it? Attempt to salvage it? Keep it as a place-holder until a better replacement comes along?
Given that I paid less than $20 for it, I think I'll do the latter and perhaps try to clean it up a bit and do some minor repairs.