Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Victoria: A Camera Study by Frank Hurley

Victoria: A Camera Study by Frank Hurley.  Hardcover book published by John Sands 1956.

Frank Hurley… does he need an introduction?  (Antarctic, WWI, WWII, Australia etc.).  Out of work (war was over, the north and south pole conquered), and with camera, he went and photographed Australia and published numerous books and booklets of his photographs.  I recently sold a booklet of his photographs of Queensland and another which had his Antarctic snaps, demonstrating that  Frank is still popular after all these years.

But I don’t want to talk about Frank, I want to talk about the dust jacket of this book.  I can see your eyes glazing over and I can tell your starting to think about something on youtube… come back, this is interesting.  The question here is whether to keep the dust jacket or throw it away (…ok, some of you may want to go back to youtube).  I take great pride in my written descriptions.  If people aren’t holding the book in their hands they need to know everything about the condition of the book… there should be no suprises when a book arrives in the mail. 

“The dust jacket is in poor condition.  There is wear to the edges (creasing, scuffing, large rips to the front top edge as well as some small rips and chips elsewhere), corners (scuffing, small rips) and to the top and bottom of the spine (creasing, scuffing and small rips).  There is some shelf wear overall as well as some scuffs and marks.”

That’s the description I’ve written for the dust jacket of this book.  Sounds bad doesn’t it.  Here’s the description of the cover:

“The cover is in very good condition.  There is some minor wear to the edges (some slight fading to the bottom edges, and to the top and bottom of the spine.  There are some minor marks and scuffs only.”

Me personally, I want the second book not the first one, it sounds a lot nicer.  The easy answer to this issue is of course to throw the dust jacket away and just describe the cover.  Dust jackets were originally designed to protect the book for a short period of time and then be discarded, but over time this has changed and at some point in the 20th century the dust jacket took on its own special place in book buying and collecting (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dust_jacket).  A collector with a choice of dust jacket or no dust jacket will usually choose the dust jacket.  There are those who regardless of the condition of the dust jacket discard it.  Indeed, some lovely fellow booksellers (Fully Booked in High St Thornbury), have even had a customer comment on the lack of necessity to put a removable plastic cover over a dust jacket as they always throw the dust jacket and plastic away, regardless of the book.  So why leave the dust jacket on?  Well the reason is of course possible $ (am I blunt enough)… and if the customer wants to discard the dust jacket then so be it, they can do it.  Occasionally I don’t even consider keeping the dust jacket, particularly if I think it’s the contents and information that a buyer wants to purchase rather than the collectable item or if the dust jacket is in completely unacceptable condition, but in this instance Frank “is still popular” and desirable (he did sell), therefore the dust jacket stays.  How collectable and valuable this dust jacket and book actually are, is another matter completely. 

1 comment:

  1. That is really interesting. I have never thought of throwing a dust jacket away. It has simply never occurred to me. Thinking about it now for the first time, it seems to me that the dust jacket offers a kind of "alternative personality" to a book. Certainly the two photos you have presented suggest this. The photo is very approachable and I expect will easily connect with people interested in Melbourne or Victoria. Underneath, the red cover and gold lettering are formal and a bit stand-offish.