Rare Book Monthly

Articles - February - 2008 Issue

An Unhappy Story: a deal gone bad

Prob.1

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Copiously illustrated, with some great steel engraved portraits and homes pictured, poignant if you think of Newburgh today. Not one of the garden spots of the East."

A single image of the cover was provided [link] and it looked interesting: both original and different from other Ruttenber bindings I've encountered. No warp was detectable or mentioned, no side view or title page scan provided.

It arrived wrapped in a single sheet of paper tucked into a Priority Mail envelope [link]. Most pamphlets are secured between cardboard leaves. This book had none of that but nevertheless appeared to arrive in the same condition consigned. Unfortunately, it apparently wasn't very good going into the envelope and didn't improve in transit. Or to quote the song "what a condition my condition was in." I put the book and packing aside to evaluate later and a few days later contacted the seller to return the book. To which he replied:

Dear d--------o,
You will note I do not have a return policy. What precisely are you referring to? What faults?
Seller [name withheld]

No return policy? What am I referring to? I prepared this note.

What faults?

The seller is very generous to himself to call this "spine replaced with black cloth." Some sort of tape was crudely applied a long time ago. The single illustration provided in the listing minimizes the poor condition by showing only a front view from a distance. Had an image of the spine or the back cover been provided the scale and nature of the defect would have been apparent. The seller chose the best view.

The book can not be opened flat as the first gathering of pages are somehow in the intimate embrace of the front cover and tape. When the book was described the seller obviously didn't open the book flat. Had he, the early pages would probably have been damaged. Between pages 34 and 35 a separation if not outright divorce, is imminent. He left me the opportunity to do so and I respectfully decline.

The book is also badly twisted. Books that are not flat are routinely so described to alert would-be buyers to this problem. This defect apparently escaped the seller's eye but it's obvious. The term of art is "warp" and in the hands of a linguist it might reach toward "corkscrew." The book does not sit flat, its front and back covers determined to go in different directions.

Finally, there is foxing. This is a book of text and images and some pages, certainly not all, are foxed. For many buyers foxing is paramount. The seller did not disclose this either.

Rare Book Monthly

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