To my way of thinking the seller is responsible for accurate description but, as this seller has made clear, I'm to do the work – apparently to try to convince him that I have a case for returning the book. I trusted the seller, paid promptly, and then, upon receipt, notified him of its defects.
I emailed a somewhat shortened version of this memo [subject to the maximum number of characters allowed] via eBay. Now he's deciding if my claim has merit. We'll see.
A few days later I received a grumpy message via eBay.
"You will get a refund 1) when the book is returned safely and 2) after I have determined you have not removed prints or otherwise damaged the book."
I immediately packed the book in a Priority Mail shipping box and mailed it with a proof of delivery receipt attached [link]. In the box, with the book, I included the following letter:
Dear Mr. --------,
With this letter is the copy of Ruttenber's 1875 History of the County of Orange I purchased from you on eBay January 3rd and paid via PayPal on the 7th. The amount paid was $77 including shipping. The cost to return it via the same method you employed, Priority Mail, is not yet known but can be established from the postage shown on the shipping box.
I note your gracious statement to me, received this morning, "You will get a refund 1) when the book is returned safely and 2) after I have determined you have not removed prints or otherwise damaged the book."
I have not removed anything and it is in the same condition found upon arrival. Your packing was close to non-existent but I think all faults existed before shipping and noticed no damage to the envelope you tucked it into with a single wrap of paper.
I was unwilling to bend the cover back as I know you too were. It's apparent from the lack of title page scan in your description. You could tell the pages would probably tear.
In the future, if you can't open a book you might think to make this fact public as its material.
Upon receipt, please conduct your due diligence and issue me a refund as promptly as I have acted with respect to you.
Very truly yours,