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Collector Tips - Printing Sequence


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Determining the Sequence of Printings - Series Books

Series book collectors soon come to the awareness that many of the more popular, "best-selling" juvenile series were often reprinted on an annual, if not more frequent basis.  As such, they find themselves pondered at one point or another exactly when their books were printed.  It is certainly true that title listings on books and dustjackets do not provide absolute certainty as to the exact printing of a book. It is not uncommon to see several printings within the same year due to printers assembling books and jackets using available stock.

Title listings are merely a step toward narrowing down the possible printings. In order to be sure, one needs to do a more intensive examination of the printing itself. An article in the Mystery and Adventure Review covered this very topic in the lastest issue (34 pp.54-57). Permit me to share a few points from this article:

As was common practice, Grosset & Dunlaps' printers (Kingsport Press, etc) would use Linotype or Intertype machines to typeset series books. The printing plates would be stored for use in subsequent print runs. Any damage to the surface of these plates when handling them, moving them on/off the press mounting plates, feeding them through the machine, grits/particles of dirt or ink, misfeeds of paper (causing wrinkling) would appear on the plates as an imperfection. Even cleaning the plates could cause abrasions.

"Since every printing caused some damage, it is possible to place a succession of copies of any particular book in the order in which they were printed, by close examination and comparison of the defects present on the pages.

(This is, in fact, the ONLY way of knowing which came first, book X or book Y, because all the "book-list" and "dust-jacket ad" evidence that amateur collectors habitually cite, relates only generally, or haphazardly, to the actual sequence of printing." (MASR,#34, p.55).

It is gentlemen such as Paul Mular, David Farah, James Keeline and other researchers who diligently research series books and take countless hours to often compare dozens of printings of the same title side-by-side that allow us to be able to attribute printings so precisely. It is literally a process of checking books page-by-page to see if a serif is smudged, split or incomplete.

Even so, new printings do appear and new editions of H&HI and ND are edited and prepared for just this reason. Another valuable resource is the records of both the printers (Kingsport) and the publishers (G&D).


Reproductions, Recreations & Laser Dustjackets

Many people are now adding reproduced dustjackets to books. Some are color photocopies, others are retouched and printed on laser or inkjet printers. Keep in mind that a recreated dustjacket significantly improves the aesthetic appeal of the book and allows an opportunity to enjoy the original artwork, however it does not even approach the value of an original dustjacket.  Please check carefully to be certain if the dustjacket is original by checking the dimensions of the dustjacket particularly along the inner flap edges for any text cutoff. Also, closely observe the detail and texture of the artwork in shadowed areas and check edges to see if any chips, tears or creases have been reproduced in a black or white color.  Reproductions or copies of any kind should always be clearly labelled as such.


Recently several collectors have e-mailed me asking about laser dustjackets and how to tell them from the real thing. I realize this may be obvious to the more experienced collectors, however even if it helps one of us I think it is worthwhile to provide this information. I have many helpful tips on my website which make a nice checklist when buying books online or sight-unseen.

A laser dustjacket is a color photocopy of an original jacket, and as such any imperfections on the original jacket will reproduce on the copy. Chips and tears will usually show as black (or sometimes white) areas on the laser copy.

In contrast, a facsimile dustjacket is a copy that is printed out from a color laser printer or (more commonly) a color inkjet printer. The original dustjacket is first scanned into a computer.  From there, the digital image can either be printed directly (as is), or the image can be digitally retouched to remove blemishes, repair chips and tears or even adjust coloring, brightness and contrast using imaging software such as Adobe PhotoShop 6.0.

It is very important to check for laser (photocopied) or recreated (printed from digital image) dustjackets. I have found a few tell-tale hints that are helpful in verifying originals from copies.

(1) Check the dimensions of the dustjacket particularly along the inner flap edges for any text cutoff. Most original dustjackets are 17 1/8 in. long and 7 5/8 wide. Most photocopies are made on legal paper (8.5 x 14), so you will see text cutoff or incomplete flaps.

(2) Closely observe the detail and texture of the artwork particularly in shadowed areas. Do you see a smooth transition or does it appear grainy or uneven?

(3) Think RGB (Red, Green, Blue) and compare the brightness and contrast of each of these colors. Do they appear crisp?

(4) Check edges to see if any chips, tears or creases have been reproduced in a black or white color.

(5) Does the paper weight feel like office copy paper or does it have the heavier feel of genuine jackets.

Online auctions are tougher because you don't have the book to examine. If in doubt about an online auction, ask for more scans.  Ask the seller outright if there is any evidence that this might be a reproduction or photocopy.

That being said, the value that laser/facsimile dustjackets add is not necessarily significant, however they do dress up the books very nicely and allow collectors to enjoy the artwork. The old books that people pass over at the bookstores, suddenly gain a fresh new look when they are reunited with the artwork of Russell Tandy, Walter Rogers, Thelma Gooch, Charles Nuttall or others. Also, laser dustjackets do represent an economical cost savings versus buying (or bidding) on some of the more competitive early dustjacket formats (for example, the White Spine w/Red Shield Hardy Boys or the White Spine w/No Silhouette Nancy Drews). We all know how much those bids can go for!! Of course, Applewood now offers these books as reprints. These are new and fresh, (although the dustjackets have noticeable gold seals and different rear panels, etc) however they are not quite equal to having an original 1930s book.

There are people now that offer laser/facsimile dustjackets for collectors. Some of these are genuine, sincere folks that are trying to help people improve their collections. My friend Jim Towey makes dustjacket recreations, but is very careful to label them all as such in red so that there is no monkey-business. Others may not have the best of intentions, so keep an eye out! Laser/facsimile dustjackets should always be advertised and CLEARLY (although unobstrusively - preferably on FLAPS) labeled as such.





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Last RevisionJune 08, 2010 10:42 PM