How to Read Our Catalogs
Phil Barber, Post Office Box 8694, Boston, Mass. 02114-0036
Telephone (617) 492-4653
We take considerable pride in preparing accurate and complete descriptions of all the items we offer for sale. We have adapted standard bibliographical conventions to be more fully descriptive of old newspapers and other ephemeral items. We feel that this policy offers our catalog readers the best opprtunity to understand what the item is, what it contains, and what it looks like. Over the years we have gathered a substantial library of reference books and periodicals, which allow us to accurately assess the rarity, historical importance, collectibility, and current value of our catalog items.
Below is a typical catalog listing, with each of its various elements linked to a definition. Simply select each highlighted part of the example for a detailed explanation of what the term means. Select "GO BACK" in your browser to return to the example.
Elements of a Full Catalog Description
April 23, 1898.
[St. Louis, Mo.]
"LAST DEMAND ON SPAIN" "To Withdraw Her Army and Navy from Cuba"
bold Pg.1 heads, large graphic of Old Glory, full detail on the war fever in the "yellow press".
14pp folio; sound fine, some disbinding irregularity, minor edge tear . . . .
- "GA-9": the Catalog Number. This is how we keep track of each item, and where it is located in our inventory. The letter or letters in a catalog description should always be cited when ordering.
- "[Cuba]": the Heading. Always in brackets just after the catalog number, this is a "keyword" summary of what we feel is the paper's most significant content, to help our customers quickly scan through the catalog for subjects of interest.
- "The Globe-Democrat": the Title. This is the actual title of the newspaper, exactly as it appears in the Masthead. In those cases where the literal title is "Extra" or "Supplement" we will put the full title in brackets, e.g. [Columbian Centinel] Extra.
- "April 23, 1898": the Date. This is the actual date of the newspaper, as printed at the top of Page One. Where an incomplete date is printed, we will supply the complete date (obtained through internal evidence) in brackets, e.g. [June 4,] 1865. In those rare instances when there is no way to precisely determine the publication date, the expression "n.d., ca. June, 1865" (for example) will appear. This means, "no date, probably printed in June, 1865". The term "(sic)" is used in conjunction with a date when it is known that the printed date is not the correct date of publication.
- "St. Louis, Mo.": the City. This is the name of the actual city in which the paper was printed, as printed in the paper. When the place of printing is not stated the expression "n.p. (no place)" is used, followed by the name of the city, when it can be verified through internal evidence or research. We will often omit the name description when the city of origin is self-evident, that is, when the name of the paper contains the name of the city in which it was printed. Again, we use the standard term "(sic)" when the city's name printed in the item is not its true place of origin.
- "LAST DEMAND ON SPAIN" "To Withdraw Her Army and Navy from Cuba":the Headlines. The matter in quotation marks is the actual chief frontpage headline of the newspaper when it is so described. Italicized words or phrases in quotation marks are otherwise always literal quotes from articles in the catalogued newspaper.
- "bold Pg.1 heads, large graphic of Old Glory, full detail on the war fever in the "yellow press"": description of the Content.This is our description of the paper's content, the substance of what we feel is the most important feature or articles. We endeavor to place this content its proper historical context and to interpret its significance. Because there is so much of interest in virtually every old newspaper, we can only briefly highlight a few of the dozens of features that are present in every item.
- "14pp": Number of Pages. This is a statement of the number of pages, abbreviated "pp", originally printed and still present in the catalogued item. It is rare that any pages will be missing in a catalogued item, as we do not list incomplete issues unless they are of exceptional significance. We use the standard convention to note missing pages; "14(of 16)pp", in this example, describes a 16 page newspaper lacking one sheet (two pages, front and back, exist on every single sheet of paper).
- "folio": Size. In order for our customers to visualize how large each paper, we use standard terms. Their meanings and size equivalents can be found on our Glossary of Collector Terms page. "Folio", generally is the familiar full size in a newspaper, "Quarto", mid-sized format, as in modern magazines and "Octavo", the smallest size usually encountered in standard periodicals.
- "sound fine, some disbinding irregularity, minor edge tear": the Condition. Because the condition of an collectible is of great importance to its value we describe each item as fully as possible within the confines of our alloted space. It may seem that we overemphasize defects, but we prefer to be accurate in our descriptions and would rather note a relatively trivial flaw than let it pass unmentioned to disappoint a customer.
- "17.50": the Price. This is our price on the catalog item, in U.S. Dollars. We believe our prices are an accurate reflection of the actual value of our catalog items, based on our extensive knowledge of the market for paper collectibles. Because it is our policy to price our offerings at fair "wholesale to the public" levels, all quoted prices are firm and are not subject to further discount.