21 April 2007

'Naff Puffs' & The New Snake Oil Salesmen

'Naff' is a Briticism meaning tasteless, tacky, crass, clichéd, insipid - the US equivalent is probably 'cheesy' or 'uncool'. Etymology obscure, possibly obscene. A 'puff' is sales patter, to 'puff' = to publicize with often exaggerated praise. Thus a 'naff puff' is a tacky and overdone sales pitch; there are plenty of these in the new world of bookselling in cyberspace.

I talked about a new breed of dealer the other day in the piece about J.K. Rowling's ''Chamber of Secrets." They are shameless over promoters of their own wares not dissimilar to barkers outside clubs or snake oil salesmen of the Wild West (left.) They have always been around but the web, especially ebay and the book malls, is littered with them. Some typical patter:-
'Sure to soar in value and a wonderful investment...would make a lovely gift for someone or for yourself...Your book will come with a certificate of authenticity from me promising it is real' ... 'It is a privilege to place this, at least for the moment, on our bookshelf of distinguished literary works here in the gallery...providing the astute collector with high quality books for years of pleasure and at the same time a great investment... A handsome addition to any library. ..for the fan and collector in your life...'
An email from a reader alerted me to a dealer's puff which must takes the biscuit. Basically the geezer has a rebound first edition of Kipling's Jungle Books listed online. Desirable but not at all scarce and like most books that have just come from the binder it is in excellent condition and handsome; however for this guy it is one of the supreme books in the history of the universe and he really wants to sell it:-
'This is the most stunning example of The Jungle Books you will ever find...These are the true world first, 1st edition / 1st printing hardbacks from 1894. The books are stunning. Here beautifully preserved with all original plates and illustrations throughout. Each book is individually bound by the Cottage Bindary in beautiful full Royal blue Leather. Incredible 24kt gilt hand tooling to the front and rear boards...(alot of stuff about gold lining)...The spines have five raised bands each with individual gilt compartments and the author`s name and title of each book in 24kt gold. They have full gilt edge papers and gilt spoted head & tail spines. The inner boards are tripple gilt lined with matching marble end papers... in a beautiful matching leather and cloth slip-case which again has gold hand tooled finish. The set are very very rare like this and both books are in perfect condition...One of the finest collections of Kipling`s most famous works in the world. This is the most beautiful presentation of this book you could ever wish to own. A simply wonderful true first edition two volume set bound by one of the world's greatest hand binders... this stunning set. '
Note the naff spelling. Below is an example of a way over the top 'squizz' binding (Kipling's Recessional) that you could actually talk up a bit. Our 'barker' above would probably self implode with hyperbole.

It is calligraphed in gold by George Sutcliffe (1878-1941), illuminated in medieval style by Alberto Sangorski (1862-1932), and bound in a jeweled red morocco binding by Sangorski & Sutcliffe, Britain’s foremost art binding firm during the early decades of the twentieth century. The Sangorski Omar Khayyam which took 2 years to bind - with its 'gold leaf blazing and the light flashing from hundreds of gemstones studding the tails of the peacocks on the cover' - went down on the Titanic and by all accounts made the above look like --well, a Jungle Book from the Cottage Bindery...

'A handsome addition to any library. ..for the fan and collector in your life...'


SorenWagner said...

very witty wilde

Rachel Jagareski, Old Saratoga Books said...

One of the funniest posts I have read in a long time. Keep it up!