Sunday, May 18, 2008

Trials of A Bookseller


The Frequent Mistakes Made In Giving the Title of a Book.

"To be a successful bookseller," said a dealer in books, "one must almost be a mind reader. People come in and ask for the most generally known novels by the most distorted names you can imagine. In fact, it is only a novel or a book which has had a great run that stands in fear of having its title mutilated. When a book becomes popular, some one hears another person talking about it and perhaps only gets a vague idea of the import of the title without remembering the exact words. Then they come with no sign that they are in the least doubtful and ask the book dealer for it, who is supposed to know by intuition what is wanted. One of the most mutilated titles is that of "The Heavenly Twins.' You can expect to have this book called for under almost any name. If you are in doubt as to what a person means, "The Heavenly Twins' usually fills the bill. For instance, it is common to have it called 'The Twin Angels.' Then another popular style of the title is 'The Heavenly Prodigals,' or, again, 'The Blue Angels' or 'The Heavenly Angels.' The other day a man came in and asked for 'The Traveling Hebrew.' When I told him I thought he meant 'The Wandering Jew,' he began to laugh and said, 'Well, I was sure he was on the go anyway.'

"Not long ago a lady came in and quietly asked if we had 'Two Boats Which Went By In the Dark.' She was not the least abashed when I handed her 'Ships That Pass In the Night,' nor did she refer to her mistake. One of the most common bulls in a book store is that which people make when they ask for 'a vest pocket edition of Webster's Unabridged,' or 'the Bible with both the Old and New Testaments in it.'

"I had to retire to the office to have a good laugh the other day when a young lady came tripping in and carelessly asked me as she handled some books, 'Have you the "Mill on the Slush?"' She explained that she had made a slip of the tongue when I gave her the 'Mill on the Floss.' It is most common for people to ask for 'Lew Wallace, by Ben Hur.' Not long ago a young man came in and asked for 'that horse book.' We named over a lot of treatises on horses, but he said, It wasn't them.' We were then compelled to confess our ignorance, when he explained, `Well, my boss didn't exactly tell me it was a horse book, but he said to ask for "The Horse With Seven Stables." ' We told him that we thought his boss meant 'The House of the Seven Gables' and gave him the book with the privilege of returning it if it was not the right one. The book never came back. A gentleman who wanted a set of the works of Shakespeare was very particular to get 'an authorized edition.' He said to us, 'Now, I want you to give me a copy revised by the author himself.' But I suppose we have no more trials than merchants in other lines have, and we should be thankful that we have customers, even if they do make bulls. By the way, you may not know that the book trade this season is larger than it has ever been before in the history of the business. People are becoming more literary inclined, so books, especially good ones, are in demand." — Pittsburg Dispatch.

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