Tag Archives: Blurbs

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Saturday Book 10th Anniversary – a blurb & Gurdjieff

The Saturday Book (1950) 10th Anniversary edition has this quite modern sounding interview/ blurb printed on the inside flaps of its jacket. It was edited by Leonard Russell who probably wrote it. There is a 1000 to one chance it was written by George Orwell a one-time contributor and no stranger to advertising techniques..

Inside flap reads:

Saturday book
Q. and A.

Q.Ten years is a long time, isn't it for a publication of this kind?
A.There is no other publication of this kind.

Q.No imitations, then?
A.They have all perished - crushed to death by the weight of our reputation.


Q.Ah! And is this tenth anniversary number the best ever?
A. Certainly. It is axiomatic.

Q.How would you describe it in a nutshell?
A.Conservatively, as a master piece.

Q.H'm, any particular favourites among this year's contribution.
A.Let's see - there's Osbert Sitwell, Bertrand Russell, Kenneth Walker, Fred Bason, Olive Cookand Edwin Smith, John Hadfield, Walter de la Mare, F. Spencer Chapman.

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The Ghost Man – a blurb from the 1930s

Found in the massive and unending Donald Rudd collection of detective fiction -a Gerald Verner thriller The Ghost Man (Wright and Brown, London 1936) in its sensational jacket. Gerald Verner was the pseudonym of John Robert Stuart Pringle. He had over 130 books published under four names during his lifetime and was hugely popular with his audience and a favourite of the Duke of Windsor, who was presented with an especially bound set of 15 of Verner's thrillers. He attempted to take over the mantle of the prolific (and wealthy) Edgar Wallace after his death in 1932. The jacket has elements of Wallace, even down to the style of the logo. The blurb on the inside flap reads:

Who was the man called Conner, bank robber and murderer, who was hanged at Wandsworth Prison? What connections did he have with the murderer of the Shabby Peddler in the garden of Janet Lacey's country cottage? Why did he search the place so thoroughly before he was killed? And what was the significance of the stanza from the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam? Mr Gerald Verner's new mystery is  so full of excitement, his plots so ingenious, mysterious, and so subtly unfolded that it will be impossible to put the book down until the last word has been read.

The book is not listed by Bleiler (Supernatural Fiction) or George Locke (Spectrum of Fantasy)which would indicate the ghost is rationally explained. It is, however, an Omar Khayyam item..

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Blurb – the beginnings

The American humourist and illustrator Gelett Burgess is not much known in the UK. However, his very witty take on clichés and platitudes, Are You a Bromide ? (1907), deserves a place in the pantheon of classic US humour. Not only does it differentiate between Bromides and Sulphites—the former referring to someone set in their ways who uses trite sayings, while the latter are original thinkers with perceptive things to say, but it spawned the term ‘blurb’, which, of course, is still used today to describe a publisher’s puff for a new work.

The problem is that this word only appeared on the dust-jacket of Burgess’s book, which meant that—dust-jackets being discarded back then, as they still are, by all types of libraries, but not, thank goodness, by dealers—the term probably didn’t catch on as quickly as it should have done. And if it hadn’t been for scholars of book history, like dust-jacket supremo, Thomas Tanselle, the wrapper for Are You a Bromide might never have been brought into the light of day. Certainly, it was more innovative and amusing than most of this period. While the typical wrapper might   feature a slightly modified reproduction of the title page, with perhaps some modest art work, Burgess’s is more like an advertising poster for the book. Hence it demonstrates precisely what a ‘blurb‘ was by giving an example of it. Clever stuff! [R.R.]