It happened again. I found a title with divine illustrations that I could afford, and ordered it from ABE or another seller on the bookfinder website. I eagerly mutilated the box tearing tape and cardboard in my haste to see the promised art. A Mother Goose naturally, this one illustrated by Edna Cooke, a new artist to me after having found 2 storybooks, during a road trip, full of lush colorful plates. I had enquired, making certain that all plates were present, something I’ve learned from experience isn’t a given. They were, the description of the quality of the book and plates was clear and fine, so here I was ready to ooh and ah over each picture as I turned the musky smelling pages.
Out of register. The frontispiece was out of register. I’ve used the term, but never really looked into its definition–yes, it’s exactly what I thought it was–meaning, the printing process faltered making the plate’s lines and colors jumbled and off, as if you were looking at it after receiving a sharp blow to the noggin. Deep disappointment. No matter how you cut it, out of register plates are useless. OK, I tell myself, so the first plate is off, not all is dire, let’s see the one on the title page–slightly off, not nearly as bad as the frontispiece. So I go through the book plate by plate. One is perfect, crisp, colorful, lines delicate and in place, another slightly off–as if you need glasses, and more plates badly off, so much so it ruins the artwork altogether. Gaging, I would guess at least half are out of register in some manner, and one third off completely. Since there are only 11 color plates within, that’s a large chunk that are useless to the collector of illustrated books.
My question–do booksellers have an obligation to inform a potential buyer of out of register artwork? Should they describe the illustrated plates the way they must the rest of the book–with this detail in mind–as well as any tears, writing, coloring, or water damage it may have suffered throughout the years? I’m aware the cost of the book was low–a total of $18.00 including shipping–but if that’s the reason the book is valued such, shouldn’t the customer be told? Booksellers, if they look within the book they are hoping will leave their inventory, must note schizoid plates. Not describing this problem results in customers like myself, horribly deflated and extremely unlikely to buy from the vendor again.
I was curious as to the causes for misregistration, the term the printers prefer to use. Here’s what I found:
Misregistration is caused by a number of factors.
- “The largest area of problems used to be in the distortion or inaccurate planning of film during the platemaking process. These problems have largely been bypassed with the advent of CTP (computer to plate) platemaking.
- Changes in the temperature or humidity of the environment, which can affect how paper behaves under pressure.
- Stretching of plates during exposure or fitting to the press.
- Inaccuracy of the printing press.
- Human error on press.
- Bad batches of paper.
- Paper bounce and stretch.”
This is the description from the bookseller specifically about the plates: