Lettered Enhancements
A Reference Checklist

As careful visitors of this site should already be aware, I mostly purchase lettered editions of limited books. To recap, lettered runs are extremely small (usually no more than 52) and are markedly different than their numbered cousins. They're bigger, badder, 'roided-out versions of the numbered. As such, they also carry with them a premium. Oftentimes, a very, very, VERY high premium. It is not unusual for a $30 title to also include a $300 lettered in the entire book's print run.

That's the theory, anyway. Many times, though, they're not all that special. All too often, otherwise numbered books are thrown into boring prefab traycases and the price shoots upwards to the heavens, finally stopping, on average, somewhere around the 300th floor.

And what's on level 300?, you might ask. The 30th floor's frills were nice enough, with clean sheets, a working clock radio, and running water, so why would anyone want to go any higher?

An excellent question. Indeed, probably THE question for this site. Just what do those top floors have that the lower ones do not? And was the long and scary elevator ride, where you were forced to tip the bellboy thirty bucks after every 10th floor until finally reaching level 300, worth it?

That question is what Awful Books attempts to address, hopefully in some sort of blunt, frank, and open manner, with just a pinch of grace (though I can't guarantee that last part).

If you are a publisher who has announced both a numbered and lettered run, but don't have a clue as to what to do for the latter given the screamin' premium in the solicitation, no worries, you've come to the right place. This page serves as both a checklist and potential source of inspiration for brainstorming other unlisted enhancements and getting into the habit of thinking outside the book.

So, stand tight kiddies, grab ahold of your belongings and the wife and kids, and let's give that elevator a swift kick in the gears. Going up!

Except for my windy preface, I'll make this short and sweet. HOWEVER, I must add one final caveat. Visitors reading this section have to understand that these suggestions are only that and that it is ultimately up to the publisher to determine exactly how these enhancements will appear in the hands of invested parties. Some are simple and sweet (e.g., ribbon markers), while others are hideously complex (like traycases). Only publishers have the power to infuse their products the necessary artistry to justify these dramatically elevated prices. Publishers should also keep in mind the responsibility they have to their lettered clients when requiring payments that're frequently three to six times the price of respective numbered editions. When all is said and done, it is the publisher and the publisher alone who will define the ultimate appearance of his or her books.

I'll continue to add pics which illustrate these upgrades as I run across them. Despite the numbering, there is no ordering with this list (other than it being somewhat alphabetical). Note that some pics represent books sporting more enhancements than just the assigned category.

  1. Artist remarque.
  2. Better/enhanced paper.
    The Resurrection and the Life by Biting Dog Press
  3. Color & b/w plates.
  4. Cuts.
  5. Embedded ribbon markers.
    Note that some bibliophiles prefer that publishers NOT include embedded ribbon markers for fear they might cause damage. It is the opinion of this webmaster, though, that judicious selection of material, proper manufacturing, and sufficient consumer-based care will eliminate any injury potential.
    Grimm's Complete Fairy Tales     
  6. Enhanced endpapers.
    1200 AM Live by Insidious Publications     The Posthumous Papers of the Pickwick Club by Dodd, Mead, and Company,1930     
  7. Exotic board/binding material.
    Frank Frazetta's LEGACY by Underwood Books, Inc.
  8. Extra interior text sections (story chapters, forewards, afterwords, bibliographies, biographies, etc.).
  9. Fold-outs.
  10. Frontispiece.
    Slither by Necro Publications
  11. Gilt (one, two, or all-around) or fore-edge painting (even better).
    The Complete Tales and Poems of Edgar Allen Poe
  12. Higher-grade sewing.
  13. Inlay.
    Frank Frazetta's LEGACY by Underwood Books, Inc.
  14. More ornate/letter-specific limitation page with additional signatures (do NOT use a pasted-in bookplate).
  15. Multi-color printing.
    The Resurrection and the Life by Biting Dog Press
  16. Onlay.
    Bram Stoker's DRACULA by Centipede Press     Mary Shelley's FRANKENSTEIN by Centipede Press     The Complete Works of William Shakespeare     Slither by Necro Publications
  17. Page embossing.
  18. Pull-out ribbon (for slipcase) / lift-out ribbon (for traycase).
  19. Quarter, half, or full leather binding (use bonded leather only when necessary).
    Again, some bibliophiles prefer certain types of cloth be used over leather, citing that improperly treated leather degrades over time, as evidenced by older books with leather bindings that are now disintegrating. There is also concern that leather might stain the interior. Again, this webmaster believes that, while that may've been an issue in the past, modern manufacturing techniques have made these fears obsolete.
    The Dreamthief's Daughter by American Fantasy Press     The Complete Sherlock Holmes
  20. Raised/ribbed Easton-like spines.
    William Bligh's Log of HMS Providence 1791-1793 by Genesis Publications     The Lord of the Rings by Easton Press     The Complete Tales and Poems of Edgar Allen Poe
  21. Slipcase (a traycase is far preferable - if opting for just a slipcase, make sure it's a damn gorgeous one).
    Conan of Cimmeria by Wandering Star
  22. Special spine and cover stamping (could be multi-colored).
    Conan of Cimmeria by Wandering Star
  23. Text block enhancements.
    1200 AM Live by Insidious Publications     The Resurrection and the Life by Biting Dog Press
  24. Tissue (protective sheets before illustrations - preferably tipped-, not laid-, in).
  25. Traycase (this should be a work of art unto itself - don't fall back on prefab designs).
    From a Buick 8 by Cemetery Dance Publications     Darklings by Bloodletting Books     The Colorado Kid by PS Publishing

Note that, except for a few items, none of the above are exclusionary, meaning it's possible a publisher could pursue ALL the above enhancements for a single book. Wouldn't that be a sight to behold?