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Signature etiquette

I was thumbing through a stack of Dacre Smyth books last month and noticed that the maritime artist/poet/publisher/habitual autographer changed his landing page mid-career.

Allow me to explain...

With Smyth's first effort, 1979's The Bridges of the Yarra, he placed his signature on the half-title page. This he also did with the following year's The Lighthouses of Victoria. In 1982, he released his third book of paintings, poetry and prose, Historic Ships of Australia, and change was afoot...

Between 1980 and 1982, Smyth had decided to mix it up.

In the interim, someone must've tapped old salty on the shoulder and suggested placing his signature on the title page. No more of this half-title carry-on Dacre. It's not the done thing, man; name on title page and nowhere else.

I'm unsure when and where this signature placement etiquette became set in stone, but I've noticed "real" authors place their signatures on the title page, while part-timers and vanity publishers tend to scrawl on the front free end and half-title pages.

My take? Authors can sign wherever they want to sign - they wrote the thing, after all. Apparently Ken Kesey used to sign a book anywhere but the title page: all over the dust jacket, the boards and probably all over your body, if you asked him nicely. AFL footballer Glenn Manton signed his autobiography Dead Bolt on the cover, and I'm yet to see a copy without his texta'd scrawl front and centre.

As a book collector, probably the only thing that matters is whether or not the book is signed, rather than where it’s signed. And that's pretty much the way I read it too.



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