Two weeks ago Howard Daniel forwarded a link to a title on Amazon.com - "How to Detect Counterfeit Bank Notes..." by George Peyton. Priced at $11.89 in paperback, I thought it might be a useful text for my summer seminar course on counterfeit paper, so I ordered a copy. I should have noticed the ellipsis in the title.
When it arrived, I discovered that it is a reprint (without the plates, which are essential to the educational value of the work) of the third edition of Peyton's book, the full title of which is "How to Detect Counterfeit Bank Notes: or, An Illustrated Treatise on the Detection of Counterfeit, Altered, and Spurious Bank Notes with Original Bank Note Plates and Designs, by Rawdon, Wright, Hatch & Edson, Bank Note Engravers, of New York."
You will have guessed by now that it was published long ago - in 1861. I already own a first edition (1856). Needless to say, it is completely worthless for my intended use, particularly since no attempt was made to reproduce the plates, even in crude modern reproduction.
No place in any of the listings for this book on Amazon or Abe does it say that it is a print-on-demand copy of a 150-year-old work - or that it is missing four pages of illustrations. If it had been by Laban Heath, I would have known immediately what it was, but George Peyton is not an author whose name sits at the top of my brain.
Yes, we need ways to ascertain what is being offered by the profusion of small presses, and book sellers should be more informative with their listings. I returned the book for a refund, as much to make a point as to get my money back, since I have had to pay for shipping both ways.
There is clearly room for improvement in this area. Perhaps it will take the passage of an updated "Truth in Labeling" law. I've lost count of the times my heart went pitter-pat over the listing of a rare numismatic work, only to realize that what is actually being offered is basically just a print-out of an image taken from some other web site. I can do that myself, thank you very much. And any reprint that doesn't reproduce the illustrations is nearly worthless.