textbook inside front cover blurb
May 21, 2010 11:06 AM   Subscribe

Where did the thing on the inside front cover of many school textbooks originate?

It starts with "THIS BOOK IS THE PROPERTY OF:", then a list of locales, something which says "Book No." in another box and the following text at the bottom:

"PUPILS to whom this textbook is issues must not write on any page or mark any part of it in any way, consumable textbooks excepted.
1. Teachers should see that the pupil's name is clearly written in ink in the spaces above in every book issued.
2. The following terms should be used in recording the condition of the book: New; Good; Fair; Poor; Bad."

Where did this come from? What act of legislation or committee or whatnot is responsible for its existence?
posted by oonh to Education (25 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Is your question about why this exists or who actually manufacturers the stamp/sticker that people put in the book? Because the first seems really obvious:

Schools buy textbooks, which are crazy expensive, and want to use them for many years.
Textbooks generally get issued to one student. They are numbered so that the teacher can keep a list of "book #1 belongs to person A, book #2 belongs to person B", so if book #2 is missing at the end of the year, they know who to charge. The "property of" part is so that if someone finds it somewhere random or someone sells it online or whatnot the person who receives it knows it's missing/stolen and who to return it to. The student writes their name in it so that people don't accidentally swap books or if someone leaves it somewhere else it is easy to figure out who to return it to. The condition is listed so that at the end of the year it's easy to tell if this year's person battered it or if it was already battered when this year's person got it.

I don't know who actually makes the stamps though.
posted by brainmouse at 11:13 AM on May 21, 2010

Where are you located? This is probably something that the school board (local, municipal, or state level) set up.
posted by peanut_mcgillicuty at 11:14 AM on May 21, 2010

Response by poster: It was on the inside cover of every textbook I had in high school, middle school, and elementary school. As far as I can gather it is on the inside front cover of an enormous variety of textbooks. I'm trying to figure out why -- who declared that it had to be, and what committee/legislation there is that is responsible for its existence in so many textbooks.
posted by oonh at 11:19 AM on May 21, 2010

It was inside every one of my textbooks up to High School, in GA.
posted by milestogo at 11:20 AM on May 21, 2010

I don't know but I loved those things. Allowed me to confirm based on the dates listed that the American history book we used in high school was first obtained by the school district a few years before I was born. "Current President: Richard M. Nixon" was always good for amusement.
posted by caution live frogs at 11:22 AM on May 21, 2010

Well, books for elementary, middle, and high school are bought by different groups depending on your location. Some states adopt textbooks statewide and thus you'd want to be looking for legislation or committtees at the state level. Some states allow each school district to pick their textbooks, and therefore the requirements would vary by district.

It's likely a service offered by textbook companies that most schools take advantage of due to the benefits brainmouse mentions, regardless of whether they're required to by any higher authority. But in terms of there being one committee or legislation that requires them, you're probably not going to find that.

I work in book publishing.
posted by peanut_mcgillicuty at 11:23 AM on May 21, 2010

I mean, I'm pretty sure the why is just because it seemed like a good idea so people started doing it, and it caught on.
posted by brainmouse at 11:23 AM on May 21, 2010

Those stickers are probably older than anyone who visits this site... well not the stickers themselves, even in small, poor districts books get replaced more than once a generation, I hope, but their kind have existed that long. Since there have been school districts that provided free textbooks, they have tried to track and protect the books, and this was a way to hold the students responsible for excessive damage and loss. I'd think that it's only the school boards, or the local power with that authority, that authorized them. It isn't something that would need legislation.
posted by Some1 at 11:26 AM on May 21, 2010

Response by poster: The extremely standardized form of these things, as well as the perfunctorily dry language makes me wonder who came up with it (committee or not) in the first place.
posted by oonh at 11:26 AM on May 21, 2010

I saw the same disclaimer in many of my junior high and high school text books, although it was usually a very large rubber stamp and not a sticker. But it was always good for a laugh when you received a book on the first day of school and read all the comments inked in by former students (especially in the "condition" section).
posted by Oriole Adams at 11:40 AM on May 21, 2010

I hit "post" too soon.....I'm wondering, along with oonh, what exactly was the point of those stamps? Did some teacher or administrator actually review the comments on the inside cover of each textbook and note the wear and tear? I'm guessing from some of the rude comments scribbled in my books that no one other than the next user ever read them.
posted by Oriole Adams at 11:42 AM on May 21, 2010

I saw these stickers when I was in public school, in New York. Not when I was in private school.
posted by dfriedman at 11:55 AM on May 21, 2010

It must be a long time since you graduated, because you obviously don't remember how the hallmark of most English teachers is "perfunctorily dry language".
posted by randomstriker at 12:02 PM on May 21, 2010

Given that textbook publishing is dominated by the two states with the largest textbook markets (Texas and California), it seems likely that it might have begun with one of their state school boards.
posted by ocherdraco at 12:10 PM on May 21, 2010

We had these in Texas. Sometimes it looks like a rubber stamp was used and sometimes it is printed directly in to the book. If you Google for ["New; Good; Fair; Poor; Bad"] you can find some examples of the latter.
posted by grouse at 12:16 PM on May 21, 2010

It's so well known, Jon Stewart used it on the inside cover of his "America the Book" book, mostly because it was a textbook spoof. I don't have my copy at home to scan and share. But it was filled out as a typical high school kid would "Heywood Jablome" was a student's name.

If it helps, I think this is what oonh is referring to.

Perhaps it was an ISO standard?
posted by NoraCharles at 12:23 PM on May 21, 2010

Best answer: I looked to see if there was any mention of this in Texas regulations, and 19 Tex. Admin. Code §66.7(a) says, "Instructional materials adopted by the State Board of Education (SBOE) shall comply with the standards in the latest edition of Manufacturing Standards and Specifications for Textbooks approved by the national Advisory Commission on Textbook Specifications...."

I don't know that this form is in this standard but it would be the next thing I would check if I could easily get ahold of it.
posted by grouse at 12:25 PM on May 21, 2010 [1 favorite]

On my first day of teaching math in a junior high, we got new textbooks which had the stamp, including a space for "Teacher's Name". I wrote my name 120 times that day. Went to Office Depot that night and got a rubber stamp with my name on it. Fond memories.

This was the week before the students arrived; the bookroom lady wouldn't let me take the books until I wrote my name in each one. Otherwise I would have had each kid write my name once.
posted by CathyG at 12:37 PM on May 21, 2010

Response by poster: Thanks grouse. After some poking around and a phone call, it seems that it was probably introduced by NASTA some time in the 50s or 60s. The history of textbooks is rather more complicated than we usually expect.
posted by oonh at 12:57 PM on May 21, 2010 [1 favorite]

Anecdata point: I work in educational publishing in Texas, and just pulled 5 textbooks at random from our library. None were ever issued to students (they're for our reference), and all have the "stamp" -- it does look like it's a stamp, because the line widths vary.

Thanks for making me think of this; I hadn't thought of it in years!
posted by fiercecupcake at 1:42 PM on May 21, 2010

Response by poster: I talked with the same person again, and (I'm protecting his privacy) but I gave him a link to this thread. He said that they were introduced in 1967.
posted by oonh at 2:00 PM on May 21, 2010 [1 favorite]

I'll bet it was a Texas decision. Texas is, IIRC, the single largest buyer of public school textbooks, and what they want influences what gets sold nationally. So my guess is that someone in Texas decided they wanted this, and a Texas committee came up with or approved the wording.
posted by zippy at 3:01 PM on May 21, 2010

We had this in all my textbooks through high school. (I went to school in the Chicago area) I always liked seeing who had the book before me.
posted by SisterHavana at 4:21 PM on May 21, 2010

What a great question; thanks for asking it.
posted by LobsterMitten at 7:35 PM on May 21, 2010

Response by poster: Okay, I'm satisfied. And I'm not a cultural archaeologist by trade, so I'll summarize what I've learned. It was introduced in 1967 (according the the person I called). It's called the "uniform label". It was introduced by NASTA (The National Association of State Textbook Administrators) and is part of a document called Manufacturing Standards & Specifications for Textbooks (which you can order here, if you want). I'm going to credit best answer to grouse because the the particular bit of data that I needed to figure this out came from the bit of Texas legislation.

Speaking of Texas and California, it appears that they have somewhat orthogonal demands about the content of textbooks than NASTA.
posted by oonh at 3:00 AM on May 23, 2010 [2 favorites]

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