Mommy, where do blurbs come from?
By Celeste Ng
The always-fascinating TYWKIWDBI points us to the origin of the blurb. According to Wikipedia,
The word blurb originated in 1907. American humorist Gelett Burgess’s short 1906 book Are You a Bromide? was presented in a limited edition to an annual trade association dinner. The custom at such events was to have a dust jacket promoting the work and with, as Burgess’ publisher B. W. Huebsch described it, “the picture of a damsel — languishing, heroic, or coquettish — anyhow, a damsel on the jacket of every novel”
In this case the jacket proclaimed “YES, this is a ‘BLURB’!” and the picture was of a (fictitious) young woman “Miss Belinda Blurb” shown calling out, described as “in the act of blurbing.”
The name and term stuck for any publisher’s contents on a book’s back cover, even after the picture was dropped and only the complimentary text remained.
Neither TYWKIWDBI nor Wikipedia, however, explains where Burgess came up with the actual word “blurb.” Could it be from the copy in the image, “This book [...] fairly BURBLES”? Anyone have light to shed?
I highly recommend reading the entire text in that image, by the way (click here to view larger)—if only for the mention of “the pale youth who dips hot-air into Little Marjorie until 4 Q.M. in the front parlour”! They don’t make blurbs today like they used to…
- Here’s what blurbs really mean…