We might refer to it as cancelling, but according to John Carter in ABC for book collectors bisquing means “obliterating passages in a printed book by painting them out with black ink or paint or overprinting with a black block.” The Oxford English Dictionary ignores this usage, focussing on the alternative spelling “bisking”: their definition of “bisk” as a verb in our sense, however, they attribute to a spelling error on the part of their earliest quoted source!

Bisk as a noun they define as “a rich soup made by boiling down birds, etc.” or “a crayfish soup”. (You have to love that “etc.”.) Bisque they tell us grandly means either an extra turn allowed a weaker player in real tennis or croquet; a variety of unglazed pottery; or a light brown color. Given that most of us non-potters will have encountered the word mainly as “lobster bisque” we might feel the OED is letting us down a bit here. Fascinatingly their second source quotation for bisk, from Volume V of Robert Southey’s The Doctor (described by bartleby.com as “a ponderous romance”) reads “The chapter. . . has been not bisked, but semiramised”. Fascinatingly and frustratingly, as they fail to say anything more about semiramise. I’m struggling to come up with anything in the bisking world which might be derived from Semiramis, wife of Nimrod and later Queen of Assyria in her own right. Herodotus attributes the levees containing the Euphrates to her, and tells us there was a gate of Babylon named for her. She was alleged to have been raised by doves. Ammianus Marcellinus credits her with being the first person to castrate youths in order to create eunuchs. Armenian legend portrays her as a harlot, and Dante consigns her to the Second Circle of Hell among the lustful. Maybe Southey is working in the eunuch mode in his comment: i.e. not cancelled by overprinting but excised.

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