INSCRIBED and dated by the author. Richard Armour, on the first page, an apparently unread, hardly opened, otherwise unmarked hardcover, with an equally fine plastic-covered, unclipped ($5.95) dust jacket, from McGraw Hill. By Richard Armour. ISBN 0-07-002297-6. Though calm, Armour has never before been collected. Not completely, that is. His light verse, described by Ogden Nash as "witty, ingenious, by a master of his craft," has been gathered together in several volumes. But his light prose has remained scattered throughout numerous magazines in the United States and England, until now. Here at last is a collection, or selection, of short pieces by the writer. Subjects range from a history of the embrace to the invention of the paper clip, from worry beads to people who mumble, and from the pronunciation of "'n'" to how to approach a strange dog. The range of moods is equally great, from good-humored humor to sharp satire and from nostalgia to fantasy. Richard Armour can make a mountain out of a molehill or a molehill out of a mountain with equal ease. Compare what he writes about the artichoke with what he writes about the population explosion. And don't miss the sly afterthoughts that follow each of the forty pieces. This is a one-man anthology, a book for the beside, something to read over and over and, with all its subtleties and turns of phrase, under and under. Sense and nonsense play a game of tag in which the reader becomes a participant.