Book Collecting Resources
Glossary of Terms
ABAA - Antiquarian Booksellers Association of America. 'The mission of the ABAA is to promote ethical standards and professionalism in the antiquarian book trade, to encourage the collecting and preservation of rare and antiquarian books and related materials, to support educational programs and research into the study of rare books, and to facilitate collegial relations between booksellers, librarians, scholars, and collectors.' Not to be confused with the Air Barrier Association of America.
Advance Copy - A copy of a book usually created prior to publication, which may be in a different format and may or may not be bound. Its purpose is to be circulated to reviewers, booksellers, etc. prior to publication and is generally used for promotional purposes. Although collectable in their own right, they do not represent a first edition or first issue of the book, and do not detract from the value of a true first printing.
Association copy - A copy once owned by a well-known person or author or someone connected with the author or the book. The book may be inscribed by the author to the person or simply from the library of that person. Collecting 'association copies' can be one of the more exciting areas of book collecting.
Back strip - The spine or back of a book.
Beveled - Boards (edges or boards) that are cut at an oblique angle prior to covering, as opposed to the standard 90 degree cut.
Binding - As a noun, the covers and spine of a book. As a verb, the process that secures the pages or sections of a publication to keep them in order and to protect them. The binding may be stapled or sewn, sewn and enclosed in wrappers, or by gluing the pages to the outer cover, but most often refers to a hardcover binding.
Bindings - A term generally used in the antiquarian book world to mean Fine Bindings, of which there are numerous styles. Some examples include Antique, Cambridge Style, La Greque, Dos-A-Dos, Etruscan, and Spanish Calf.
Boards - The covers, front and rear, of a hardbound book.
Book formats - The traditional terms in use for describing book formats, which are derived from early printing methodology and the size of early handmade sheets of paper. The following is offered as a guide to convert book formats to approximate book sizes -
Folio - more than 13 inches tall;
Quarto (4to) - approx. 10 to 13 inches tall, average 12 inches;
Octavo (8vo) - approx. 8 to 10 inches tall, average 9 inches;
Duodecimo (12mo) - approx. 7 to 8 inches tall, average 7.5 inches;
Sextodecimo (16mo) - approx. 6 to 7 inches tall, average 6.5 inches.
Bookplate - A label on the front pastedown or flyleaf or sometimes elsewhere in the book, used to mark ownership. Unless it is the book plate of a well-known person, this usually decreases the value of a book. Alternatively, a bookplate is sometimes signed by the author and then included in the book. While not as valuable as having the signature on the book itself, this can be a nice collectible.
Broadside - A printing, often a poem, which occurs on a single sheet of paper and only on one side; the verso (other side) is blank. When printed on both sides, the sheet becomes a "broadsheet".
Browning - An overall discoloration found in the paper of some old books, sometimes due to the decomposition of the paper coating.
Bumped - Refers to the corners or spine ends of a book that has been damaged by being dropped, or carelessly handled or shelved.
Chipped - Small pieces broken off of a dust jacket or binding.
Closed Tear - A tear with no material missing.
Cloth - Book binding material woven from cotton, linen, wool or synthetic fibers.
Cocked - The spine of the book is slanted, a condition endemic to case-bound books that have been re-read too many times or incorrectly stored.
Cockled - The smooth surface of the cloth is disrupted by small pockets of air between the cloth and the underlying board where the cloth is no longer fully adhered to the board. It is usually caused by the cloth having been in contact with water.
Collation - The act of examining the non-binding portion of the book, verifying the proper sequence and completeness of pages and their gatherings.
Colophon - A printed statement at the end of the book stating usually the title of the book, the publisher and or printer, and the place and date of publication.
Copyright Page - This page is most often located on the verso of the title page, and contains the publisher's information, copyright notices, disclaimers, and the Library of Congress Information. This page is the most important page for collectors of Modern First Editions.
Covers - The everyday term for the covered boards of a book. The front and rear surface of a binding, as opposed to the spine. These may be composed of card, wood or other materials, covered by cloth, paper or leather.
Crown - The head of the spine (of the binding).
Cut edges - The most common type of book edges, trimmed even with a large binders knife prior to finishing the binding process (see also uncut, unopened, and deckle edges).
Dampstain - A stain often of a shade of tan or gray resulting from water or other liquid damage
Deckle - The natural or sometimes artificial rough edge of page, left uncut.
Dedication copy - One of the best types of association copies - one that is owned or inscribed to the person to whom the book is dedicated.
Dedication Page - The page on which the author writes his/her dedication, usually the page after the title page.
Dog-eared - Term referring to when the corners of pages turned down like a dog's ear.
Dust Jacket - A paper cover protecting a book from dirt and wear, often with illustrations and information about the book and author, sometimes called a "dust wrapper". Dust jacket art work is used to promote and sell the book. The dust jacket condition is often one of the most important factors in determining a book's value.
Fore - the edge to the right when facing the book
Top - the edge at the top of the book
Tail - the edge at the bottom of the book (also called the foot).
Edition - Comprises all the copies of a book printed from the same setting of type. An edition may have multiple printings, but it is only the first printing (or impression) that is a true first edition, even when the copyright page may state first edition.
Endpapers - A single sheet, half of it pasted to the inside of the binding (the pastedown), and half forming a blank leaf at the beginning or end of the book (the front or rear free endpaper).
Errata slip - A piece of printed paper smaller than the page size, either loosely inserted or tipped-in, listing errors discovered after a book has been printed and their corrections.
Ephemera - An item that was usually created for reading and then subsequent disposal. Examples include letters, advertisements, magazines and newspapers.
Ex-Library - Previously owned by a public lending library, and usually accompanied by the usual library stamps, marks, etc. These are generally not valued by collectors.
Extremities - All the edges of the binding - the headcaps, corners, and board edges.
Facsimile edition - An attempt (usually done much later) to reproduce as closely as possible the first edition of a famous book.
Fine copy - The highest grade of a book's physical condition, generally taken to mean a fresh, largely unread copy of a book, with perhaps the merest trace of wear. Condition grades then descends through "near fine", "very good plus", "very good" and "good". "Poor" or "reading” copies are not for purposes of collectability.
First thus - A booksellers' term, indicating that although earlier editions of the book in question exist, this edition is the first to contain some feature, such a noteworthy set of illustrations, which is in itself desirable.
First Edition - The first appearance of an author's work in book form.
Fly Leaf - A blank or plain page located at the front and rear of a book, adjacent and medial to the front and rear pastedown.
Folio - The largest book format, usually over 13 inches tall.
Fore edge - The front edge of the text block.
Foxing - A patchy discoloration found in the paper of old books that have been improperly stored or exposed to high humidity. It can range from barely visible to quite unsightly. The name may derive from the fox-like reddish-brown color of the stains, or the rust chemical Ferric Oxide which may be involved. Paper so affected is said to be "foxed." Although a negative factor in the value of the item for collectors, foxing does not affect the actual integrity of the paper.
Frontispiece - A graphic facing the title page of the book, (most commonly an illustration or photograph).
Gift inscription - A non-authorial inscription, written by the giver a book to another person. This most often lowers the collectability of a book unless, for example, the book is a gift from one famous person to another or perhaps someone associated with the book.
Gilt Edges - All three edges of a book are cut smooth and gilded, usually with gold paint.
Good - A description of condition implying some degree of wear but structural soundness and reasonably good appearance. A book described as good will not usually appeal to the fastidious collector unless the book is extremely rare, but books in good condition may prove a bargain for the general collector or when fine copies are priced out of budget.
Gutter - The inner margins (adjoining the spine) of a page.
Half-title page - The page located just prior to the title page containing only the title of the book.
Hinge - The interior junction between the covers and text-block.
ILAB - International League of Antiquarian Booksellers. Includes 20 national associations representing 30 countries.
Impression - Synonymous with printing. The number of copies of an edition printed from one type setting. One edition may have more than one impression.
Inscribed - A book in which a written inscription has been made by the author, to a specified person. This is not to be confused with a non-authorial inscription, which would be written name, note, phrase, or comment made by someone other than the author (usually a previous owner).
Issues (See States) - A portion of the printing of an edition that has a different format, binding, or paper. An issue, of an edition, is done intentionally by the publisher and can contain various states.
Jacket-Flap - The parts of a dust jacket tucked inside the front and rear endpapers of a book. This keeps the dust jacket on the book and may contain a synopsis of the book as well as several blurbs.
Joints - The exterior junction of the covers and spine of a book.
Limited Edition - An edition issued in a stated, usually small, number of copies; the lower the number, the more valuable the copy.
Marbled paper - Colored paper with a veined, mottled, or swirling pattern.
Margin - The space between the edge of the page and the printed text.
Morocco - Beautiful leather made from goatskin and used for fine binding.
Mounted - An illustration can be mounted (as opposed to printed directly) on a blank sheet in a book.
Octavo - A book size resulting from folding a sheet with three right angle folds. In bookselling terminology, a book measuring from about eight to ten inches in height.
Pagination - The sequence of the numbered pages in a book.
Pastedown - That portion of the end-sheet of a book that is glued to the inside of the cover.
Plates - Whole sheet illustrations, as opposed to "cuts", which are illustrations printed on text pages.
Points (or Issue Points) - An error or peculiarity in a book that helps differentiate it from other copies and may indicate a priority of issue. A point may increase the value of a book dramatically.
Prelims (preliminaries) - Any material that precedes the main text of the book. Prelims are usually set and printed after the main text; they are numbered with lower-case Roman numerals (rather than Arabic numerals) so that any late changes to the content or extent of the prelims do not affect the pagination of the text.
Presentation copy - A book that is a gift of the author of publisher.
Price-clipped - When the dust jacket flap has been cut (usually at an angle) so that the price does not show. This was often done when the book was a gift, but it lowers the value of the dust jacket in terms of collectability.
Privately printed - A privately established though not necessarily non-commercial printing office.
Proof - A trial print used for proofreading.
Provenance - The history of ownership for a given copy of a book, manuscript or work of art. Often, indications of previous ownership are given by bookplates, inscriptions, special bindings and similar features. An especially noteworthy provenance may add substantial value to a book.
Quarto - Book size resulting from folding a sheet with two folds at right angles, giving pages a quarter the size of the sheet. Often used loosely by booksellers to indicate a size approximately between ten and thirteen inches.
Reading Copy - A book in fairly poor, and not collectable condition, good only for reading.
Rebound - The original binding of the book has been removed and a new binding has been attached and re-sewn.
Reinforced dust jacket - A dust jacket that has been strengthened with tape by the previous owner.
Remainder-mark - A small stamp, usually ink, applied to one edge of the text block to indicate that the book was remaindered (sold discounted after initial publication).
Replacement Value - The amount you would expect to pay for the book or ephemera item from a dealer or retailer.
Review Copy - A copy of a book sent out for review prior to publication. Review copies may be marked by a note on an endpaper or flyleaf (rare today), or by a slip of paper inserted into the book, which is more common at present.
Signature - The basic structural unit of the text block. Most books are constructed of signatures or gatherings, sewn or otherwise joined together.
Slip-case - An open-ended box, sometimes leather-covered, made to protect a book.
Spine - The back edge of a book that is visible when a book is placed on a bookshelf.
State - Minor changes made to a portion of the edition during the manufacturing stage and before all of the books were complete and released. The changes can be intentional. For example, a different state may be caused by a correction in the text or illustrations, an insertion of cancels or advertisements, or a different paper used without the intention of creating a separate issue. The changes can also be accidental; for example, a variation in the text or illustrations might occur during the printing. The term does not refer to condition.
Tail - The bottom of a book.
Text-block - The textual matter of the book, everything that lies between endpaper and endpaper i.e. non-inserted blank leaves, half-titles, titles, illustrations, ads, etc.
Tipped-In - A leaf document or slip that is attached loosely in the book using past or gum.
Title page - After the half-title page; generally contains the title of the page, the author, the publisher, and occasionally the publication date.
Top edge gilt (t.e.g.) - The top edge of the book is coated with gold leaf.
Top stain - The top edge of the book is colored a different color than the pages, but not gilt.
Uncut - Text block not trimmed by the binder.
Vellum - Specially treated calf-skin used for bindings, writing or printing on.
Verso - The back of a page, or the left side of a page when the book is open.
Vignette - A decoration used on a headpiece to a chapter, or to divide a book into sections. A vignette may also be located on the title page.
Very Good - A description of condition implying some slight wear. A book so described would usually be acceptable to all but the most condition-conscious of collectors.
Wraps or wrappers - A flexible paper binding, otherwise known as a paperback. Most books are described today as either hardcover or wraps.
Yellowed - Usually refers to the yellow fore-edges and pages of paperbacks, which is caused either by fading, age and/or acid in the paper.