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Book Dimensions
Books come in all shapes and sizes, as varied as the content inside. Many times books will be listed with the following notations. This will help you decipher the appearance of your potential purchase.
  • 4to - A book that is up to 12" tall.
  • 8vo - A book that is up to 9 ¾" tall.
  • 12mo - A book that is up to 7 ¾" tall.
  • Folio - A book that is up to 15" tall.
Book Condition
Condition of a book is usually in the form of VG/VG, Fine/Good, VG/--, etc. The first part is the condition of the book, the second is the condition of the dust jacket. If a "/--" is present, it usually means that the dust-jacket is not present.
  • Very Good (VG)
    - Describes a book that does show some small signs of wear - but no tears - on either binding or paper.
  • Good (G)
    - Describes the average used worn book that has all pages or leaves present. Any defects must be noted.
Book Definitions

ads, advts, adverts
Advertisements placed in the binding of the book.

Advanced Copy
A copy for booksellers and reviewers, either bound in paper-wraps or a copy of the trade edition with a review slip laid in.

See All Edges gilt.

See Autographed Letter.

All Edges Gilt
The top, fore-edge and foot of the book are colored in gold.

See Autographed Letter, Signed.

See Autographed Manuscript, Signed.

Antiquarian Books
A loose term implying collectible books rather than used books. Refers to old, rare, and out-of-print books.

Advanced Reading Copy . See Advanced Copy.

As Issued
A term indicating a given book is in the original condition as published.

Association Copy
A book or pamphlet that has some indication of having belonged to the author or someone closely associated with them.

As Usual
A favorite term to describe defects which probably occur only on copies of the book the particular dealer handles, such as "lacks endpapers, as usual".

Autographed Letter
A handwritten letter.

Autographed Letter, Signed
A handwritten letter signed by the writer.

Autographed Manuscript, Signed
A manuscript all in the author's hand.

The covering of the book's spine.

bc, bce
See Book Club.

See Bound.

See Binding.

See Boards.

From the Greek: signifying or pertaining to books.

A lover of books.

A fear of books.

The cover of the book.

Binding Copy
A book which needs to be rebound and is worth rebinding.

An impressed mark, decoration, or lettering, not colored or gilded, usually appearing on the binding.

Block Books
Books made around the mid 1400's in Germany and the Netherlands in which pictures and explanatory text well printed from woodblocks.

The stiff binding material for most modern books.

Book of the Month Club. See Book Club.

Book Block
The entire book sewn together before it is bound.

Book Club
Edition of a book printed especially for a book club. All books are of a uniform size and usually produced with cheaper materials.

Book Label
A label indicating the ownership of a book. Generally smaller than a bookplate.

A pasted-in sign of ownership.

A book with a cover of any type, or a periodical that has a cover other than its published wraps.

A single sheet of paper, usually printed on one side only.

Black and white illustrations, photographs, etc.

A cheaply printed book of the kind sold by street vendors in the 18th and 19th centuries.

Used to describe where small pieces are missing or where fraying has occurred on a dust jacket or the edge of a paperback.

See Cloth.

A cloth-bound book. The covering can be linen, buckram or another textile.

Cocked spine
Refers to a spine which is angled, so that the boards will not line up evenly with each other.

The binding of the book, most particularly the front and back panels of the book.

dec, decor
Decorated. Often referred to a binding, as in dec. cl.

Deckle Edges
Another term for uncut or untrimmed edges.

Dedication Copy
The copy of the book inscribed by the author to the person to whom the book is dedicated.

See Dust Jacket.

Two separate books bound together so that each cover represents the cover for a different title. The Ace paperbacks or many science fiction books were issued this way.

A mock-up of the book, used by salesmen in the late 19th and early 20th century to show prospective buyers what the book would look like. It usually had a title page, 10 or 20 pages of text, and then blank pages to fill out the rest of the binding.

DuoDecimo (12mo)
A book approximately 7 to 8 inches tall.

Dust Jacket
A term synonymous with dust-wrapper, indicating the usually decorative paper wrapper placed around a book to protect the binding.

See Dust Jacket.

Dust Wrapper. See Dust Jacket.

See Edited, Edition, Editor.

The outer surfaces of the leaves of a book.

Prepared for publication.

All the copies of a book printed from the same plates or typesetting.

A person who gathers material for a book oversees a text written by others, and/or makes the text more readable.

See Octavo.

Elephant Folio
A book about 23 inches tall.

End Papers
The sheets of paper pasted onto the inner covers, joining the book block to the covers. One side of the sheet is pasted to the inside cover, the other is left free.

See End Papers.

From the Greek work ephemeron, meaning something that disappears quickly. Examples are: manifestos, broadsides, programs, menus, tickets, playbills, etc.

Mistakes or errors. Generally encountered in the term "errata slip", a small sheet of paper laid into a book by a publisher who has discovered errors prior to publication.

see Example. Example
A particular copy of an edition.

See Ex-Library.

A term used to indicate a book was once in a library.

A bookplate printed with the owner's name or initials.

Extra Illustrated
A copy of a book into which additional illustrations have been bound.

See Condition - Fine.

F, FF, fol
See Folio.

The end paper that is not attached to the inside front cover. See End Papers.

First and Second Printing before Publication
This indicates the publisher was successful in promoting the book and had more orders before the actual publication date than the first printing quantity would cover, therefore a second printing was ordered. Not a first edition.

First Edition
Generally used by book dealers and collectors to mean the first appearance of a work in book or pamphlet form, in its first printing.

First Separate Edition
The first appearance as a complete book or pamphlet of a work that has previously appeared as part of another book.

First Thus
Means not a first edition, but something is new. It may be revised, have a new introduction by the author or someone else, but the first publication in paperback form, or first by another publisher.

First Trade Edition
The edition produced for general commercial sale, as distinguished from a limited edition.

A blank leaf, sometimes more than one, following the front free endpaper, or at the end of a book where there is not sufficient text to fill out the last few pages.

Fly title
See Half-title.

Has several meanings:

  1. a leaf numbered on the front
  2. the numeral itself
  3. a folio-sized book
See Book Sizes.

Fore-edge painting
The front page edges of the book are bent back to expose a greater area and a watercolor painting is applied to this surface. After completion the book is closed and the painting cannot be seen. The opposite is also true. The painting is done on the edge of the pages so it can be seen when the book is closed but not discernible when the book was open.

See Quarto.

See Foxing.

Brown spotting of the paper caused by a chemical reaction, generally found in 19th century books, particularly in steel engravings of the period.

Free Endpaper
See End Papers.

See Frontispiece.

An illustration at the beginning of a book, usually facing the title page.

Front Matter
The pages preceding the text of a book, in the following order:

  1. bastard title or fly title
  2. frontispiece
  3. title page
  4. copyright page
  5. dedication 
  6. >preface or forward
  7. table of contents
  8. list of illustrations
  9. introduction
  10. acknowledgments
  11. half title

See Condition - Good.

Sometimes called "galley proofs" or "loose galleys" to distinguish them from bound galleys. Long sheets of paper bearing the first trial impression of the type.

A group of sheets folded together for sewing or gluing into the binding.

See Gilt Edges.

Gilt Edges
The page edges have been trimmed smooth and gilt, or gold, has been applied. The abbreviation ge means gilt edges; aeg means all edges gilt; gt means gilt top; teg. means top edge gilt.

A transparent paper dust-wrapper.

See Gilt Edges

Half Cloth
Paper-cover boards with the spine bound in cloth.

Half Leather
A term indicating that the spine and the corners of a book are bound in leather, while the rest of the binding may be cloth or paper. Also see Quarter Leather.

Half Title
The page carrying nothing but the title of the book, usually preceding the title page.

A decorative cloth band, sometimes colored or multi-colored, appearing inside the back-strip at the top (and sometimes bottom) of the spine of a book.

The joint (either outer or inner) of the binding of a book - the part that bends when the book is opened.

A term indicating the handwriting of the author.

Hors Texte, versos blank (hvtb)
"Hors texte" is French for "outside of the text", and the term usually refers to plates, without printing on the reverse sides. The plates may be tipped in to paper of a different stock from that of the text.

See Hors Texte, versos blank

Collected first editions published within last ten years or so. Most were published so recently that there is no track record on author or book. < p />I
See Index.

Ill, Ills, Illus.
See Illustrated.

Referring to polychrome illustrations. It usually means an illuminated manuscript.

Containing Illustrations.

A design, picture, plate, plan, diagram, chart, or map printed within the text.

A much misused term, but one that, when accurately employed, means the copies printed during any given press run.

A term that can refer either to the place of publication or to the publisher.

Books, pamphlets, calendars, and indulgences printed before 1501.

An alphabetical listing of names or topics mentioned in the book, with their page numbers. For serials and journals, the index is usually published after the volume is completed and is usually found in the last issue.

India Paper
An extremely thin, yet relatively opaque paper, used to help reduce the bulk of what would otherwise be a book of unwieldy size.

See Inscribed.

Usually indicates a book signed by the author, either with an inscription to a specific person or bearing some brief notation along with his signature.

A leaf or page is said to be integral when it is one that was sewn and bound into a book during its manufacture.

When blank leaves alternate with the printed leaves a book is said to be interleaved.

Synonymous with "state", referring to the priority of copies within the first edition.

The printed or unprinted cover, usually paper, placed around the bound book. Sometimes called dust-jacket (dj), dust-wrapper (dw), dust cover or book jacket.

Japan Vellum
A smooth, glossy paper, made in imitation of vellum, generally a light tan color.

Books originally or primarily written to be read by (or to) children.

Work written when an author was extremely young, often as a child.

 l, ll
See Leaf.

Laid In
A letter or other sheet (s) inserted but not glued into a book. < p />Laid Paper
A handmade paper showing parallel lines of the papermaking frame, visible when help up to the light. < p />Large Print
A book that is made with large type for the visually impaired.

A single sheet in a book; each leaf contains two printed pages, one on each side.

 Limited Edition
Any book whose publication is deliberately restricted to a comparatively small number of copies, usually numbered and often signed by the author and/or illustrator.

An adjective describing a flexible binding in suede or imitation leather such as that used on the early titles of the Modern Library.

Large-paper edition.

See Limited Edition.

Made-up Copy
A copy of a book whose parts have been assembled from one or more defective copies.

Paper decorated with an imitation marble pattern.

Mint Copy
A absolutely perfect copy, as perfect as the day it was issued.

Pages or signatures sewn together in an improper order.

Modern Firsts
All books which were published in this century.

A work, generally short, dealing with a single subject and usually issued in pamphlet form.

A type of leather made from goatskins, especially suitable for book bindings because of its durability and beauty.

 ms, mss

See No Date.

Near Fine condition. See condition - Fine.

No, Nos, #
See Number.

No Date
No date of publication mentioned within the book.

No Place
No Place (of publication).

See No Place.

An issue of a periodical.

The right-hand page of a book, more commonly called the recto.

Octavo (8vo)
A book of about 5 inches wide and 8 inches tall to about 6 x 9 inches. Octavo is the most common size for current hardcover books. To make octavo books, each sheet of paper is folded to make eight leaves (sixteen pages).

A separate printing of a section of a larger publication; i.e., a periodical.

The transfer of ink from one page to another, either as a printed page or an engraving.

Out of Print.

Original. As in original binding.

Out of Print
A book no longer being printed.

Out of Series
Refers to overruns or extra copies of limited editions.

A small separate work issued in paperwraps.

pb, ppr
See paperback.

Books in paperwraps published since the 1930's, although it can describe any book with a paper cover.

Paperback Grading
A letter grade system is sometimes used for describing the condition of a paperback:

  • "A" grade. Basically an unread book. No book store stamps on the edges, inside the front cover, etc.The book is as close to perfect as possible. These are typically very difficult to find for older books written in the 1980s and near impossible for those in the 1970s and earlier.
  • "B" grade. Given to a book that is slightly creased in the spine. Might have name, initials, light stamp in the book.
  • "C" grade. This means that there are creases in the spine and maybe on the tips of the cover. Basically, it is a reader's copy only.

Paper Boards
Stiff cardboard covered in paper.

The practice of publishing novels in separate monthly installments in magazine format.

The portion of the end-paper pasted to the inner cover of a book.

See price-clipped.

Perfect binding
Used in paperback books, trade paperbacks and magazines that have too many pages to be stapled. The page edges are glued together, then placed in the covers. This is a less expensive process than traditional book binding and stapling.

Describes a book with a picture on the cover.

Pirated Edition
Any edition of a work issued without permission of the author and without payment of royalties to the author or copyright holder.

pl, pls
See Plates.

Whole-page illustrations printed separately from the text. Illustrations printed in the text pages are called cuts.

Distinguishing characteristics, usually errors, that occur within a first edition and indicate the priority of copies.

See Preface.

Author's introductory statement.

Presentation Copy
A copy of a book actually given by the author to someone of his acquaintance, usually with an inscription of some sort testifying to this disposition.

Price clipped
The price has been clipped from the corner of the dust jacket.

Printed Cover
Used to describe a dust wrapper or paper cover that is only lettered.

Another word for impression.

Private Press
A small press, often operated by one person, usually devoted to the production of small quantities of finely printed books.

Privately Printed
This term refers to a book or pamphlet whose printing was paid for by an individual or a group, and which is meant for private circulation, not public sale.

Precede the published book. The normal course of events would be galley proof, uncorrected bound proof and advance reading copy bound in paperwraps.

A publisher's announcement of a forthcoming book, set, or periodical, with information about the price, contributors or authors, date of publication, and binding.

The history of ownership or possession of a given book.

Publisher or published.

Publication Date
The data a book is formally placed on sale.

Quarter Leather
A book with a leather spine. Also see Half Leather.

Quarto (4to)
A book between octavo and folio in size; approximately 11 to 13 inches tall. To make a quarto, a sheet of paper is folded twice, forming four leaves (eight pages).

Implies the books is extremely scarce, perhaps only turning up once every ten years or so.

Reading Copy
A copy of a book that is worn or used to such a degree that it is not in good enough condition to be considered collectible.

A book that has been repaired by getting a new spine and mended hinges.

A book that has been glued back into its covers after having been shaken loose.

The front side of a leaf in a bound book; in other words, the right-hand page of an opened book. Also called the obverse.

Means the book has been repaired preserving the original covers, including the spine.

See Remainder

When a book has ceased to sell, a publisher may get rid of his overstock by "remaindering" the title.

Remainder Marks
The publisher will mark the bottom edges of books sold as remainders with a stamp, a black marker, or spray paint, which speckles the bottom.

The rear side of a leaf in a bound book; in other words, the left-hand page of an opened book. Also called the verso.

The end paper that is not attached to the inside rear cover. See End Papers.

See Remainder Marks.

See Series.

A group of volumes with a common theme issued in succession by a single publisher.

Sextodecimo (16mo)
A small book, approximately 4 inches wide and 6 inches tall. To make it, each sheet of paper is folded four times, forming sixteen leaves (32 pages).

An adjective describing a book whose pages are beginning to come loose from the binding.

In bookmaking, this does not mean the author's name written out in his hand. It refers rather to the group of pages produced by folding a single printed sheet, ready for sewing or gluing into a book.

See sextodecimo.

A cardboard case covered in paper, cloth or leather which holds a book with only the spine exposed.

The book's backbone, where the signatures are gathered. The spine is covered with the backstrip.

Closely allied to the definition of "issue". State generally refers to a change other than a correction of a misprint.

A narrow strip of paper usually remaining where a leaf has been cut away.

Faded from exposure to light or direct sunlight.

See Top Edge Gilt or Gilt Edges.

Some publishers in the nineteenth century added a notice on the title page stating, for instance "Eighth Thousand" to indicate a later printing. These are not first editions.

A book in three volumes, almost exclusively used to describe Victorian novels of the late nineteenth century.

Means the plate, autograph, letter, photo, etc., is actually attached to the book.

French for "a printing". Usually used for a limited edition, often numbered and dated.

Title Page
The title page, near the beginning of the book, lists the title and subtitle of the book the authors, editors, and/or contributors, the publisher or printer, and sometimes the place and date of publication. The title page information should be used for cataloguing (not the half-title page or covers).

Title Page Index
Used in describing periodicals, to indicate that the title page and index are present; without a title page and index, the volume is incomplete.

See Typed Letter Signed.

Top Edge Gilt
Usually abbreviated teg, it means that the top edges of the pages have been covered with gold leaf or gilt material.

See Title Page.

See Title Page Index.

Trade Edition
The regularly published edtion. This term is used to differentiate it from a limited signed edition of the same book.

An adjective indicating that the pages have been cut down to a size smaller than when originally issued.

See Duodecimo.

Typed Letter Signed
A typewritten letter signed by hand.

The pages of the completed book have not been shaved down to a uniform surface.

The leaves of the book are still joined at the folds, not slit apart.

See Unpaginated.

The pages are not numbered (although each signature may be designated by letter).

Pure, genuine, unrestored, and if a book is so described, it can mean trouble as far as condition is concerned.

A book that differs in one or more features from others of the same impression, but a positive sequence has not been established.

A thin sheet of specially prepared skin of calf, lamb, or kid used for writing or printing, or for the cover.

The second, or rear, side of a leaf in a book; in other words, the left-hand page of an opened book. Also called the reverse.

The volume of the book.

See Condition - Very Good.

Discoloration and perhaps actual shrinking of the leaves or binding.

wr, wrs
See Wrappers.

Wrap-around Band
The band of printed paper the length of the dust-wrapper of a book. Wrap-around bands contain favorable reviews and are put around some copies of books. Obviously fragile, that are of interest to collectors.

The outer covers of a paperbound book or pamphlet. Not to be confused with "dust wrapper".

Refers to the edges of the cover of a book bound in paper or another soft material. These yapped edges are not flush with the pages but extend beyond the edges of the book and are fragile by nature.





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