Guide to Book Terminology
- In the US: American Booksellers Association (for independently owned
bookstores with a store front location selling new books).
In the UK: Antiquarian Booksellers Association (the UK equivalent of the ABAA).
- Antiquarian Booksellers' Association of America.
- ADVANCE READING COPY
- A special pre-publication issue published in wrappers.
Issued for publicity purposes. Occasionally there are textual differences
between an advance reading copy and a first edition. Usually in pictorial
wraps similar to the dust jacket art that is to be used on the first trade
edition. Preceded by an advance uncorrected proof copy which is usually in
plain colored wrappers.
- ANTIQUARIAN BOOKSELLER
- A term used loosely to describe a dealer in old, rare,
scarce, and collectible books
- ASSOCIATION COPY
- Books once belonging to the author, signed or annotated by the author, or someone
associated with the author of book in some way. Book inscribed by author to
famous person, or owned by someone of interest, or someone connected to the book
- AUTHORS EDITION
- Book authorized by author, usually foreign editions, around the turn of the last
century when many titles were pirated or "unauthorized".
- A strip used by binder to reinforce the back of folded sheets in the binding of the
- A list of works, occasionally in great detail, on a given subject or by a given author.
- A lover of Books.
- Material used as a protective cover for a book (e.g.: leather,
cloth, buckram, paper, etc.)
- BINDING COPY
- A book whose text block is complete and serviceable, but the current
binding is defective, incomplete, or in need of repair.
- An attack to books by living matter, which may include insects or mildew.
- BLIND (Stamped or Tooled)
- Impressed into paper or binding with no color, leaving an impression only.
- The front and back covers of a hardcover book.
- BOOK CLUB EDITION
- Editions published by book clubs (i.e.: The
Book-of-the-Month Club, Fireside Book Club, History Book Club, The Literary
- BOOK JACKET
- Separate paper covering for the book. Also referred to as the dust jacket or
- A small book, often only a few pages long and bound in wrappers.
- BOOK PLATE
- An ownership label, usually placed inside front cover. Many have become collectible
due to the designer or owner; others actually lower the value of books printed in the
last 50 years.
- An organism, sometimes a literal worm, which harms books by feeding on their binding or leaves. Also a term for a person
devoted to books.
- BROADSIDE or BROADSHEET
- Large sheet of paper printed on one side only.
- A heavy weave of binding cloth.
- Usually referring to the corners of a book that has been damaged by being carelessly banged .
- The covers enclosing a book, usually made of thick cardboard, or a specially made case for a book.
- Due to errors or defects in printing, a book may have one or more pages sliced out of the text block after it has been bound. The new printed matter pasted on to the resulting stub is referred to as a "cancel" or "cancellans".
- Small, inexpensive books produced from the 17th century until today, originally sold by
"chapmen", peddlers, and hawkers.
- CHAPTER BOOK
- Fairly modern term referring to books for older children which are organized into chapters, as
opposed to "picture books", which often are not.
- Small pieces broken off of a dust jacket or binding.
- CIRCA (abbreviated: c )
- Refers to an approximate date when actual date is unknown.
- CLOSED TEAR
- A tear with no material missing.
- Paper is smooth and polished; something has been applied to the surface to make it
- If, when looking down on the head of a book, the corners are not square it is said to
be cocked or rolled. Also known as a spine slant.
- To verify completeness of a book by examining it carefully (e.g.: all illustrative plates are present, no pages are missing, etc).
- Details of the printer's typography, often found on the last page of a book. Sometimes
states the number of copies printed, and in the case of a limited edition,
will cite the copy number and may contain the signature of the author,
illustrator, or publisher.
- CONTEMPORARY BINDING
- Up until the 19th century, books were published unbound, with the understanding that the new owner would have his books bound at his leisure. This term refers to bindings done the same year or within a few years of the publication of such a book.
- Illustrations produced when the original printing plate was engraved on copper; this method was introduced before the
end of the 15th century. They replaced the woodcut, which reappeared later
- COPYRIGHT PAGE
- The page that appears on verso of the title page, containing the
artistic property protection.
- A stain left on a cover or pages that have been exposed to water. Considered a defect.
- DECKLE EDGE
- Uneven and uncut edges, often found on books printed on hand-made
paper and not trimmed by the binder.
- A lace-like pattern applied to the edges of the cover of the inside border of a book bound in leather.
- A listing of books desired.
- An indentation, such as on a golf ball, on covers or pages. Considered a defect, if not part of decorated covers.
- A small bump or dent leaving an impression, sometimes caused by
careless handling or storage.
- Worn or ragged, usually referring to the edges of pages and binding. Corners of pages turned down like a dog's ear. Considered a defect.
- DUST JACKET or DUSTWRAPPER
- The separate paper covering for a book. While originally intended for protection, these have become an important part of modern books, often including information about a book not found elsewhere.
- The three outer sides of the text block when book is closed: fore edge, top edge or head, and bottom edge or foot.
- All of the copies of a book printed at the same time from the same setting of type.
- The double leaves added to the book by the binder that become the pastedowns and free endpapers inside the front and rear covers. These pages are an integral part of the binding of a book, holding the text block and case together. The lack of them drastically shortens the value and life of a book.
- Those bits of throwaway paper of every day life (e.g.: advertising, ticket stubs,
programs, some booklets and pamphlets, etc.)
- A list of errors and their corrections or additions to the printing, found after book
has been printed, usually on separate sheet or slip of paper. The plural of erratum.
- Deaccessioned from a public libraries collection.
- Usually found on bookplate referring to "from the books" of John Doe, etc. From a
private library, as opposed to a public library. Could also be a stamp.
- Extra illustrations added to the book after publication.
- A book that is very worn, but all of it's important parts, and dust jacket, must be present. May be soiled with tears, endpapers missing, etc. Such defects must be noted in descriptions. Also see our page of descriptive terms.
- A book that has no defects in book or jacket, but not as crisp as it
was when new. Also see our page of descriptive terms.
- FIRST EDITION
- The first printing of a book, done from the original setting of type. The collectibility of the first edition was established in the early days of printing, when the lead type used in the presses would quickly wear away, compromising the readability of the book being printed.
- FLEXIBLE BINDING
- Limp, leather/plastic covers which are flexible.
- Plain papers at front and rear of book after endpapers.
- The bottom edge of the text block.
- FORE EDGE
- The right edge opposite the spine.
- FORE EDGE PAINTING
- A painting on gilded fore edge, which can only be seen by fanning pages. Popular in
the 15th and 16th centuries, and occasionally still being done today.
- The brown age spots thought to be caused by impurities in paper(e.g.: acid, exposure to humidity,
- FREE ENDPAPER
- Front and rear blank pages added by the binder.
- The illustration facing title page.
- The printed sheets, after folding, which are put in order and
bound in sequence. Also known as a signature.
- GAUFFERED EDGES
- A pattern tooled on gilt edges of book.
- GILT EDGES
- Page edges cut smooth and gilded (covered with a thin layer of gold leaf).
- Transparent paper sometimes used as a dust jacket to protect a book.
- A book, or dust jacket in average used and worn condition -
complete with all its parts. Note all defects in descriptions. Also see our page of descriptive terms.
- Guidelines used to properly describe condition of books. See our page of descriptive terms.
- Inner margins of two facing pages. Can also refer to the outer indentation that is created by
the joining of the boards and spine.
- HALF BINDING
- Leather spine and corners. Leather extends about 1/3rd to 1/4th of the way to the
- HALF CLOTH
- Cloth spine and paper covered sides.
- HALF-TITLE (fly title)
- The page, preceding the title page proper, listing only the title of the book and no other information. While always present in modern books, it is sometimes lacking in older publications because it was originally designed to be removed before custom binding.
- A gradation of tone (between light and dark) of an image by
minute, closely spaced dots. Used in photography and graphics.
- A book whose case is made of stiff boards, as opposed to wrappers.
- Top edge of the text block.
- Band of silk or cotton affixed to signatures when bound for strength or, more often,
decoration of the spine.
- Where the sides of the binding meet the spine. Can be referred to as inner hinges and outer
hinges or joints.
- IDEAL COPY
- When a number of copies of an edition of a book are compared to each other, a bibliographer may set out what he or she considers to be the description of the standard copy of that edition, to which all other copies can be compared. Thus, when a book is said to be "missing a page", it is assumed that the ideal copy of that book always contains that particular page.
- International League of Antiquarian Booksellers. Includes 20 national associations representing 30 countries.
- All the copies of a book printed during one press run. During the handpress period, when type was reset each time a press was used, this term was synonymous with edition.
- The earliest printed books of a genre, often used exclusively to mean those printed before 1501. Coined from the Latin word cunae, meaning "cradle".
- Signed by the author or someone associated with book, but with more wording than simply a signature.
- Independent Online Booksellers Association.
- A change, textual or otherwise, made after the book has been published. (e.g.: The first issue of Mark Twain's A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court has an "s"-like ornament between "The" and "King" on page 59. In the case of many of C. S. Forester's books, sheets were printed but not bound at the same time; when they were, sometimes years later, they were bound in differently colored bindings. The color of the binding then became an issue point.)
- Refers to outer hinge where spine joins the sides of the book. Sometimes referred to as the "gutter".
- LAID IN
- Paper/photograph/print is laid in (not glued down).
- LAID ON
- See tipped in.
- The thin plastic layer covering the dust jacket of some books.
- LIMITED EDITION
- Small number of copies of book published. Books are usually numbered such as
"100/500" meaning number 100 of an edition of 500.
- When a book has been read carelessly or too often, and has become loose
and sloppy in its binding.
- The original pages of an author's work, written in the author's hand or typed.
- A process of decorating paper, in which the result resembles the veins of stone marble.
- Two related items brought together, though not initially sold as a
unit, for the purpose of making the set complete as published (i.e.: a book and dust jacket, or two volumes in a set).
- The cloth which reinforces the hinges and is pasted directly to the body of a book
and is hidden by the spine.
- The front or main surface of anything.
- OPEN TEAR
- A tear which may have some material missing.
- A book no longer available from the publisher. It is no longer being printed and no copies remain available for sale.
- OWNER'S INSCRIPTION
- Words written by previous or original owner of book. Also known as previous owner's
- The numbering of the pages.
- Refers to borders in binding. Can also be used in connection with the main surfaces of a dust jacket.
- A book bound with flexible paper covers; usually a term reserved for mass-market publications.
- PAPER COVERS (also PAPER-COVERED BOARDS)
- Describes a book not bound in stiff paper covers. Can refer to a temporary binding, a
booklet or pamphlet, or a book in early (1800s) wrappers.
- The skin of a sheep, goat, etc., prepared as a surface for writing or for use as a binding material.
- PASTEDOWN ENDPAPER
- The part of the endpapers that is pasted to the inside of the front and rear covers.
- A special page containing an illustration or other extra information; often printed on glossy paper.
- Peculiarities in a published book whose presence or absence helps to determine edition, issue, or state.
- PRESENTATION COPY
- A book inscribed by the author to someone else of importance to the author, the book, or society in general.
- PRICE CLIPPED
- The price on the inner flap of a dust jacket has been cut off.
- See uncorrected proof.
- Evidence of the history of the ownership of a particular book (e.g.: auctions records, booksellers' records, book plates, etc.) The book may be
important because of who owned it; perhaps a president or important bookseller, collector, royalty, or someone who may be related to the book
in some way. Important in establishing the ownership of especially rare items.
- PSEUDONYM/PEN-NAME/NOM DE PLUME
- An assumed name used to protect the anonymity of an author.
- PUBLISHER'S BINDING
- Binding provided by the publisher when supplying a book for a bookseller. This practice, while common today, dates from the 1800s.
- QUARTER BINDING
- A book with its spine bound in a different material than the boards (i.e.: a leather spine and cloth- or paper-covered boards).
- READING CREASE
- A crease down the spine of a book (usually a paperback); considered a defect.
- A repair, where the original spine or backstrip has been removed, the spine replaced, and the original reglued on top. Can be considered a defect, but more valuable than not having any of the original spine present.
- A repair, where the entire binding has been replaced by a new one.
- A repair, where a book is taken apart and put back together using original pages, cloth, and endpapers.
Usually done to tighten the sewing or to wash the pages, etc.
- A right-hand page, when a book is open and facing the reader.
- A new book returned to the publisher as unsold, then re-marketed at a much lower price.
- REMAINDER MARK
- A mark (rubber stamp, felt marker stroke, or spray, often on a book's bottom edge) signifying that the book
was returned to publisher as unsold, and then sold at a much lower price. Considered to be a defect.
- REVIEW COPY
- A copy of new book sent free-of-charge for purposes of review. Often includes a
laid in review slip with publishing information; not necessarily a first edition.
- Where color has been worn from portions of the binding or dust jacket.
- The text block is loose in its binding; no longer tight, but not detached.
- The pages which have been printed but not yet folded, sewn, or gathered together for binding.
- The spine of a book.
- A printed sheet of paper, folded to size and ready for sewing (i.e.: large paper folded in half, fourths,
eighths, sixteenths, or thirty-seconds).
- Signed with a name only, and no other text included.
- A box built to house and protect a book, leaving the spine exposed.
- Books that have had repairs that involve making additions to the original (e.g.: chips filled in and tinted to match the missing portion, replaced page corners, etc.)
- The backbone, or back, of the book where the title (if present) is displayed when it is standing upright on a shelf.
- Hinges or joints beginning to show signs of becoming loose, either through wear or defective binding. considered a defect.
- Variations within an edition, which are made prior to publication; can include:
• alterations due to stop-press insertions,
damaged type, etc.
• the addition of errata leaves, advertisements.
• textual changes affecting page lay-out.
• some special-paper copies.
This term applies only in connection with the printed pages, and not variations in bindings. (e.g.: a small number of copies of Ernest Hemingway's For Whom the Bell Tolls were erroneously printed without the photographer's credit on the back of
the dust jacket. The presses were stopped midway through the first run, the
credit was added, and the second state of the first edition resulted.)
- STICKER DAMAGE
- A price sticker has been roughly removed resulting in surface damage to the underlying
- STICKER GHOST
- Sticker has been left on book for some time, and the glue, reacting chemically, has
discolored the surface.
- STIPPLED EDGE
- Color sprayed on a book's external edges.
- Browning, yellowing, or fading of paper or binding as a result of sun exposure.
- Bottom edge of the text block.
- TAPE RESIDUE
- Complications of cellophane tape which remains on the paper or a book's cover, resulting in brown
stains or bits of tape adhering to paper. Considered a defect.
- When the binding is loosening.
- TEXT BLOCK
- Pages containing the content of a book (text, illustrations, etc.) bound together; does not include endpapers.
- TIPPED IN
- Paper, photograph, or print glued down by only a narrow strip.
- TITLE PAGE
- The page which gives important information about the book (i.e.: title,
author, publisher, date, etc.)
- The decoration of leather bindings.
- TOP STAIN
- The publisher's decorative colored stain, applied to the top page edges.
- TRADE PAPERBACK
- When the cloth-bound trade edition is issued by the same publisher, sometimes simultaneously, but bound in wrappers. Because the same sheets are used, such issues are often quite larger than paperbacks published for mass-market distribution.
- TRADE EDITION
- An edition sold through bookstores, as opposed to those meant for private or specialized distribution.
- UNCORRECTED PROOF
- A pre-publication printing intended for editorial use, or occasionally to be sent out for review. Usually issued in plain colored wrappers.
- Edges which are rough-cut, rather than being neatly trimmed by the binders.
- When folded edges of the pages of the bound text block remain joined together and have not been
sliced open. Unread.
- VANITY PRESS/PUBLISHERS
- Publishers and presses that publish books at the author's own expense.
- A copy of a book that varies in some way from the ideal copy. Can refer to binding color, illustrations, etc.
- A thin sheet of specially prepared leather used for writing, printing, or as a binding material; considered superior in quality to parchment.
- The left page of an open book, when it is open and facing the reader. The back of a leaf. Also called the reverse.
- VERY GOOD
- Very light wear to book, and/or jacket; no large tears, or major defects; One of the
most often used terms. Also see our page of descriptive terms.
- A faint identifying design, usually in quality paper.
- To sew a book's leaves by passing the thread over and over the spine; often seen in early pamphlets.
- Illustrations produced when the original printing plate was engraved on a block of wood. One of the oldest methods of printing, dating back to 8th century China.
- WRAPPERS or WRAPS
- The printed or unprinted cover of a pamphlet or book bound in paper.
Copyright 2002 by Independent Online Booksellers Association
Reprinted with permission
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