Useful Rare Book and Library Terms
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.
Gilt - The top, for-edge and foot of the book are colored in gold.
Antiquarian Books - A loose term implying
collectible books rather than used books. Refers to old, rare, and
Copy - A book or pamphlet that has some indication of having belonged
to the author or someone closely associated with them.
Backstrip - The covering of the book's spine.
Title - See Front Matter and Half-title.
- From the Greek: signifying or pertaining to books.
- A destroyer of books.
- Having a deep knowledge of books.
- A stealer of books.
Bibliomaniac - Many bookdealers and certain collectors.
- A lover of books.
- A fear of books.
- The cover of the book.
Copy - A book which needs to be rebound and is worth rebinding.
Blind-stamping - An impressed mark, decoration, or lettering, not
colored or gilded, usually appearing on the binding.
- Books made around the mid 1400's in Germany and the Netherlands in which
pictures and explanatory text were printed from woodblocks.
A comment from a review (often by another author praising the particular
book) printed on the dustwrapper or covers of a proof copy, or on a
- The stiff binding material for most modern books.
- The entire book sewn together before it is bound.
- A label indicating the ownership of a book. Generally smaller than a
- 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 person who breaks up books to sell the plates individually, or the
book itself when the covers are so bad that it either has to be rebound or
- A single sheet of paper, usually printed on one side only.
- A tipped-in (i.e., pasted in) page to replace a page removed after a
book has been bound.
- The book is hardbound as opposed to a paperback.
Catalogue (Catalog) - A database or listing of
the individual items in a collection. Additionally, the term is used
to describe a specific publication used to describe and list items -
usually for sale.
- A cheaply printed book of the kind sold by street vendors in the 18th
and 19th centuries.
Chipped - Used to describe where small pieces
are missing or where fraying has occurred on a dust jacket or the edge of
A cloth-bound book. The covering can be linen, buckram or another textile.
spine - Refers to a spine which is angled, so that the boards will not
line up evenly with each other.
- Technically, the examination and notation of the physical makeup of a
book. By checking for the presence of every leaf or page originally in the
volume when issued, a book may be collated as complete.
- An identifying inscription or emblem from the printer or publisher
appearing at the end of a book.
Contemporary - Refers to bindings and hand-colored plates (generally
of the period when the book was published) and author inscription (dated
the year of publication).
Covers - The binding of the book, most
particularly the front and back panels of the book.
bound-in - The original cloth covers, usually including the spine,
bound into the book when a new binding is made. Normally they are mounted
as pages at the end of the book. Also refers to the covers of books
originally issued in boards or paperwraps, but in these cases the covers
are usually bound in their proper positions.
Many modern books are smooth-trimmed after binding so that all edges are
even, or flush. This is described as having been "cut".
Edges - Another term for uncut or untrimmed edges.
Copy - The copy of the book inscribed by the author to the person to
whom the book is dedicated.
- A printer's ornament. Also an insignia that is the publisher's
- This term refers to a book or pamphlet, once bound, from which the
binding has been removed.
- 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.
(12mo) - A book approximately 7 to 8 inches tall.
Dust Jacket - A term synonymous with
dustwrapper, indicating the usually decorative
paper wrapper placed around a book to protect the binding.
Dustwrapper - See
The outer surfaces of the leaves of a book.
- All the copies of a book printed from the same plates or typesetting.
Folio - A book about 23 inches tall.
-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.
Ephemera - 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.
- A particular copy of an edition.
- A term used to indicate a book was once in a library.
- A bookplate printed with the owner's name or initials.
Illustrated - A copy of a book into which additional illustrations
have been bound.
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.
Edition -Generally used by book dealers and collectors to mean the
first appearance of a work in book or pamphlet form, in its first
Separate Edition - The first appearance as a complete book or pamphlet
of a work that has previously appeared as part of another book.
- 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.
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; and (3) a folio-sized book.
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
Foxing - Brown spotting of the paper caused by a
chemical reaction, generally found in 19th century books, particularly in
steel engravings of the period. The staining can be slight or
include all areas surrounding where ink is placed on the paper.
Foxing also seems to make the paper quite brittle.
Frontispiece - An illustration at the beginning of a book, usually
facing the title page.
Matter - The pages preceding the text of a book, may include:
- 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.
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 dustwrapper.
- Paper-cover boards with the spine bound in cloth.
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.
- 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 backstrip at the top (and sometimes
bottom) of the spine of a book.
- An ornament especially at the beginning of a chapter.
Hinge - 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.
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.
- Collected first editions published within last ten years or so. Most
were published so recently that there is no track record on author or
Referring to polychrome illustrations. It usually means an illuminated
Impression - A much misused term, but one
that, when accurately employed, means the copies printed during any given
- Books, pamphlets, calendars, and indulgences printed before 1501.
- An extremely thin, yet relatively opaque paper, used to help reduce the
bulk of what would otherwise be a book of unwieldy size.
- Usually indicates a book signed by the author, either with an
inscription to a specific person or bearing some brief notation along with
- 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
Synonymous with "state", referring to the priority of copies within the
Jacket - The printed or unprinted cover, usually
paper, placed around the bound book. Sometimes called
dust jacket (dj),
dustwrapper (dw), dust cover or book jacket.
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.
- A letter or other sheet(s) inserted but not glued into a book.
- A handmade paper showing parallel lines of the papermaking frame,
visible when help up to the light.
- A book that is made with large type for the visually impaired.
Leaf - A single sheet in a book
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.
Copy - A copy of a book whose parts have been assembled from one or
more defective copies.
- Paper decorated with an imitation marble pattern.
- A absolutely perfect copy, as perfect as the day it was issued.
- Pages or signatures sewn together in an improper order.
Firsts - All books which were published in this century.
-A type of leather made from goatskins, especially suitable for book
bindings because of its durability and beauty.
- 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
- The transfer of ink from one page to another, either as a printed page
or an engraving.
- As in original binding.
Print - A book no longer being printed.
Series - Refers to overruns or extra copies of limited editions.
- A small separate work issued in paper wraps.
- Books in paper wraps published since the 1930's, although it can
describe any book with a paper cover.
Boards - Stiff cardboard covered in paper.
The practice of publishing novels in separate monthly installments in
- The portion of the end-paper pasted to the inner cover of a book.
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
- Describes a book with a picture on the cover.
Edition - Any edition of a work issued without permission of the
author and without payment of royalties to the author or copyright holder.
- 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.
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.
clipped - The price has been clipped from the corner of the dust
Cover - Used to describe a dust wrapper or paper cover that is only
- Another word for impression.
Press - A small press, often operated by one person, usually devoted
to the production of small quantities of finely printed books.
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 paper
- 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.
Leather - A book with a leather spine. Also see Half Leather.
(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.
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
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.
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.
- heading of a part of a book or manuscript done or underlined in a color
(as red) different from the rest. Example: rubricated initials.
- A group of volumes with a common theme issued in succession by a single
(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.
Signature - 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.
- 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.
- An ornament placed below the text matter of a page.
- 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.
Three-decker - 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
- French for "a printing". Usually used for a limited edition,
often numbered and dated.
Gilt - Usually abbreviated teg, it means that the top edges of the
pages have been covered with gold leaf or gilt material.
Edition - The regularly published edition. 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.
The pages of the completed book have not been shaved down to a uniform
- The leaves of the book are still joined at the folds, not slit apart.
- The pages are not numbered (although each signature may be designated by
Unsophisticated - Pure, genuine, un-restored.
- 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.
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, they are of interest to collectors.
Wrappers - The outer covers of a paperbound
book, catalog or pamphlet. Not to be confused with
- 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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