Glossary of Useful Rare Book and Library Terms

Advance 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.

All Edges 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 out-of-print books.

Association 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.

Bastard Title - See Front Matter and Half-title.

Biblio - From the Greek: signifying or pertaining to books.

Biblioclast - A destroyer of books.

Bibliognost - Having a deep knowledge of books.

Biblioklept - A stealer of books.

Bibliomaniac - Many bookdealers and certain collectors.

Bibliophile - A lover of books.

Bibliophobe - A fear of books.

Binding - The cover of the book.

Binding 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.

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

Blurb - 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 wrap-around band.

Boards - The stiff binding material for most modern books.

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

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

Bookplate - A pasted-in sign of ownership.

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

Breaker - 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 broken up.

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

Cancel - A tipped-in (i.e., pasted in) page to replace a page removed after a book has been bound.

Case-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.

Chapbook - 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 paperback.

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.

Collation - 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.

Colophon - 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.

Covers 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.

Cut - Many modern books are smooth-trimmed after binding so that all edges are even, or flush. This is described as having been "cut".

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.

Device - A printer's ornament. Also an insignia that is the publisher's identifying mark.

Disbound - This term refers to a book or pamphlet, once bound, from which the binding has been removed.

Dos-a-dos - 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.

Dummy - 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 dustwrapper, indicating the usually decorative paper wrapper placed around a book to protect the binding.

Dustwrapper - See Dust Jacket.

Edges - The outer surfaces of the leaves of a book.

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

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.

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

Errata - 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.

Example - A particular copy of an edition.

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

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

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

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.

Flyleaf - 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.

Folio - Has several meanings: (1) a leaf numbered on the front; (2) the numeral itself; and (3) a folio-sized book.

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.

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.

Front Matter - The pages preceding the text of a book, may include:

  • bastard title or fly title frontispiece

  • title page

  • copyright page

  • dedication

  • preface or forward

  • table of contents

  • list of illustrations

  • introduction

  • acknowledgments

  • half title

Galleys - 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.

Gathering - 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.

Glassine - A transparent paper dustwrapper.

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.

Headband - 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.

Headpiece - 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.

Holograph - 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.

Hypermodern - 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.

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

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

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

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.

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.

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

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

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

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.

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

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

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

Laid In - A letter or other sheet(s) inserted but not glued into a book.

Laid Paper - A handmade paper showing parallel lines of the papermaking frame, visible when help up to the light.

Large Print - A book that is made with large type for the visually impaired.

Leaf - A single sheet in a book

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.

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

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

Marbled - Paper decorated with an imitation marble pattern.

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

Misbound - Pages or signatures sewn together in an improper order.

Modern Firsts - All books which were published in this century.

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

Obverse - 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).

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

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

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.

Pamphlet - A small separate work issued in paper wraps.

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

Paper Boards - Stiff cardboard covered in paper.

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

Paste-Down - 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 stapling.

Pictorial - 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.

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

Points - 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.

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.

Printing - 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.

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

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

Provenance - The history of ownership or possession of a given book.

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).

Rare - 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.

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

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

Recto - 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.

Re-jointed - 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.

Reverse - 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.

Rubric - heading of a part of a book or manuscript done or underlined in a color (as red) different from the rest. Example: rubricated initials.

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).

Shaken - 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.

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

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

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

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

Sunned - Faded from exposure to light or direct sunlight.

Tailpiece - An ornament placed below the text matter of a page.

Thousands - 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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Unsophisticated - Pure, genuine, un-restored.

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

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

Verso - 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.

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, they are of interest to collectors.

Wrappers - The outer covers of a paperbound book, catalog or pamphlet. Not to be confused with dustwrapper.

Yapped - 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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