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 dustjacket is not present.
As New – To be used only when the book is in the same immaculate condition to which it was published. There can be no defects, no missing pages, no library stamps, etc., and the dustjacket (if it was issued with one) is perfect, without any tears.
Fine (F or FN) – Approaches the condition of As New, but without being crisp. For the use of the term Fine, there can be no defects, etc., and if the jacket has a small tear, or other defect, or looks worn, this should be noted.
Very Good (VG) – Describes a book that does show some small signs of wear – but no tears – on either binding or paper. Any defects require a note in the book description.
Good (G) – Describes the average used worn book that has all pages or leaves present. Any defects require a note in the book description.
Fair – Worn book that has complete text pages (including those with maps or plates) but may lack endpapers, half-title, etc. Binding, jacket (if any), etc., may also be worn. Any defects require a note in the book description.
Poor – Describes a book that is sufficiently worn, to the point that its only merit is as a Reading Copy because it does have the complete text, which is legible. Any missing maps or plates should still be noted. This copy may be soiled, scuffed, stained or spotted and may have loose joints, hinges, pages, etc.
These terms may be arbitrary, but whatever terms are employed, they may be useless or misleading unless both buyer and seller agree on what they mean in actually describing the book.
Common Abbreviations (slightly abbreviated from original)
4to – Quarto.
8vo – Octavo.
16mo – Sextodecimo.
ads, advts, adverts – Advertisements placed in the binding of the book.
aeg – All Edges Gilt.
al – Autographed Letter.
als – Autographed Letter, Signed.
ams – Autographed Manuscript, Signed.
-ana – A suffix denotating a collection of sayings, anecdotes, or other material regarding a person or subject. For example: Americana, Hemingwayana, etc.
ARC – Advanced Reading Copy.
bc, bce – Book Club, Book Club Edition.
bd – Bound.
bdg – Binding.
bds – Boards.
bomc – Book of the Month Club. See Book Club.
b/w – Black and white; usually describes illustrations, photographs, etc.
cwo – Check or cash (payment) with order.
dec, decor – Decorated. Often refers to binding, as indec. cl.
dj – Dust Jacket.
dw – Dust Wrapper.
ed – Edited, Edition, Editor.
ep – End Papers.
ex – Example.
F – Fine, as in Book Condition.
F, FF, fol – Folio.
ffep – The end paper that is not attached to the inside front cover. See End Papers.
G – Good, as in Book Condition.
ge – Gilt Edges.
gt – Gilt Edges.
hvtb – Hors Texte, versos blank.
I – Index.
Ill, Ills, Illus. – Illustrated.
insc – Inscribed.
l, ll – Leaf.
lp – Large-paper edition.
Ltd – Limited Edition.
ms, mss – Manuscript.
nd – No Date.
nf – Near Fine, as in Book Condition.
No, Nos, # - Number.
np – No Place.
op – Out-of-Print.
orig – Original; as in original binding.
pb, ppr – Paperback.
pbo – Paperback Original.
pc – Price-clipped.
pl, pls – Plates.
pos – Prior owner signature.
Prefs – Preface.
pub – Publisher or published.
rem – Remainder.
rfep – The end paper that is not attached to the inside rear cover. See End Papers.
rm – Remainder Marks.
ser – Series.
teg – Top Edge Gilt or Gilt Edges.
tls – Typed Letter Signed.
tp – Title Page.
tpi – Title Page Index.
unpag – Unpaginated.
vol – Volume.
VG – Very Good, as in Book Condition.
wr, wrs – Wrappers.
Advanced Reading Copy – A copy for reviewers and/or booksellers, usually bound in paperwraps and usually with either the finished cover art or possibly trial cover art. Generally, this copy is as it will appear in the stores and differs from the Uncorrected Proof.
Antiquarian Books – A loose term implying collectible books rather than used books. Refers to old, rare, and out-of-print books.
Apocryphal – A work whose authenticity or authorship is in doubt.
Appendix – Additional or supplementary material generally found at the end of a book.
As Issued – A term indicating a given book is in the same condition as when originally published.
Association Copy – A book which belonged to or was annotated by the author, someone close to the author, a famous or noteworthy person, or someone especially associated with the content of the work. Should have documentary evidence of its association, such as the author’s bookplate.
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”.
Backstrip – The covering of the book’s spine.
Biblio – From the Greek; signifying or pertaining to books.
Binding Copy – A book which needs to be rebound and is worth rebinding.
Blind-stamping - An impressed mark, decoration, or lettering, not coloured or gilded, usually appearing on the binding. One way that the Book Clubs have marked their editions when they are otherwise identical to trade editions is to use a small square, round, or sometimes leaf-shaped blind stamp in the bottom right corner of the rear board.
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.
Book Block – The entire book sewn together before it is bound.
Book Club Edition – A book usually printed especially for a book club such as “The Book of the Month Club” or “The Literary Guild.” These copies will usually have the words “Book Club Edition” printed on the bottom right corner of the front flap of the dustwrapper. Occasionally, if the book club does not wish to do a separate edition they will have a publisher blind stamp the rear board and print a supply of dustwrappers without a price on the front flap and now without the bar code data on the rear panel.
Book Label – A label indicating the ownership of a book. Generally smaller than a Bookplate.
Bookplate – A pasted-in sign of ownership. Modern bookplates are pressure sensitive (peel-and-stick) as opposed to the older bookplates which were made with water-activated adhesive (lick-and-stick). Some bookplates from the last century were quite elaborate with engravings.
Bowed – A condition of the covers or boards of a hard cover book. Bowed covers may turn inward toward the leaves or outward away from the leaves. The condition generally results from a rapid change in the level of moisture in the air and is caused by different rates of expansion or contraction of the paste-down and the outer material covering the board.
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.
Chapbook – A cheaply printed book of the kind sold by street vendors in the 18th and 19th centuries.
Cloth – A cloth-bound book. The covering can be linen, buckram or another textile.
Cocked – Also shelf-cocked. A condition resulting from storing a book on a shelf so that it leans and rests against its neighbour or the side of a bookcase. Gravity deforms the book binding. Cocked also refers to a book in which the spine no longer remains at right angles to the covers.
Codex – An ancient volume of manuscript.
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. Also the emblem at the bottom of the spine on both the book and dust-wrapper as well as a logo on the title or copyright page.
Comb Binding – A book binding similar to a spiral binding but using a round tubular plastic piece with many teeth which fit through small rectangular holes punched into the binding edge of the book. The plastic piece, if laid flat, would resemble a comb.
Conjugate Leaf – The unsevered second half of a printed page.
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 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.”
Dampstained – A light stain on the cover or on the leaves of a book caused by moisture such as a piece of food or perspiration. Generally not as severe as waterstains.
Darkening - When book covers are exposed to light, the colour darkens or becomes more intense. See also Fading.
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.
Definitive Edition – The most authoritative version of a work.
Dents – Damage to the edges of the cover of hardcover books.
Device – A printer’s ornament. Also an insignia that is the publisher’s identifying mark. Now interchangeable with Colophon.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 a 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.
Dust Jacket – A term synonymous with Dust Wrapper, indicating the usually decorative paper wrapper placed around a book to protect the binding.
Elephant Folio – A book about 23 inches (600 mms) tall.
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.
Ex-Library- A term used to indicate a book was once in a library. They are usually identified with one or more markings of the library such as stampings, card pockets, cataloging numbers, etc. Frequently they are marked as “discarded” or “withdrawn” when sold by a library.
Ex-Libris – A bookplate printed with the owner’s name or initials. Latin for “From the library of…”
Extra Illustrated- A copy of a book into which additional illustrations have been bound.
Fading – The colour of some book covers fades or becomes less intense when exposed to light. See also Darkening.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 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, be 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.
See Book Sizes.Fore Edge – The trimmed edge of the leaves of a book; the edge of the page opposite the spine, bound or back edge of the 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 is not visible when the book was open.
Free Endpaper – See End Papers.Frontis, 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:
bastard title or fly title
preface or forward
table of contents
list of illustrations
Full Binding – A binding in which the spines and boards are uniformly covered with the same material.
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.
Gauffered – An ‘engraved’ design on the edges of a book.
Glassine – A transparent paper dustwrapper.
Gutter – The inner margin of a leaf near the spine of a book. See Tail.
Half Cloth- Paper-covered 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.
Highlighting – The use of transparent and brightly coloured markers to draw attention to particular text. Frequently done by students. See also Underlining and Marginalia.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 – “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.
Illumination – Decoration applied by hand in gold, silver or coloured paint.
Illustration – A design, picture, plate, plan, diagram, chart, or map printed within the text.
Imprint – A term that can refer either to the place of publication or to the publisher.
Incunabula – Books, pamphlets, calendars, and indulgences printed before 1501.
Index- 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.
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.
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 Paper – A handmade paper showing parallel lines of the papermaking frame, visible when held up to the light.
Ledgit – A label or memo slip projecting from a book’s pages.
Library Binding – Reinforced bindings used by many public libraries.
Limp – An adjective describing a flexible binding in suede or imitation leather such as that used on the early titles of the Modern Library.
Loose – The binding of a new book is very tight; that is, the book will not open easily and generally does not want to remain open to any given page. As the book is used, the binding becomes looser until a well-used book may lay flat and remain open to any page in the book.
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.
Marginalia – Notes written in the margins of a page around the text. Frequently used by students and others when studying a text. See also Highlighting and Underlining.Miniature - A book that is less than 3″ in its largest dimension. See also 64mo.
Mint Copy – An 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 published in the 20th century.
Monograph – A work, generally short, dealing with a single subject and usually issued in pamphlet form.
Morocco – A type of leather made from goatskins, especially suitable for book bindings because of its durability and beauty.
Number – An issue of a periodical.
Obverse – The right-hand page of a book, more commonly called the Recto.Octavo (8vo) – A book of about five inches wide and eight inches tall to about six by nine 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 (16 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.
Out-of-Series – Refers to overruns or extra copies of limited editions.
Owner’s Bookplate – See Bookplate.
Page – One side of a leaf. The front side of a leaf is called the recto or obverse and the back side of the leaf is called the verso or the reverse.
Pamphlet – A small separate work issued in paperwraps.
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.
Parts – The practice of publishing novels in separate monthly installments in magazine format.
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.
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.
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 paperwraps.
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.
Publication Date – The date 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).
Raised Band – The raised areas on the spine concealing a cord which is attached to the covers. In earlier leather books cords were really used. In some modern books the raised bands are purely decorative and conceal no underlying cord.
Rare- Implies the books is extremely scarce, perhaps only turning up once every ten years or so.
Re-backed – A book that has been repaired by replacing the spine and mending the 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.Rejointed – Means the book has been repaired preserving the original covers, including the spine.
Self-Wraps – Wrappers which have vestigial flaps that imitate a dust jacket.
Shaken – An adjective describing a book whose pages are beginning to come loose from the binding.
Shelf Wear – The wear that occurs as a book is placed onto and removed from a shelf. It may be to the tail (bottom) edge of the covers as they rub against the shelf, to the dust jacket or exterior of the covers (when no dust jacket is present) as the book rubs against its neighbours, or to the head of the spine which some use to pull the book from the shelf.
Sheet – The piece of paper on which the printer prints. The sheet is folded one or more times to form the leaves of the book.
Signed – A book which the author has autographed. See Inscribed.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.
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 – Decorative typography ornament on the lower part of a page at the end of a chapter or a poem.
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.
Tight – The binding of a new book is very tight; that is, the book will not open easily and generally does not want to remain open to any given page. As the book is used, the binding becomes looser until a well-used book may lay flat and remain open to any page in the book.
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.
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).
Tooling – The decoration of a binding.
Trade Edition – The regularly published edition. This term is used to differentiate it from a limited signed edition of the same book.
Trade Paperback – A softcover book which is generally large in size and made of better quality materials than a Mass-Market Paperback.Trimmed – An adjective indicating that the pages have been cut down to a size smaller than when originally issued.
Typed Letter Signed – A typewritten letter signed by hand.
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.
Unsophisticated – Pure, genuine, unrestored. If a book is so described, it can mean trouble as far as condition is concerned.
Vellum- A thin sheet of specially prepared skin of calf, lamb, or kid used for writing or printing, or for the cover.
Worming, Wormholes – Small holes resulting from bookworms (the larvae of various beetles.)
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.
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.