Home Rare & Collectible Books Glossary


Advanced Reading Copy (ARC)
A copy for booksellers and reviewers, either bound in paper wraps or a trade edition with a review slip laid in.

Many 18th and 19th century books contained publisher's ads, often at the end of the volume.

A suffix denoting a collection of sayings, anecdotes, or other material regarding a person or subject, such as Americana or Hemingwayana.

Containing explanatory notes on the text, either printed with the original publication by the original author or handwritten in the margins.

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

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

Association Copy
A book or pamphlet that belonged to either the author or someone closely associated with the author.

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

Autographed Letter (AL)
A handwritten letter.

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

Autographed Manuscript (AM)
A manuscript in the author's hand.

Autographed Manuscript, Signed (AMS)
A manuscript in the author's hand, signed.

The covering of the book's spine.

Bastard Title
Also Fly Title or Half Title
The page carrying nothing but the title of the book, usually preceding the title page.

The cover of the book.

Binding Copy
Also Reading Copy
A book that needs to be rebound and is worth rebinding. Sometimes called a "reading copy" because though the binding needs to be repaired, the text is fine.

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

Block Books
Books made circa the mid 1400s 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 dust jacket or covers of a proof copy, or on a wraparound band.

The stiff binding material for most modern books.

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

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

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

Book Jacket
Also Dust Jacket or Dust Wrapper
The decorative paper wrapper placed around a book to protect the binding.

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 broken up.

A single sheet of paper, usually printed both sides.

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

Cancel Leaf
A tipped-in (pasted-in) page that replaces a page removed after a book has been bound.

The book is hardbound, as opposed to a paperback.

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

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

A clothbound book. The covering can be linen, buckram, or another textile.

Cocked Spine
Refers to a spine that 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. After the presence of every leaf or page originally in the volume when issued is verified, a book may be collated as complete.

An identifying inscription or emblem from the printer or publisher appearing at the end of a book.

The overall state of a book. The terms used to denote a book's condition describe the general amount of wear or aging evidenced by the book. For details on the meanings of these terms, see our Conditions help page. The condition of a book is sometimes written in the form of VG/VG or VG/--, for example. The first part indicates the condition of the book itself, the second indicates the condition of the dust jacket. A "/--" usually means that the dust jacket is not available. Conditions are often abbreviated, as in the example above. Abbreviations include "F" for Fine, "VG" for Very Good, and "G" for Good. The presence of a "+" or "-" symbol next to any condition (or the words "plus" or "minus") indicates that the book or dust jacket in question is slightly better than the condition given would normally imply.

Conjugate Leaf
The unsevered second half of a printed page.

Refers to bindings and hand-colored plates (generally of the period when the book was published) and author inscription (dated the year of publication).

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 paper wrappers, but in these cases the covers are usually bound in their proper positions.

Cut Edges
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
Also Uncut Edges or Untrimmed Edges
When pages of the completed book have not been shaved down to a uniform surface.

Dedication Copy
A book inscribed to a friend or acquaintance, often by the author, and frequently given as a gift.

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

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 and many science fiction books were issued this way.

Dummy Copy
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
Also Dust Wrapper
Indicating the usually decorative paper wrapper placed around a book to protect the binding.

Dust Wrapper
Also Dust Jacket
Indicating the usually decorative paper wrapper placed around a book to protect the binding.

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.

Elephant 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.

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 that 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.

Free-Front Endpaper
The endpaper that is not attached to the inside front cover.

First and Second Printing Before Publication
This indicates that 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 that something is new. It may be revised, have a new introduction by the author or someone else, or be the first publication in paperback form or the 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
Also Half Title or Bastard Title
The page carrying nothing but the title of the book, usually preceding the title page.

Also Frontis
An illustration or plate facing the title page.

A general term for "book size," but specifically referring to volumes more than 13" tall.

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

A decorative cloth band, sometimes colored or multicolored, appearing inside the backstrip 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.

The entire work is in 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.

Collected first editions published within the last ten years or so. Most were published so recently that there is no track record on author or book.

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

ontaining 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.

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.

Referring to the order of varying portions within the first edition. Varies from "state" in that issue copies are deliberately changed; state copies maybe be changed accidentally. For example, a change to the text due to a misprint would be an issue change; an accidental swapping of paper quality would be a state change.

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.

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 held up to the light.

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.

Letter Signed
Varies from an "autographed letter signed" in that the letter itself may be typed or printed.

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.

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

The original copy of an author's work, either handwritten, typed, or printed. This term also applies to works before the invention of printing.

Marbled Paper
Paper decorated with an imitation marble pattern.

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

Pages or signatures sewn together in an improper order.

Modern Firsts
All books that 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 goatskin, especially suitable for book bindings because of its durability and beauty.

No Date
No date of publication mentioned within the book.

No Place
No place of publication mentioned within the book.

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 by 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 (16 pages).

A separate printing of a section of a larger publication.

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

Out of Print
A book that is no longer being printed or available from the publisher.

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

A small separate work issued in paperwraps.

Books in paperwraps published since the 1930s, 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 bookstore stamps on the edges, inside the front cover, and so on. 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 endpaper pasted to the inner cover of a book.

Perfect Binding
Used for 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 bookbinding 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.

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.

Author's introductory statement.

Presentation Copy
A book given by the author to a friend or an acquaintance, usually inscribed with a dedication.

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 that is meant for private circulation, not public sale.

Proof Copy
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.

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).

Implies the book is extremely scarce, perhaps turning up only 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 had the original binding removed and replaced with a new a binding.

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.

Remainder Copy
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.

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 16 leaves (32 pages).

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

In bookmaking, "signature" does not mean the author's name written out in his or her 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 that 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 an unintentional 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.

Some publishers in the 19th 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 19th century.

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

French for "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, not the half-title page or covers, should be used for cataloguing.

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.

Top Edge Gilt
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.

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.

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.

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.

Discoloration and perhaps actual shrinking of the leaves or binding.

With All Faults
Similar to "as is," often indicating it may have missing pages or damage.

Wraparound Band
The band of printed paper the length of the dust jacket of a book. Favorable reviews are printed on the wraparound bands, which are put around some copies of books. Obviously fragile, they 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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