Book Collecting Terms


A

Advance Reading Copy (ARC)

Also called an Advance Reading Edition (ARE). Finished copies of the book sent out to individuals for promotional purposes, usually bound in paper wraps. This differs from the Uncorrected Proof, although some ARC’s state that they include the uncorrected proofs.

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 that 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 New

The book is in the exact condition as when it left the print shop. (Sometimes referred to as “Mint” condition.)

B

Backstrip

The covering on the book’s spine.

Bastard Title

The page carrying nothing but the title of the book, usually preceding the title page. Also known as: Mock Title, Fly title, half-title.

Biblio

From the Greek; signifying or pertaining to books.

Bibliography (bibl)

A systematic list of books and other works that pertain to a certain subject.

Bibliophile

A lover of books.

Binding (bdg)

The cover of the book surrounding the book block.

Binding Copy

A book that needs to be rebound and is worth rebinding. In a copy like this the leaves are intact and the book block itself is still square but the binding may be in tatters.

Blind-stamping

An impressed mark, decoration, or lettering, not colored 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.

Boards (bds)

The stiff binding material for most modern books.

Book Block

A book that has been printed, folded, gathered and sewn, but not yet bound; not to be confused with “Block Books”. Also called a “Text-Block.”

Book Club Edition (bc, bce)

A separate edition of 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 dust wrapper. Occasionally, if the book club does not wish to do a separate edition they will have a publisher blind stamp on the rear board and print a supply of dust wrappers without a price on the front flap and now without the bar code on the rear panel. Book Clubs are not solely an American phenomenon as there have been numerous British Book Clubs over the years.

Book Label

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

Bookplate (bkpl)

A pasted-in sign of ownership. Modern bookplates are pressure sensitive (peel-and-stick) as opposed to the older bookplates that were made with water-activated adhesive (lick-and-stick). Some bookplates from the 19th century were quite elaborate with engravings.

Bound

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

Bowed

A condition of the covers or boards of a hardcover 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.

C

Cancel

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

Case-Bound

A case-bound book is a hardcover book where the boards have been covered before being adjoined with the text block as opposed to afterwards; which is defined as bound.

Chapbook

A cheaply printed book 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

Also shelf-cocked. A condition resulting from storing a book on a shelf so that it leans and rests against its neighbor or the side of a bookcase. Gravity deforms the book binding. Cocked also refers to a book where the spine no longer remains at right angles to the covers.

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.

Contemporary

Refers to the time at which an action happened to the book in relation to its printing. For instance, a contemporary binding is a book that has been re-bound shortly after being published.  A contemporary inscription would have been signed and dated in the year of publication.

Corners

The right angles on the unbound edges of the front and back covers of a hardcover book.

Covers

The binding of the book, particularly the front and back panels.

Crease

A permanent bend to a page or dust jacket.  Somewhat common from times when collectors used to remove the dust jacket and fold it for safe storage.  When these jackets have been resurrected, they will contain a crease.

Crown

The very top edge of the spine.

Cut

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

Cuts

Illustrations printed in the text pages are called cuts, whole page illustrations that have been printed separately are called Plates.

D

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 water stains.

Darkening

When book covers are exposed to light, the color darkens or becomes more intense. See Fading.

Deckle Edges

Another term for uncut or untrimmed edges.

Decorative Stamped Binding

A highly detailed impression stamped into the cover and/or spine of a book.

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.

Die-Cut

A process where shapes are cut out of paper allowing publishers to put “windows” or change the shape of a page/book.

Disbound

This term refers to a book or pamphlet, once bound, from which the binding has been removed. Sometimes referred to as “unbound.”

Dog-Eared

Book pages that have been folded over in the corners. Some readers do this to mark their place in a book.

Dos-a-dos

Two separate books bound together so that each cover represents the cover for a different title. Ace paperbacks and many science fiction books were issued this way.

Dust Jacket (dj)

A term synonymous with Dust Wrapper, indicating the usually decorative paper wrapper placed around a book to protect the binding.

Dust Wrapper (dw)

See Dust Jacket.

E

Edges

The outer surfaces of a book’s leaves.

Edge-worn

Wear along the edges of hardback book covers.

Edition (ed)

All the copies of a book printed from the same plates or typesetting. Additions, changes and revisions are made with each new edition. Also see Reprint.

End Papers (ep)

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

Printed or written items produced with a short intended lifetime that are now collectible. Examples include posters, postcards, tickets, maps and pamphlets.

Erosion

Loss of paper or cloth caused by a slow and steady wear, as opposed to a chipping or tearing.  See Loss.

Errata

Mistakes or errors. Generally encountered in the term “errata slip,” a small sheet of paper laid into a book by a publisher who discovered errors prior to publication.

Ex-Library (exlib or ex lib)

A term used to indicate a book was once in a public 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…” (this is different from Ex-Library).

F

Facing Page

The page opposite the page being referred to.

Fading

The color of some book covers fade or become less intense when exposed to light. See Darkening.

First & 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 Print Run

The number of copies in the first printing.

First Thus

Means not a first edition, but something that 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

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

Foot

The very bottom of a book’s spine.

Fore-Edge

The front edge of the text block, which opposes the spine or bound edge.

Foxed, Foxing

Brown spotting of the paper caused by a chemical reaction, generally found in 19th century books, particularly in steel engravings of the period.

Free Endpaper

Blank paper found at the front and rear of a book. Also referred to as Front Free Endpaper (ffep) and Rear Free Endpaper (rfep)—or Front or Rear Fly. 

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:

  1. bastard title, fly title, or half-title
  2. frontispiece
  3. title page
  4. copyright page
  5. dedication
  6. preface or forward
  7. table of contents
  8. list of illustrations
  9. introduction
  10. acknowledgments

G

Galleys

Sometimes called “galley proofs” or “loose galleys” to distinguish them from bound galleys. These are low-quality photocopies of the book created for the copy editors. 

Gutter

The inner margin of the leaves of a bound book.

H

Half Binding

A book in which the spine and corners are bound in a different material (frequently leather) than the rest of the covers.

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.

Half-Title Page (htp)

The page carrying nothing but the title of the book, usually preceding the title page.  See Fly title

Head

The upper margin of a leaf, cover or endpaper. Also referred to as the top.

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

A decorative type ornament found at the start of a chapter or division of a book.

Highlighting

The use of transparent and brightly colored markers to draw attention to particular text. Frequently done by students.

Hinge

The inside portion of the flexible area where book cover meets the book spine.  Often used in conjunction with the term Joint which describes the exterior portion.

Hypermodern

Collected first editions published within last 10 years or so. Most were published so recently that there is no track record for the author or book.

I

Illustrated (Ill, Ills, Illus)

A design, picture, plate, plan, diagram, chart, or map printed within the text.

Impression

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

Imprint

A term that can refer either to the place of publication or to the publisher.

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 found in the last issue.

Inscribed (insc)

Usually indicates a book signed by the author with a personalized message, either with an inscription to a specific person or bearing some brief notation along with his signature.

International Edition

A textbook that has been published outside of the USA. The publishers of international editions generally do not authorize the sale and distribution of international editions in the United States and Canada and such sale or distribution may violate the copyrights and trademarks of the publishers of such works.

Issue

Synonymous with State, referring to the priority of copies within the first edition.

Issue points

Noted changes between various copies of the same book. Since collectors generally prefer the earliest issue they often use small changes (such as a spelling correction) to determine priority, any such difference is described as an issue point.

J

Jacket

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.

Joint

The exterior flexible portion where the book cover meets the spine. Often used in conjunction with the term Hinge which describes the interior portion.

Juvenile(s)

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

K

L

Laid In

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

Large Print

A book printed with large type for the visually impaired.

Leaf

A single sheet in a book; each leaf contains two printed pages, one on each side.

Library Binding

Reinforced bindings used by many public libraries.

Limited Edition (Ltd)

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.

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.

Loss

Parts of the paper of cloth that has worn away. A lighter form of erosion.

M

Marbled

Paper or bindings 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 Highlighting.

Married

When a dust jacket from one copy of a book is used with another copy of a book.

Mass-Market Paperback (mmpb)

The most common paperback book, about four inches wide and seven inches high. 

Mint Copy

An absolutely perfect copy, As New; as perfect as the day it was issued.

Misbound

Pages or signatures sewn together in an improper order.

Modern / Modern Firsts

This usually refers to books published in the 20th century (since 1901), although some booksellers may limit it to a certain era (i.e. 1970s-1990s).

N

O

Original Boards

The original binding that the book was published in, as opposed to contemporary binding or rebound.

Out-of-Print (oop, op)

A book no longer being printed. It is worth noting that an OOP book can be brought back into print at any time.

Out-of-Series

Refers to overruns or extra copies of limited editions.

P

Pamphlet

A small separate work issued in paperwraps.

Panel

The front or back of a dust jacket, as opposed to the spine or flaps.

Paperback (pb, ppr)

Books in paper wraps 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, 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.

Paperback original (pbo)

A paperback that is a real genuine first edition of a particular title.

Paper Boards

Stiff cardboard covered in paper.

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 bookbinding 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 (pl, pls)

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.

Preface (prefs)

Author’s introductory statement.

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. “Presented by the Author — Houdini — to the Magician Artist who made all the drawings, Oscar S. Teale.”

Price Clipped (pc)

The price has been cut off from the corner of the dust jacket.

Printed Cover

Used to describe a dust wrapper or paper cover that is only lettered.

Print on Demand (POD)

A digital printing technology that allows a complete book to be printed and bound individually, as opposed to traditional publishing that produces several hundred or thousand books in a lot. Print on Demand books are printed when the order is placed. In this photo the book on the left is an original copy and the book on the right is a POD.

Printing

Another word for Impression

Prior Owner Signature (pos)

The last person to own the book wrote their name in it.

Private Press

A small press, often operated by one person, usually devoted to the production of small quantities of finely printed books.

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.

Provenance

The history of ownership or possession of a given book.

Publication Date

The date a book is formally placed on sale.

Q

Quarter Binding

A book whose spine is covered in a different and generally fancier material than the covers.

Quarter Leather

A book with a leather spine.

R

Raised Bands

The raised areas on the spine concealing a cord that is attached to the covers. In earlier leather books cords were rarely used. In some modern books the raised bands are purely decorative and conceal no underlying cord.

Rare

Implies the book is extremely scarce.

Reading Copy

A complete and readable copy of a book that is worn or used to such a degree that it is not considered to be collectible.

Re-backed

A book that has been repaired by replacing the spine and mending the joints.

Rebound

When the boards of a book have been replaced. This can occur as a result of damage or because the owner simply likes the new boards better.

Re-cased

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

Re-jointed

Means the book has been repaired preserving the original covers, including the spine.

Remainder (rem)

When a book has ceased to sell, a publisher may get rid of his overstock by “remaindering” the title to booksellers who specialize in selling this kind of book.

Remainder Marks (rm)

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.

Reprint

A subsequent press run of an edition of a book. The text usually remains unchanged for each re-print, but may be updated for a new edition. See Edition.

Rubbing

Wear caused to the edges of the book or dust jacket as a result of shelf friction.  See Shelf Wear.

S

Scuffed

Like rubbed, but more damage has occurred.

Secretarial inscription

A signature that was made by someone other than the author. This however differs from a forgery in that the signature was made with the author’s knowledge and usually by a secretary or some other agent.

Self-Wraps

Wrappers that have vestigial flaps that imitate a dust jacket.

Series (ser)

A group of volumes with a common theme issued in succession by a single publisher.

Shadow

A discoloration of a leaf or cover caused by the use of stickers, tape, etc. The discoloration can be caused by a chemical reaction from the adhesive or from a difference in sun exposure. This is sometimes referred to as Tape Shadow or Sticker Shadow.

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 neighbors, or to the head of the spine which some use to pull the book from the shelf. See Rubbing.

Signed

A book that the author has autographed.

Signature

In bookmaking, this does not mean the author’s name written 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 that holds a book(s) with only the spine exposed.

Sliver

A small narrow chip, nick or tear usually at the edge of a dust jacket.

Spine

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

Spiral Bound

A book that is held together at the spine by a metal or plastic spiral which is threaded through holes punched though the leaves.

Square

A book which has kept its original shape and shows no rounding of the spine.

State

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

Sunned or Sunning

Faded from exposure to light or direct sunlight.

T

Tanning

See Fading.

Tarnished

A darkening of the book’s gilt though oxidation.

Text-block

If you take a book and remove the binding, you are left with the text-block. See Book Block.

Thus

A reissue of a book that contains new material or is published by a new publisher. Often seen as “First Edition Thus”

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, page, etc., was glued into the book after it was bound. The page was not part of the original binding.

Title Page (tp)

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 cataloging (not the half-title page or covers).

Trade Edition

The edition of a book intended for the public, as opposed to a limited edition.

Trade Paperback

Paperbacks that are larger than mass-market paperbacks, many times having the same dimensions as a hard cover. Usually only sold at bookstores (as opposed to grocery stores).

Trimmed

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

True First

The correct first edition for any given title, usually denoted by the original country of origin the earliest publishing date.

U

Uncut

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

Uncorrected Proof

A copy of the unedited version of a book, sometimes sent out prior to publication to solicit reviews. Some ARCs are also uncorrected proofs.

Underlining

Using a pencil or pen to underline passages in a book to draw attention to the underlined text. See Highlighting.

V

Volume (vol)

A single book in a series (ie volume two of six).

W

Watermark

A distinguishing mark incorporated into Laid Paper, it is created by incorporating a design into the wire mesh tray which the pulp settles into. The watermark is then visible when the paper is held up to the light (much the same way that Chain Lines or Wire Lines are visible in Laid Paper).

Water Stain

Stain on a book cover or leaves from water or other liquids. May cause discoloration and perhaps actual shrinking, has also been known to be referred to as Tidemark.

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.

Wrappers (wr, wrs)

The outer covers of a paperbound book or pamphlet. Not to be confused with Dust Wrapper.

X

Y

Young Adult

Books written for teenagers (usually 13+ years old)

Z