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Glossary of Book Terms

Some terms you may encounter while browsing selections from
The Book Nook, our on-line bookshop.

  • 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) must be perfect, without any tears.

  • Binding - The cover of the book.

  • Boards - The stiff binding material for most modern books.

  • 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.

  • 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 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.

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

  • 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.

  • 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.

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

  • Covers - The binding of the book, most particularly the front and back panels of the book.

  • 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.

  • Dents - Damage to the edges of the cover of hardcover books.

  • Dog-Eared - Book pages which have been folded over in the corners. Some people do this to mark their place in a book.

  • Dust Jacket or Dust Wrapper - A term to describe the usually decorative paper wrapper placed around a book to protect the binding.

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

  • 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 worD 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..."

  • Fine (F or FN) - Approaches the condition of As New, but without being crisp. For the use of the term Fine, there must also be no defects, etc., and if the jacket has a small tear, or other defect, or looks worn, this should be noted.

  • Fair - Worn book that has complete text pages (including those with maps or plates) but may lack endpapers, half-title, etc. (which must be noted). Binding, jacket (if any), etc., may also be worn. All defects must be noted.

  • 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.

  • Good (G) - Describes the average used worn book that has all pages or leaves present. Any defects must be noted.

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

  • Out-of-Print - A book no longer being printed.

  • 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 must be 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • Signed - A book which the author has autographed.

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

  • Very Good (VG) - Describes a book that does show some small signs of wear - but no tears - on either binding or paper. Any defects must be noted.

  • Worming, Wormholes - Small holes resulting from bookworms (the larvae of various beetles.)

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

Book Terms appear courtesy of Advanced Book Exchange Inc.

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