Our handy glossary will help you understand unfamiliar book-related terms ranging from first editions to fore-edge paintings and foxing. Don't let the jargon get in the way of finding and buying books.


  • Advance Reading Copy (ARC)

    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 bookstores and differs from the Uncorrected Proof. Find advance reader copies

  • Advertisements (ads, advts, adverts)

    Advertisements placed in the binding of the book.

  • All Edges Gilt (A.E.G.)

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

  • All Edges Stained (A.E.S.)

    The top, fore-edge and foot of the book are colored with a decorative stain.

  • Antiquarian Books

    A loose term implying collectible books rather than used books. Refers to old, rare, and out-of-print books. Some sellers say antiquarian books are published before 1900.

  • 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. Find association copies

  • As New

    The book is in the exact condition as when it left the print shop. See Mint.

  • As Usual

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

  • Audio Book

    A cassette, LP, CD, audio file or other recording of a voice actor reading the text of a book.

  • Autograph Letter (al)

    A handwritten letter.

  • Autograph Letter, Signed (als)

    A handwritten letter signed by the writer.

  • Autograph Manuscript, Signed (ams)

    A manuscript handwritten by the author.


  • 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.

  • Biblioclast

    A destroyer of books.

  • Bibliognost

    Having a deep knowledge of books.

  • Bibliography (bibl)

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

  • Biblioklept

    A book thief.

  • Bibliomaniac

    A bibliophile in whom the love of books has become an obsession; includes many bookdealers and certain collectors.

  • Bibliophile

    A lover of books.

  • Bibliophobia

    A fear of books.

  • Bibliopole

    A dealer of rare books.

  • Binding (bdg)

    The cover of the book surrounding the book block. Learn more about book bindings.

  • 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.

  • Block Books

    Books made around the mid-1400s in Germany and the Netherlands in which pictures and explanatory text were printed from woodblocks; not to be confused with a "Book Block".

  • Blurb

    A comment from a review (often by another author praising the particular book) printed on the dust wrapper or covers of a proof copy, or on a wrap-around band.

  • 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". See 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. Find book club editions.

  • 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.
    Watch Bookplate Video

  • 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.

  • Breaker

    A person who breaks up books to sell the plates separately, 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.

  • Buckram


  • 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.

  • Codex

    The gathering of leaves of paper, parchment or  other similar material; or a book by another name.

  • Collation

    Technically, the examination and notation of the physical make-up 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 un-severed second half of a printed page.

  • 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.

  • Cosway Bindings

    Cosway Bindings are beautiful books with miniature paintings inset into fine leather bindings. They are named after miniaturist portrait painter Richard Cosway. Bookselling firm Sotheran's invented the concept with Miss C.B. Currie providing the art. Learn more about Cosway Bindings.

  • Covers

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

  • 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 wraps, but in these cases the covers are usually bound in their proper positions.

  • 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.


  • 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 color darkens or becomes more intense. See Fading.

  • Deckle Edges

    Another term for uncut or untrimmed edges.
    Watch Deckle Edges Video

  • 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.

  • Device

    A printer's ornament. Also an insignia that is the publisher's identifying mark. Now interchangeable with colophon.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • DuoDecimo (12mo)

    A book approximately seven to eight inches tall.
    Guide to Book Formats

  • Dust Jacket (dj)

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

  • Dust Wrapper (dw)


  • E-Book

    Short for Electronic Book, this is a computer file that contains the entire text of a book. There are many different types of e-book files and some can be read only with a specific e-reader (Amazon's Kindle etc) while others can be read on any computer, personal digital assistant or e-reader.

  • Edges

    The outer surfaces of a book's leaves.

  • Edgeworn

    Wear along the edges of hardback book covers.

  • Edited (ed)

    Prepared for publication, a book that has been worked on by an editor.

  • 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.

  • Editor (ed)

    A person who gathers material for a book, oversees text written by others, and/or makes the text more readable.

  • Elephant Folio

    A large book about 23 inches tall.
    Guide to Book Formats

  • 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.

  • Example (ex)

    A particular copy of an edition.

  • Ex-Library

    A term used to indicate a book was once in a public library. Ex-library books 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.
    Watch Ex-Library Video

  • Ex-Libris

    A bookplate printed with the owner's name or initials. Latin for "From the library of..."
    Watch Ex-Libris Video

  • Extra Illustrated

    A copy of a book with additional illustrations.


  • 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.

  • Figured Cloth

    A cloth binding decorated with embossed patterns.

  • 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. Search for first editions.
    Watch First Editon Video

  • 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 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.

  • Florilegium

    Direct translation from Latin is "a gathering of flowers". In the literary sense, a florilegium (plural florilegia) is a volume of writing gathered from other sources; a compilation of full pieces or passages from other works.

  • 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.  See Bastard Title.

  • Folding Plates

    A plate or illustration that is too big to fit into the book and therefore has been folded neatly into the book.
    Watch Folding Plates Video

  • Folio

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

  • Fore-Edge

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

  • 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.

  • 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

    (also Front Free Endpaper ffep and Rear Free Endpaper rfep) - The first or last movable leaf of paper in a book aka Front or Rear Fly; often blank.  See End Papers.

  • From English Sheets

    When the pages for an American/Canadian edition of a book that was originally published in the UK have been imported from England. (If an English book were bound with American pages, it would read "From American Sheets", etc)

  • 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:


  • 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.

  • Gilt (gt)

    A thin application of gold decoration or lettering has been applied. Gilt can be applied to the boards, spine, and even edges.

  • Gilt Edges (ge)

    The application of gilt to various edges on a book. The abbreviation ge means gilt edges; aeg means all edges gilt; gt means gilt top; teg means top edge gilt.

  • Glassine

    A transparent paper dust wrapper.

  • Gutter

    The inner margin of the leaves of a bound book.


  • 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. See Quarter Leather.

  • Half-Title Page (htp)

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

  • Hard-Boiled

    Term used to describe a type of fiction, usually crime, where the tone is gritty, pessimistic or hard.

  • 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. See Underlining.

  • 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.

  • Holograph

    A term indicating the handwriting of the author. See Autograph.

  • 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 10 years or so. Most were published so recently that there is no track record for the author or book.


  • Illum

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

  • Illumination

    Decoration applied by hand in gold, silver or colored paint.

  • Illustrated (Ill, Ills, Illus)

    A design, picture, plate, plan, diagram, chart, or map printed within the text. See 40 influential illustrated books.

  • 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.

  • Incunabula

    Books, pamphlets, calendars, and indulgences printed, not handwritten, before 1501 in Europe. The date 1501 holds not distinct significance other than being a convenient round figure directly after Johannes Gutenberg's development of the printing press in mid 15th century, as such works printed shortly after the 1501 cut-off are often described as "post- incunable". Find incunabula.

  • 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.

  • 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 (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. (ie: "John, Had a whale of a time in Portland. Herman Melville")

  • 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.

  • 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. Learn more

  • 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.


  • 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.

  • Japan Vellum

    A smooth, glossy paper, made in imitation of vellum, generally a light tan color. Also called Japon or Japanese Vellum.

  • 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.

  • 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. For example Eragon was written by Christopher Paolini when he was a school-age teenager.


  • Laid In

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

  • Laid Paper

    Paper that was originally made in a frame or mould. The paper paste is spread out on sieves whose bottom is tightened with wires which leave a mark on the paper, the laid. These lines are called wire lines or chain lines and are visible on the finished paper when held up to the light.

  • Large Paper Copy

    A type of special edition typically printed in smaller quantities and sold at a higher price than the standard print run. In these runs a larger paper (often of superior quality) was used. In the 17th and 18th century these copies were often called "Fine Paper Copy", "Royal Paper Copy", "Imperial Paper Copy", "Thick Paper Copy" or some other variation of special paper copy.

  • Large Print

    A book printed with large type for the visually impaired. Find large print books

  • Leaf

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

  • Ledgit

    A label or memo slip projecting from a book's pages.

  • 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.
    Watch Limited Edition Video

  • 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.


  • Made-up Copy

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

  • Manuscript (ms mss)

    The original form of a work as it was created by the author. This could be typed, handwritten, or computer generated.

  • Marbled

    Paper or bindings decorated with an imitation marble pattern.
    Guide to Bindings page

  • Margin

    The space surrounding the text on a page. In antiquarian book collecting, bindings often have a wide range in margin sizes due to variant bindings, often copies with wider margins are deemed more desirable.

  • 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. Seen most often as mystery, science fiction and romance. See Trade Edition.

  • Mint Copy

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

  • Misbound

    Pages or signatures sewn together in an improper order.

  • Modern Firsts

    All books published since 1901 but this date is not fixed in stone - a rule of thumb.

  • Monograph

    A work, generally short, dealing with a single subject and usually issued in pamphlet form.

  • Morocco

    A type of leather made from goatskin, especially suitable for book bindings because of its durability and beauty.
    Guide to Bindings page


  • No Date (nd)

    No date of publication mentioned within the book.

  • No Place (np )

    No place of publication listed in the book.

  • 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).
    Guide to Book Sizes page

  • 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 Boards

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

  • 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. Find out-of-print books

  • Out-of-Series

    Refers to overruns or extra copies of limited editions.

  • Oversized wraps

    A bound book where the soft covers (or wraps) extend beyond the edges of the text block.  These extended covers are more susceptible to wear. See Yapped.

  • Owner's 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.

  • Panel

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

  • Paper

    There are many different kinds of paper of various qualities.
    Guide to Paper

  • Paperback (pb, ppr)

    Books in paper wraps published since the 1930s, although paperback can describe any book with a paper cover. Find paperback books

  • Paperback Grading

    A letter grade system is sometimes used for describing the condition of a paperback:

  • Paperback original (pbo)

    A paperback that is a real genuine first edition of a particular title. William Burrough's Junkie was a paperback original.

  • Paper Boards

    Stiff cardboard covered in paper.

  • Parts

    The practice of publishing novels in separate monthly instalments 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 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.
    Watch Plates in Illustrated Books Video

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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 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. 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).
    Guide to Book Formats


  • 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


  • Re-cased

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

  • Recommendation

    A small positive review from an author or commentator. Recommendations can also act as a way to determine the edition or printing. See Issue Point.

  • 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-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.

  • 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.

  • Review Slip

    A piece of paper that is attached or tipped in to a book that includes a note from the publisher to a potential reviewer in an effort to drum up interest in the book.

  • Rubbing

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


  • 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.

  • Sextodecimo (16mo)

    A small book, approximately four inches wide and six inches tall. To make it, each sheet of paper is folded four times, forming 16 leaves (32 pages).
    Book Formats page

  • 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.

  • 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 that the author has autographed. See Inscribed. Find signed copies

  • 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.

  • Soiling

    A gathering of dust or dirt usually caused by handling.

  • Sophisticated

    A book that has been restored or worked on in order to increase its apparent value, this is often seen as a undesirable quality among collectors.

  • 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.

  • Stub

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

  • Sunned or Sunning

    Faded from exposure to light or direct sunlight.


  • Til

    The lower margin of a leaf, cover or endpaper. Sometimes referred to as the bottom.

  • Tailpiece

    Decorative typography ornament on the lower part of a page at the end of a chapter or a poem.  See Headpiece, and then place it at the end.

  • Tanning
  • 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.

  • Thousands

    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.

  • Thus

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

  • Three-decker

    A book in three volumes, almost exclusively used to describe Victorian novels of the late 19th 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.

  • Tissue

    A thin, protective sheet laid over an illustration.

  • Tipped-in

    Means the plate, autograph, letter, photo, etc., is actually attached to the book but is not integral to the binding.

  • Tirage

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

  • 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).

  • Title Page Index (tpi)

    Used in describing periodicals to indicate that the title page and index are present; without a title page and index, the volume is incomplete.

  • Tooling

    Work or ornamentation done with tools, especially stamped or gilded designs on leather.
    Watch Tooling on a Book Video

  • Top Edge Gilt (T.E.G.)

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

  • Trade Edition

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

  • 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.

  • Typed Letter Signed (TLS)

    A typewritten letter signed by hand.


  • Uncut

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

  • Underlining

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

  • Unopened

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

  • Unpaginated (unpag)

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

  • Unsophisticated

    Pure, genuine, unrestored. If a book is so described, it can mean trouble as far as condition is concerned.


  • Variant

    A book that differs in one or more features from others of the same impression, but a positive sequence has not been established. Taschen is famous for producing variants of its art books.

  • 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.

  • Volume (vol)

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


  • Wartime paper stock

    During WWII conservation of materials was encouraged and publishers opted towards highly acidic (cheaper) paper. Books made with this cheaper material tend to degrade faster and subsequently are harder to find in fine condition.

  • 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).

  • Waterstain

    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.


  • 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.  See Oversized Wraps.

More beautiful books

By Sandra Hindman
January 24, 2022
Books of Hours were medieval bestsellers. Sandra Hindman, an expert on medieval manuscripts, explains why these books were, and still are, so important.
8 Min Read
By Richard Davies
February 23, 2022
The Grand Budapest Hotel was one of the most successful movies of 2014. But are you aware of the inspiration for this film?
1 Min Read
By Julie Oreskovich
March 23, 2022
The New Naturalist Series is an on-going series of books published by Collins that focuses on natural history. The series, famous for its dust jacket designs, began in 1945 with Butterflies by E.B. Ford and more than 100 titles have been published.
2 Min Read