Reprinted from the IOBA website. This information is totally invaluable if you’re buying collectable books.
ABA In the US: American Booksellers Association (for independently owned bookstores with a store front location selling new books).
In Aus: The Australian Booksellers Associaion
In the UK: Antiquarian Booksellers Association (the UK equivalent of the ABAA).
ABAA Antiquarian Booksellers’ Association of America (the U.S. equivalent of the U.K. ABA.)
ABAC Antiquarian Booksellers’ Association of Canada (Canadian equivalent of the U.K. ABA.)
ADVANCE REVIEW (or READER’S or READING) COPY (ARC) A special pre-publication copy mainly for review purposes – sent to reviewers and others prior to publication date. It is often referred to as an ARC. It is usually softbound in wrappers, which may be similar to dust jacket art of the first trade edition, and occasionally there are textual differences between an advance review copy and a first edition. It is sometimes issued as a hardcover as well with review slip laid in by the publisher. This is preceded by an uncorrected proof copy printed for author’s corrections, publicity and promotion – usually published in plain wrappers and which may have substantial textual differences from the finished published book.
AEG All Edges Gilt. See “Gilt”.
ALS Autographed Letter Signed
ANTIQUARIAN BOOKSELLER A term, in today’s usage, that describes a bookseller whose stock in trade is primarily old, rare, and/or collectible books.
ASSOCIATION COPY A book once belonging to the author, or signed or annotated by the author to someone closely associated with the author of the book or the book itself in some way. Also, a book inscribed by its author to a famous person, or owned by someone of interest.
AUTHORS EDITION Book authorized by author, usually foreign editions, around the turn of the last century when many titles were pirated or “unauthorized”.
BACKSTRIP A strip used by binder to reinforce the back of folded sheets in the binding of the spine.
BAL Bibliography of American Literature.
BIBLIOGRAPHY A reference work detailing known published titles on a given subject or by a given author.
BIBLIOPHILE A lover of books.
BINDING Material used as a protective cover for a book (e.g.: leather, cloth, buckram, paper, etc.)
BINDING COPY A book whose text block is complete and serviceable, but the current binding is defective or incomplete. (Note: Technically, what we call bindings on most books today, where the text block is glued in (in a hardcover book the text block is glued to a cover by some mull and end sheet paper, and in a softcover book normally the text block is glued directly to the spine of the cover), is actually a casing. Bindings were actually sewn to the collected gatherings. The two terms-binding and casing-are, however, starting to be used interchangeably today.)
BIOPREDATION An attack to books by living matter, which may include insects or mildew.
BLIND (Stamped or Tooled) Impressed into paper or binding with no color, leaving an impression only.
BOARDS The front and back covers of a hardcover book.
BOOK CLUB EDITION (BCE, BOMC, etc.) Editions published by book clubs (i.e.: The Book-of-the-Month Club, Fireside Book Club, History Book Club, The Literary Guild, etc.).
BOOK JACKET Separate paper covering for the book. Also referred to as the dust jacket or dustwrapper.
BOOKLET A small book, often only a few pages long and bound in wrappers.
BOOK PLATE An ownership label, usually placed inside front cover. Many have become collectible due to the designer or owner; others actually lower the value of books printed in the last 50 or so years.
BOOKWORM A worm (in a larval grub state) which harms books by feeding on their binding or leaves. Also a term for a person devoted to books.
BROADSIDE or BROADSHEET Large sheet of paper printed on one side only.
BUCKRAM A heavy weave of binding cloth.
BUMPED Refers to the corners or spine ends of a book that has been damaged by being dropped, or carelessly handled or shelved.
CASE The covers enclosing a book, usually made of thick cardboard, and normally covered in cloth, paper or leather.
CANCEL Due to errors or defects in printing, a book may have one or more pages sliced out of the text block by the publisher after it has been bound. The new printed matter pasted on to the resulting stub(s) by the publisher is referred to as a “cancel” or “cancellans”.
CHAPBOOK Small, inexpensive books produced from the 17th century until today, originally sold by “chapmen”, peddlers, and hawkers.
CHAPTER BOOK Fairly modern term referring to books for older children which are organized into chapters, as opposed to “picture books”, which often are not.
CHIPPED Small pieces broken off of a dust jacket or binding.
CIRCA (abbreviated: ca) Refers to an approximate date when actual date is unknown.
CLOSED TEAR A tear with no material missing.
COATED Paper is smooth and polished; something has been applied to the surface to make it appear glossy.
COCKED If, when looking down on the head of a book, the corners are not square it is said to be cocked or rolled. Also known as a spine slant. (Note: cocking ‘can’ also involve a book’s spine being slightly twisted or non-vertical at either end that is not severe enough to cause spine slant.
COLLATE To verify completeness of a book by examining it carefully (e.g.: all illustrative plates are present, no leaves are missing, etc).
COLOPHON Details of the printer’s typography or the publisher’s symbol, often found on the last page of a book and sometimes referred to as such when a printer’s or publisher’s ‘device’ is found on the copyright page. Sometimes states the number of copies printed, and in the case of a limited edition, will cite the copy number and may contain the signature of the author, illustrator, or publisher.
CONTEMPORANEOUS BINDING Up until the 19th century, books were published unbound, with the understanding that the new owner would have his books bound at his leisure. This term refers to bindings done the same year or within a few years of the publication of such a book. (Note: Formerly known as ‘contemporary binding’, but in today’s usage that has come to mean a more modern binding; a rebind.)
COPPERPLATE Illustrations produced when the original printing plate was engraved on copper; this method was introduced before the end of the 15th century. They to some extent replaced the woodcut, which regained considerable popularity later on.
COPYRIGHT PAGE (c., cp) The page that usually normally appears on verso of the title page, containing the artistic property protection.
CWO Check or cash with order.
DAMPSTAIN A stain left on a cover or pages that have been exposed to water.
DECKLE EDGE Uneven and uncut edges, often found on books printed on hand-made paper and not trimmed by the binder, and sometimes simulated by binders on regular paper.
DENTELLE A lace-like pattern on a border applied to the inner edge, usually gilt (was sometimes used on the outside in France in the 18th century).
DESIDERATA A listing of books desired.
DEVICE The printer’s or publisher’s imprint, sometimes referred to as a colophon, usually found on the copyright page when present (uncommon now). Sometimes indicates a first printing.
DIMPLE An small indentation on covers or pages. Considered a defect, if not part of decorated covers.
DING A small bump or dent leaving an impression, sometimes caused by careless handling or storage.
DISBOUND A book which has been removed from its binding (and the binding is usually no longer present).
DOG-EARED Worn or ragged, usually referring to the edges of pages and binding. Corners of pages turned down like a dog’s ear.
DS Document signed.
DUST JACKET or DUSTWRAPPER (DJ, DW) The separate paper covering for a book. While originally intended for protection (and sometimes originally made from cloth), these have become an important part of modern books, often including information about a book not found elsewhere.
ED Edition or Editor.
EDGES The three outer sides of the text block when a book is closed: fore edge, top edge or head, and bottom edge or foot.
EDITION All of the copies of a book printed from the same setting of type, at one time or over a period of time, with no major changes, additions or revisions. Minor changes, such as the correction of some misspelled words, or the addition of a dedication, or similar very minor alterations, may be made and the revised copies are still considered as part of the same edition, simply being described as different states or issues.
ENDPAPERS (EP) The double leaves added to the book by the binder that become the pastedowns and free endpapers inside the front and rear covers. These pages are an integral part of the construction of a book, holding the text block and case together. The lack of them drastically shortens the value and life of a book.
EPHEMERA Printed material of passing interest in every day life (e.g.: advertising, ticket stubs, photos, postcards, programs, some booklets and pamphlets, etc.).
ERRATA A list of errors and their corrections or additions to the printing, found after book has been printed, usually on separate sheet or slip of paper. The plural of erratum. (Note: If the slip of paper does not make a correction, but rather supplies additional information, it is called an “addenda slip”.)
EX-LIBRARY (EX LIB) Deaccessioned from a public library or collection.
EX-LIBRIS From a private library, as opposed to a public library. Could also indicate a bookplate or a stamp.
EXTRA-ILLUSTRATED Extra illustrations added to the book after publication, normally done by the owner of the book, not the book’s publisher.
FAIR A book that is very worn, but all of its important parts, and dust jacket, must be present. May be soiled with tears, endpapers missing, etc. Such defects must be noted in descriptions. Also see our page of descriptive terms.
FINE (F) A book that has no defects in book or jacket, but not as crisp as it was when new. Also see our page of descriptive terms.
FIRST EDITION The first printing of a book, done from the original setting of type. The collectibility of the first printing of the first edition was established in the early days of printing, when the lead type used in the presses would quickly wear away, compromising the readability of the book being printed. (Note: Technically, this term is used to describe any of the printings of a book, done from the original setting of type, at any time until the type is so altered as to constitute a second edition (see “Edition”). In the world of literature and Modern Firsts, the term is used differently, and means the very first printing of those copies, done at the same time. A second print run, though it is technically still the “First Edition”, is not what is meant by the phrase in the world of collectible Modern Firsts.)
FLEXIBLE BINDING Limp, leather/plastic covers which are flexible.
FLY-LEAVES (FL) Plain papers at front and rear of book after endpapers.
FOOT The bottom edge of the text block.
FORE EDGE The right edge opposite the spine.
FORE EDGE PAINTING A painting on gilded fore edge, which can only be seen by fanning pages (or slanting the book’s binding quite a lot-not recommended!). Although fore-edge paintings can be found on manuscripts dating back to the 13th century, the art became popular in the 17th century, and is still being widely practiced today by artists working on 18th and 19th century books in the old styles.
FOXING The brown age spots thought to be caused by impurities in paper (e.g.: acid, exposure to humidity, etc.)
FREE ENDPAPER (FFEP: Front Free Endpaper; RFEP: Rear Free Endpaper) Front and rear blank pages added by the binder.
FRONTISPIECE (Frontis) The illustration facing title page.
GATHERINGS The printed sheets, after folding, which are put in order and bound in sequence. Also known as signatures.
GAUFFERED EDGES A pattern tooled on gilt edges of a book.
GILT EDGES Page edges cut smooth and gilded (covered with a thin layer of gold leaf).
GLASSINE Transparent paper sometimes used as a dust jacket to protect a book.
GOOD (G) A book, or dust jacket in average used and worn condition – complete with all its parts. Note all defects in descriptions. Also see our page of descriptive terms.
GRADING Guidelines used to properly describe condition of books. See our page of descriptive terms.
GUTTER Inner margins of two facing pages. Can also refer to the outer indentation that is created by the joining of the boards and spine.
HALF BINDING A book which has had its spine and corners covered in one material such as cloth or leather and the rest of the front and rear covers covered in another, such as boards or cloth. For instance, a book with a cloth spine and corners and covers of paper-covered boards is termed “Half-Cloth”; a book with a leather spine and corners and cloth or paper-covered boards is termed “Half-Leather”.
HALF-TITLE (fly title) The page, preceding the title page proper, normally listing only the title of the book and no other information. While always present in modern books, it is sometimes lacking in older publications because it was originally designed to be removed before custom binding.
HALF-TONE A gradation of tone (between light and dark) of an image by minute, closely spaced dots. Used in photography and graphics.
HARDCOVER A book whose case is made of stiff boards, as opposed to wrappers.
HEAD Top edge of the text block.
HEADBAND Band of silk or cotton affixed to signatures when bound together to form a text block for strength or, more often, decoration of the spine ends.
HINGES Where the sides of the binding meet the spine (interior) of a book.
IDEAL COPY When a number of copies of an edition of a book are compared to each other, a bibliographer may set out to determine how the book’s publisher initially wished it to appear before the public. If so determined, that copy becomes the standard copy of that edition, to which all other copies can be compared. Thus, when a book is said to be “missing a page”, it is assumed that the ideal copy of that book always contains that particular page.
ILAB International League of Antiquarian Booksellers. Includes 20 national associations representing 30 countries.
IL, ILLUS Illustrated.
IMPRESSION All the copies of a book printed during one press run. During the hand-press period, when type was reset each time a press was used, this term was synonymous with edition.
INCUNABULA Books printed between the invention of moveable type and 1500, coined from the Latin word cunae, meaning “cradle”.
INSCRIBED Signed by the author or someone associated with the book, but with more wording than simply a signature.
IOBA Independent Online Booksellers Association. A trade association of online booksellers.
ISBN (International Standard Book Number) A unique machine-readable identification number, which identifies any book unmistakably. 159 countries and territories are officially ISBN members. However, as with many man-instituted technologies, the system is not perfect; occasionally one will find two [or more] titles with the same ISBN.
ISSUE A change, textual or otherwise, made after the book has been published. (e.g.: The first issue of Mark Twain’s A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court has an “s”-like ornament between “The” and “King” on page 59. In the case of many of C. S. Forester’s books, sheets were printed but not bound at the same time; when they were, sometimes years later, they were bound in differently colored bindings. The color of the binding then became an issue point.)
JOINTS Where the spine joins the sides of the book (exterior). Sometimes referred to as the “gutter”.
LAID IN Paper/photograph/print is laid in (not glued down).
LAID ON See tipped in.
LAMINATE The thin plastic layer covering the dust jacket of some books.
LIMITED EDITION Small number of copies of a book published. Books are usually numbered such as “100/500″ meaning number 100 of an edition of 500.
LOOSE When a book has been read carelessly or too often, and has become loose and sloppy in its binding.
LTD ED Limited Edition.
MANUSCRIPT The original pages of an author’s work, written in the author’s hand or typed.
MARBLING A process of decorating paper, in which the result resembles the veins of stone marble.
MARRIED When the parts of a book or set are supplied from different copies of a book to form a whole, such as the dust jacket from one copy is “married” with a copy of the same book without a jacket, or Volume One is “married” to Volume Two, purchased separately, to form a complete set.
MULL The cloth that reinforces the hinges and is pasted directly to the body of a book and is hidden by the spine.
n.d. No Date; no publication date is supplied in the book.
n.p. No Place; no place of publication is supplied in the book.
OBVERSE The front or main surface of anything.
OCLC ( Online Computer Library Center) A non-profit cooperative organization of libraries that serves to share data and make cataloging easier. OCLC includes over 43,000 libraries in 86 countries, and provides quick information to booksellers and collectors about which libraries have a copy of a particular title. Access to OCLC is by fee-based subscription service, most commonly available at libraries.
OPEN TEAR A tear that may have some material missing.
OUT-OF-PRINT (OP, OOP) A book no longer available from the publisher. It is no longer being printed and no new copies remain available for sale.
OWNER’S INSCRIPTION Words written by previous or original owner of book. Also known as previous owner’s inscription.
PAGINATION The numbering of the pages.
PANEL Refers to borders in binding. Can also be used in connection with the main surfaces of a dust jacket.
PAPERBACK (ppb, pb) A book bound with flexible paper covers; usually a term reserved for mass-market publications.
PAPER COVERS Stiff, normally heavy weight paper (though usually flexible) covers into which a book is bound by various methods. Can refer to a temporary binding, a booklet or pamphlet, or a book in early (1800s) wrappers.
PAPER-COVERED BOARDS Book binding (casing); front and back panels which have an outer paper surface glued to underlying stiffer and/or heavier material. The outer paper surface may be decorative or plain.
PARCHMENT The skin of a sheep, goat, etc., prepared as a surface for writing or for use as a binding material.
PASTEDOWN ENDPAPER The part of the endpapers that is pasted to the inside of the front and rear covers.
PLATE A special page containing an illustration or other extra information.
POINTS Peculiarities in a published book whose presence or absence helps to determine edition, issue or state.
PBO Paperback original.
pp (Pages, p.) (and then the number) for page ../pp. For pages – to-
PRESENTATION COPY A book inscribed by the author to someone else of importance to the author, the book, or society in general.
PRICE CLIPPED The price on the inner flap of a dust jacket has been cut off.
PROOF See uncorrected proof.
PROVENANCE Evidence of the history of the ownership of a particular book (e.g.: auctions records, booksellers’ records, book plates, etc.) The book may be important because of who owned it–perhaps a president or important bookseller, collector, royalty, or someone who may be related to the book in some way. Important in establishing the ownership of especially rare items.
PSEUDONYM/PEN-NAME/NOM DE PLUME (PSEUD) An assumed name used to protect the anonymity of an author.
PUBLISHER’S BINDING Binding provided by the publisher when supplying a book for a bookseller. This practice, while common today, dates from the 1800s.
QUARTER BINDING A book with its spine bound in a different material than the boards (e.g., a leather spine and cloth- or paper-covered boards).
READING COPY A nice way of describing a book that is complete in text and plates, but so badly worn or soiled that in its current condition it is good only for reading, and cannot be considered “collectible” in this condition. Also tends to suggest that the book has faults that make it not worth rebinding, else it might be described as a “Binding Copy”.
READING CREASE A crease down the spine of a book (usually a paperback).
REBACKED A repair, where the original spine or backstrip has been removed, the spine replaced, and the original reglued on top. Can be considered a defect, but more valuable than not having any of the original spine present.
REBOUND A repair, where the entire binding has been replaced by a new one.
RECASED A repair, where a book is taken apart and put back together using original pages, cloth, and endpapers. Usually done to tighten the sewing or to wash the pages, etc.
RECTO A right-hand page, when a book is open and facing the reader.
REMAINDER A new book returned to the publisher as unsold, then re-marketed at a much lower price.
REMAINDER MARK A mark (rubber stamp, felt marker stroke, or spray, often on a book’s bottom edge) signifying that the book was returned to publisher as unsold, and then offered for sale again later at a much lower price. Considered to be a defect by collectors.
REVIEW COPY A copy of a new book sent free-of-charge for purposes of review. Often includes a laid in review slip with publishing information. Not necessarily a first edition.
RUBBED Where color has been worn from portions of the binding or dust jacket.
SHAKEN The text block is loose in its binding; no longer tight, but not detached.
SHEETS The pages that have been printed but not yet folded, sewn, or gathered together for binding.
SHELF-BACK The spine of a book.
SIGNATURE A printed sheet of paper, folded to size and ready for sewing (i.e.: large paper folded in half, fourths, eighths, sixteenths, or thirty-seconds).
SIGNED (SGD) Signed with a name only, and no other text included.
SLIPCASE (SLC) A box built to house and protect a book, leaving the spine exposed.
SOPHISTICATED Books that have had repairs that involve making additions to the original (e.g.: chips filled in and tinted to match the missing portion, replaced page corners, etc.).
SPINE The backbone, or back, of the book where the title (if present) is displayed when it is standing upright on a shelf.
STARTING Hinges or joints beginning to show signs of becoming loose, either through wear or defective binding.
STATE Variations within an edition, which are made prior to publication; can include:
• alterations due to stop-press insertions, damaged type, etc.
• the addition of errata leaves, advertisements.
• textual changes affecting page lay-out.
• some special-paper copies.
This term applies only in connection with the printed pages, and not variations in bindings. (e.g.: a small number of copies of Ernest Hemingway’s For Whom the Bell Tolls were erroneously printed without the photographer’s credit on the back of the dust jacket. The presses were stopped midway through the first run, the credit was added, and the second state of the first edition resulted.)
STICKER DAMAGE A price sticker has been roughly removed resulting in surface damage to the underlying material.
STICKER GHOST A sticker has been left on a book for some time, and the glue, reacting chemically, has discolored the surface.
STIPPLED EDGE Color sprayed on a book’s external edges.
SUNNED Browning, yellowing, or fading of paper, dustjacket or binding as a result of sun exposure.
TAIL Bottom edge of the text block.
TAPE RESIDUE Complications of cellophane tape that remains on the paper or a book’s cover, resulting in brown stains or bits of tape adhering to paper.
TEG Top Edges Gilt. See “Gilt”.
TENDER When the binding is loosening.
TEXT BLOCK Pages containing the content of a book (text, illustrations, etc.) bound together; does not include endpapers.
TIPPED IN Paper, photograph, or print glued down by only a narrow strip.
TITLE PAGE The page that gives important information about the book (i.e.: title, author, publisher, date, etc.).
TLS Typed letter signed.
TOOLING The decoration of leather bindings.
TOP STAIN The publisher’s decorative colored stain, applied to the top page edges.
TP Title Page.
TRADE PAPERBACK When the cloth-bound trade edition and the trade paperback are issued by the same publisher, sometimes simultaneously, such issues can be quite a lot larger than paperbacks published for mass-market distribution if the same sheets are used. A large sized paperbound book.
TRADE EDITION An edition sold through bookstores, as opposed to those meant for private or specialized distribution.
UNBOUND A book that was never bound into covers, such as “unbound sheets” which were, for whatever reason, never bound by the publisher. Not to be confused with “Disbound”.
UNCORRECTED PROOF A pre-publication printing intended for editorial use, or occasionally to be sent out for review. Usually issued in plain colored wrappers.
UNCUT Edges that are rough-cut, rather than being neatly trimmed by the binders.
UNOPENED When folded edges of the pages of the bound pages remain joined together and have not been sliced open. Unread.
VOL, VOLS Volume/Volumes.
VANITY PRESS/PUBLISHERS Publishers and presses that publish books at the author’s expense.
VARIANT A copy of a book that varies in some way from the ideal copy. Can refer to binding color, illustrations, etc.
VELLUM A thin sheet of specially prepared leather used for writing, printing, or as a binding material; considered superior in quality to parchment.
VERSO The left page of an open book, when it is open and facing the reader. The back of a leaf. Also called the reverse.
VERY GOOD (VG) Very light wear to book, and/or jacket; no large tears, or major defects. One of the most often used terms. Also see our page of descriptive terms.
WAF “With All Faults”. As in “Sold WAF”. Usually found in connection with auction listings, but also some bookseller listings. Basically means that the book is in poor enough condition that whatever additional things you might find wrong with it that were not mentioned in the description are your tough luck and not a cause for return. Also “sold as-is”.
WATERMARK A faint identifying design, usually in quality paper.
WHIPSTITCHING To sew a book’s leaves by passing the thread over and over the spine. Often seen in early pamphlets.
WOODCUT Illustrations produced when the original printing plate was engraved on a block of wood. One of the oldest methods of printing, dating back to 8th century China.
WRAPPERS or WRAPS The printed or unprinted cover of a pamphlet or book bound in paper.