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Book Terminology

Book terminology or book terms are the vocabulary used in book collecting to describe the many different parts of the book.  Not only will this allow the novice to correctly describe a book, this page will provide an easy reference to unknown book words allowing an intelligent decision before purchasing or describing a book to sell.  With book collectors and dealers, there is much frustration with uniformed individuals lacking the basic information on how to describe and identify books correctly.  Find the definitions to the words used by book collectors with photos below for a better understanding of the many book terms used. 

Possible the two most incorrectly terms in use today are, scarce and rare.  They are two examples of misused terms commonly found in online auctions. 

Another area to be familiar with are the terms used to describe the different book sizes.

Index in alphabetical order.

Alcoholics Anonymous

World War Two

Aet and Craft
Art and Craft


Civil War
Civil War


Fiction and Nonfiction
Fiction & Nonfiction

Ads, Advts, Adverts: Advertisements bound into the book.

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Advanced Review Copy (ARC), or Advanced Copy:  A pre-publication copy for booksellers and reviewers. 

All Edges Gilt (AEG, aeg):  The top, fore-edge and foot of the book are colored in gold.  Other colors used are indicated. 

Antiquarian:  Refers to collectible books rather than used books, suggests age or rarity. 

Association Copy : Has an indication that the book was owned by the author or by someone that was closely associated to them. 

Autographed Letter (AL): A letter written and signed by the author, that may contain reference to his or her book. 

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Autographed Manuscript, Signed (AMS): 

Backstrip:  The covering of the book's spine.

Binding: The complete cover of the book including the backstrip. 

Binding Copy: A book needing rebound and is worth rebinding, either in total or in part. 


Boards:  The underlying binding material for most modern books, generally composed of a sturdy composite or cardboard which is covered with paper, cloth, leather or vellum.

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Book Block The whole book is sewn together before it is bound in covers.  Also referred to as "Text Block".  (See sample

Book Club Edition (BCE); Book Of The Month Club (BOMC); Book Club:  A mass market reprint of the first edition, usually a condensed version.

Book Label:  Used to designate the books owner, normally this is smaller than a bookplate. 


Bookplate:  A label used to indicate the owner of a book, larger than a book label. 


Broadside : A single sheet of paper, normally printed only on one side. 

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Bumped:  The compressions to tips or indents to the cover edges.

Cancel: A pasted in page replacing a page removed after being bound. 

Case-Bound: An antiquated term for a book that is hardbound as opposed to a paperback. 

Cocked:  Spine misalignment, the covers do not line up evenly with each other. 


Covers The complete Binding of a book, the front, back, and spine. 

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Cracked Hinge(s): Display of a vertical gutter at the cover hinge(s) and the EP's are separated. Severely cracked hinges may also display the web-like under material associated with the binding.  (See sample


Cut All pages are flush or even, not "Deckled Edges". 


Deckled Edges : Uncut or un-trimmed edges. (See sample


Dewey Decimal System (DDS): The numbering system used by libraries to categorize book content by specific categories and sub-categories. 


Disbound: The binding has been removed from a book or pamphlet. 

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Dust Jacket (DJ) or Dust Wrapper (DW): The paper cover placed on the exterior of a hardback book.  This is most desirable with collectors and adds additional value, depending on the book and condition of the dj, its price may increase by 25 to 100%. 


Edition: All copies of a book printed from the same plates or typesetting. 


End Papers (EP's); Free End Papers (FEP's): 


Ex-Library (Ex-Lib): indicates a book was once in a public or school library.  This term normally indicates normal library markings, stamps, pockets, etc. 


Extremities: the extreme peripheries or outsides edges of the covers. 

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Facsimile A book or publication that has been reproduced to mimic an earlier edition. 


First Edition (FE) : The first printing of a book. 


Foxed; Foxing: a chemical reaction resulting in brown spotting of the paper. generally found in 19th century books with steel engravings. 


Fray: The appearance of rub to extremities that may display loose threads from the cloth overlay on the book board or backstrip. 


Frontis; Frontispiece: An illustration at the beginning of a book normally facing the title page. Sometimes protected by a tissue overlay. 

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Gathering:  A group of sheets folded together to be sewn or glued into the binging. 


Gilding:  An ornamentation to cover or binding, an overlay with a thin covering of gold to give an attractive appearance.  (See sample)


Glassine:  A transparent wrapper, used to help protect a books exterior.


Half Cloth: Paper-cover boards with the backstrip bound in cloth. 


Half Title: The page carrying nothing but the title of the book, usually preceding the title page. 

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Hinge : The external or internal joint of the book that bends when a book is opened. 


Hinges Starting: The beginning of partial hinge separation at the cover(s). 


Head: The very top of the backstrip. 


Heel: The very bottom of the backstrip, also called the tail


Holograph: A term indicating the handwriting of the author. 

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Illum:  Referring to polychrome illustrations normally an illuminated manuscript. 


Illustrated : The book has Illustrations. 


Illustration: Is a  picture, plate, plan, diagram, chart, design, or map printed within the text. 


Impression: The copies of a book made during any given press run. 


Incunabula : Books, pamphlets, calendars, and indulgences printed before 1501. 

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Index: An alphabetical listing of names or topics in the book, with reference to their page numbers. 


Inscribed: A book signed by the author that displays a gift, or personal notation. 


Interleaved: Blank leaves alternate with the printed leaves of a book. 


Issue: The priority of copies within the first edition. 


Laid In:  May be a letter or other sheets inserted loosely into a book. 

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Large Print: The font or type size is enlarged for the visually impaired. 


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


Library-bound: Produced for public or school libraries in heavier, more durable covers. 


Limited Edition : A books publication that is restricted to a comparatively small number of copies that are usually numbered and signed by the author and/or illustrator. 


Limp : A flexible binding in an imitation leather or suede. 

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Manuscript (MS) (MSS): Manuscript refers only to the original writing of the book.  It may be handwritten or typed; usually it is reset in type for the book to be printed.

Marbled: Paper decorated with an imitation marble pattern. 


Mint Copy : Book condition is the same as on the day issued. 


Monograph: Normally a short writing as a pamphlet that deals with a single subject. 


Morocco : A leather made from goatskins, because of its durability and beauty used for book bindings. 

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No Date (ND, nd):  No publication date is present in the book. 


No Place (NP, np): No place of publication is mentioned in the book. 


Obverse:  The right-hand page of a book, also called the recto


Out of Print (OP): no longer being printed. 


Out of Series: Overruns or extra copies of limited editions. 

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Pamphlet:  A small work issued in paper wraps. 


Paperback : Books in paper wraps. 


Paper Boards: Stiff cardboard covered in paper. 


Paste-Down: The portion of the end-paper pasted to the inner cover of a book. 


Pictorial : Indicates the book has a picture or illustration on the cover. 

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Plates: Full page illustrations separately printed then bound into the book. 


Price-clipped: Dust Jackets that have had the price cut "clipped" form its corner. 


Private Press: A small press, often operated by one person. 


Privately Printed :  Refers to a book or pamphlet whose printing was paid for by an individual or a group, not public sale. 


Provenance : The  ownership history or possession of a book. 

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Quarter Leather:  A book with a leather backstrip. 


Rare:  A badly misunderstood and used term that really means a book or publication is only available for purchase once a decade.  True rare books are seldom made available for purchase.


Reading Copy: A book that is worn or used to a degree that it is not in good enough condition to be considered collectible.


Re-backed: A book repaired with a new spine and mended hinges. 


Re-cased : A book that has been glued back into its covers after being shaken loose. 

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Recto: The front side of a leaf in a bound book or the right-hand page of an opened book. Also called the obverse


Rejointed : A book preserved with maintenance to the original covers and spine.


Rub; Rubbed: The damage to the cloth cover, usually on the edges as a result of the constant removal and return of books to shelves. 

Scarce: An uncommon or hard to find book.  Like Rare, is often misused to falsely increase its value. 

Shaken:  The pages of a book are starting to come loose from the binding. 

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State : Refers to a change other than a correction of a misprint. 


Stub: The remaining narrow strip of paper where a leaf has been cut away. 

Sunned: Faded from exposure to light or direct sunlight and generally displayed on the backstrip or small portions of the covers, may also occur to dust jackets.  (See sample

Text Block The whole book is sewn together before it is bound in covers.  Also referred to as "Book Block".  (See sample

Three-decker: A book in three volumes. 

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Tips: The extreme book corners. 


Trimmed: The pages of a book have been cut down to a size smaller than when originally issued. 

Uncut: The pages are not uniform, unlike "Cut" pages that are even.  (See sample


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

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Water stained:  Discoloration or shrinking of the leaves or binding. Not to be confused with dampstains.  (See sample

Wraps or Wrappers : Regardless if called a softbound or paperback this is the outer covers of a paperbound (paperback) book or pamphlet. Wraps are not a Dust Jacket (dj) used on hardbound (hardback) books. 

Yapped :  The edges of the cover of a book are not flush with the pages but extend beyond the edge of the book. 

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Phone: 419 563-5905

Copyright Dangerous Publications Aug. 2004  Content not for republication without permission.