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Glossary of Terms

Note: This glossary of terms is compiled by consulting the glossaries of terms at several ADDALL's affiliate sites. It is for your reference only. Please use it at your discretion. Please refer to each site's specific description for a more accurate understanding when viewing individual books. The individual links are listed at the bottom of this page. (September, 2002)

* Book Condition Guide

* Book Sizes (English & Metric)

* Commonly Used Abbreviations, with their Commonly Accepted Definitions

* Further Information

Book Condition Guide

Professional booksellers will describe the condition of a book in some detail highlighting, where necessary, any marks or defects. However a few common condition terms may be used, particularly for books of lower value:

  1. Mint (M): As new. Indistinguishable from a new copy bought direct from a publisher.
  2. Very Fine (VF): As new, with crisp pages and tight binding.  Absolutely no imperfections visible under close examination.
  3. Near Fine (NF): Markings are minimal, though a minor flaw may be present. Little usage and no defects present.
  4. Very Good (VG): Shows some signs of wear. Not unattractive but no longer fresh.
  5. Good (G): All pages are present, but damage is visible.  Books with cocked spines, loose bindings and torn dust jackets will fall into this category.
  6. Fair (FR): Well-worn but still contains all text pages (endpapers and title page may be missing.)Markings may be visible but will not interfere with reading.
  7. Poor (P): Reading copies and binding copies fall into this category.  All text is legible but binding may have defects and pages may be soiled.

In general, sellers should apply these condition terms consistently for all ages of books. However, a somewhat greater degree of external marking or perhaps sun-fading is generally considered acceptable in an older book than in, say, a sought-after modern first edition.

Book Sizes (English & Metric)

All sizes are approximate.

  • 4to, Qto. 9" x 12" or 22.9cm x 30.5cm
  • 8vo, Oct. 6" x 9" or 15.2cm x 22.9cm
  • 12mo 5" x 7 .5" or 12.7cm x 19.1cm
  • 16mo 4.25" x 6.75" or 10.8cm x 17.2cm
  • 24mo 3.5" x 6" or 8.9cm x 15.2cm
  • 32mo 3.25" x 5" or 8.3cm x 12.7cm
  • 64mo 2" x 3" or 5.1cm x 7.6cm
  • Atlas folio 16" x 25" or 40.6cm x 63.5cm
  • Elephant folio 14" x 25" or 35.6cm x 63.5cm
  • Folio (Fo., Fol.) 12" x 15" or 30.5cm x 38.1cm

Commonly Used Abbreviations, with their Commonly Accepted Definitions

ads., advts., adverts - advertisements.

aeg - all edges gilt. All three outer edges of the pages of the book have been trimmed smooth and coated with gold leaf.

Als, A.L.s - autograph letter, signed.

arc, ARC - advanced reading copy, typically sent out by a publisher to solicit reviews or to promote sales of a book prior to its publication. ARC's are sometimes but not always in the form of bound proofs; a mesage from the publisher may be laid in or tipped in.

association copy -a copy with extraordinary associations, usually because it demonstrably belonged to a notable person, or has a presentation inscription by its author.

bc, bce - book club edition. Edition of a book printed especially for a book club, and usually less valuable.

bdg. - binding. Methods of binding include stapling, sewing or gluing individual pages to the outer cover. The process of binding keeps the pages of a book in order and prevents damage to them.

bds. – boards. Usually the hard portion of a book's binding, usually covered, as in "marbled bds."

bkpl, b’plate – bookplate. An emblem or illustration used to indicate ownership, usually found pasted to the inside of the front cover of a book.

BM, BMC - British Museum or British Museum Catalog.

bumped - dented (usually on edge of boards).

CBEL - Cambridge Bibliography of English Literature.

chip, chp – chipped. Small tears or excisions along the edge of pages or dustjacket.

cl. - cloth (covering the boards of a book's binding).

cocked - Refers to the condition of a book where the spine has become twisted and is no longer straight.

cockled - Refers to the condition of a book where the pages or boards have become puckered, wrinkled, or started to curl forward. In paper, this condition is caused by heat or humidity; if the book cover is damaged this could be caused by too much adhesive being used.

dec., decor – decorated, decoration. Often used to refer to a binding, as in dec. cl.

dj, DJ, DW - dust jacket or dust wrapper. A removable, paper wrapper that prevents the book from becoming dirty, and protects the binding.

DNB - (British) Dictionary of National Biography.

ed – editor

ed, edn - edition. All copies of a book that are printed from one setting of type or from the same plates. Copies do not have to be printed on one date; as long as they are printed from the same plates, they will all be included in that edition.

ep - endpapers. Sheets of plain or white decorated paper that are inserted at the front and end of a book. One half of each sheet of paper is pasted down to the binding giving an over all finished effect.

exlib, ex-lib, x-lib - book from a library, usually with library markings.

F, FF, ff, fol - Folio(s); leaves of a book or else a size of a book.

ffee, ffep, f.e.p. - front free endpaper (ie, the blank that is not pasted down onto the boards).

fx - foxing - brownish spotting of paper, usually because of acid content. Can be quite disfiguring.

front, frontis. - frontispiece (initial illustration, typically facing title page).

ge, g.e., gilt - indicates the pages of a book have been trimmed and the outside edges covered in gilt, or gold. See aeg.

gutter - center crease of an opened book: bread crumbs have a way of gathering here.

half-title - page before title page, usually only with the book's title printed on it.

hb, hc – hardbound, hardcover. A book with stiff boards that is bound and covered in either cloth, paper, or leather.

hd band – headband. A functional or ornamental band, made of colored silk or cotton, which is fastened at the top (and sometimes at the bottom) of the spine of a book. Originally it was sewn into the boards or leaves of the book to link the sections together but in today's binding process, it is often glued-on for decoration. The headbands of the 12th and early 13th centuries were combined with a leather tab. The conventional cloth or silk headband was introduced in the early 16th century and decorative glued-on headbands were introduced in the early 19th century. Also known as heads.

hf – half, as in half sheets.

hndbk – handbook.

hng – hinge. Where the interior spine and the spine of the book meet.

ill, illus – illustrated.

illum. - ("Illuminated") usually as in illuminated manuscript, referring to polychrome illustrations.

incunabula - A book printed, with moveable type, during the earliest period of printing. Commonly refers to books published before the year 1501.

insc., inscr, inscrbd - inscribed. A book in which a written inscription has been made by the author, to a specified person.

laid in - (sometimes: loosely laid in) a letter or other sheet(s) inserted but not glued into a book.

lea – leather.

lf, ll – leaf. A single sheet of paper within a book. One page is equal to one side of a leaf.

lith, litho – lithograph. A lithograophic print. A process of engraving on a stone or metal surface, usually with ink.

LOC - Library of Congress.

lp, L.p. – large paper, large-paper edition.

LS – letter, signed.

ltd., limited ed. - an edition limited to a specified number of copies.

M.e. – marbled edges.

ms, mss - manuscript, manuscripts.

mssg. – missing

mrbld – marbled.

nd, N.d. - no date given for publication.

np, N.p. - no place, publisher or printer.

N.s. – note, signed.

Ob., obl. – oblong.

OED – Oxford English Dictionary

op, oop – out of print. A publication that is no longer available through the publisher.

orig. - original (as in original cloth binding).

o/w – otherwise.

pb, ppr – paperback.

pc, prc clpd - price clipped. Usually a small triangle cut from the front inside corner of a dust jacket to remove the indication of a book's price. Dust jackets with clipped prices are generally considered inferior to ones that are intact.

pg., p, pp – page(s).

pict – pictorial

pl, pls – plate(s). A full-page book illustration that is separate from the text pages. Technically, illustrations that are printed on text pages are called cuts. However, the term "plate" is often used to describe both types of book illustrations.

po – previous owner.

pub.- publisher or published.

rbkd – rebacked. The book has been repaired with a new spine and the hinges have been fixed.

rem, rm - remainder. A copy sold by a publisher after withdrawing the book from publication. Often slightly disfigured, either with a rubber stamp or with a black line crudely drawn across one of the edges.

reprd – repaired.

rev – revised.

rubbed - indicates that the outer layer of the material used on the binding has been rubbed off.

sc - soft cover (paperback or similar).

sgd – signed.

shaken - used of a book that is no longer firm in its covers (typically, publisher's cloth) because of deteriorating inner hinges (should not be used of a book that is in but detached from its covers).

sl – slight.

slpcs – slipcase. Container (made of board covered in paper, cloth or leather, or a combination of these) into which a book may be "slipped" for its protection.

sm – small.

sp – spine. The bound outer edge of a book.

stns – stains.

swd – sewed.

teg, T.E.G. - top edge gilt.

tightback - The book has been bound too tightly, meaning that, once opened, the pages do not lie flat.

T.L.s – typed letter signed.

tipped in - a sheet or sheets which were not part of the original bound book, but are now. Pages are tipped in by dabbing minute amounts of glue onto the edge which is to be inserted into the book.

tp – title page.

trade edition - usually, "first trade edition" (as distinct from limited edition).

ts - typescript.

vd/vy – various dates, various years.

vol, vols – volume(s)

w/ - with.

w.a.f. – with all faults. Term used by auctioneers and booksellers to describe books that could be imperfect

wn – worn.

worming - Refers to the condition of a book where small tracks or holes, made by burrowing insects, are visible to the eye.

wr – wear.

wrappers - as in soft covers. Also known as paperback or wraps, this term refers to a book with a printed or plain paper binding.

yapp - Where a book is bound with the edges of the paper extending beyond all three edges of the book itself.

For further information on the specific glossary of terms used by a given seller, please see the list below of our Used Bookstores, with a link to each store’s glossary of terms where one is provided.

Abebooks: http://dogbert.abebooks.com/abe/TextToHtml?t=Glossary&h=x&f=glossary.htm

Alibris: http://www.alibris.com/glossary/glossary.cfm

Biblion: http://www.biblion.com/abbr.html

Chapitre: http://www.chapitre.com/accueil.asp?page=/la/glossair/accueil.htm (in French)

ILAB: http://www.ilab-lila.com/english/glossary.htm

Powells:http://www.powells.com/rarebooks/bookbasics.html (Book Terms Illustrated)

           http://www.powells.com/rarebooks/bookbasics.html#condition (Rare Book Condition Standards )    

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