Glossary

This abbreviated glossary covers only the most commonly encountered terms. There may be exceptions to some of our definitions - our main concern is to provide you with general concepts relative to commonly used book jargon. Abbreviations appear alphabetized at the beginning of each respective letter; only the most common abbreviations are included.

Additional resources

For a more extensive list the
following books are very useful:

Browse by alpha
A

a.e.g.

All edges gilt, gilt applied to top edge, bottom edge & foreedge of the volume (see also g.t. and a.e. m.).

a.e.m.

All edges marbled, marbling applied to top edge, bottom edge& foreedge of volume (see also a.e.g. and g.t.).

ABA

Antiquarian Bookseller's Association (U.K. antiquarian booksellers assoc.); also the American Booksellers Association (primarily independent booksellers offering new books for sale).

ABAA

Antiquarian Booksellers Association of America.

ABAC

Antiquarian Booksellers' Association of Canada.

ABPC

American Book Prices Current, an annual compilation of book, autograph & manuscript auction records.

ADS

Autograph document signed

ADS

Autograph document signed ( see also ALS, ANS, LS, TLS).

Advance copy

a copy of a book usually sent to reviewers prior to publication, may be in a different format and may or may not be bound.

Advertisements

Many books & pamphlets, especially of the 19th century contained ads, especially ones advertising others books by the same publisher,often located at the back of the volume, following the text pages.

ALAI

Associazionne Librai Antiquari d'Italia (Italian antiquarian booksellers' association).

All published

the book or set is complete as is, and any additional parts or volumes were never published.

ALS

Autograph letter signed, letter handwritten by the person signing the letter as opposed to LS, which is a manuscript letter written by someone other than the signer (see also ADS, ANS, LS. TLS).

Annotated

Including critical and explanatory notes

ANS

Autograph note signed.

ANZAAB

Australian and New Zealand Association of Antiquarian Booksellers.
B

BAL

Bibliography of American Literature.

Binding

the method of holding pages or sheets together; may be simply stapled or sewn, or sewn and enclosed in wrappers, but most often refers to a "hard" binding or covers. This type of binding may be covere...

Binding copy

a book lacking the original binding or with a binding in poor condition, i.e. a book in need of a new binding - can also be referred to as a reading copy.

Boards

the covers of a hard bound book; the boards are the stiff cardboard or paperboard which is usually covered with cloth or leather; and when covered with paper, the covers are properly referred to as "b...

Book club edition

usually an inexpensive reprint utilizing poor quality paper and binding and sold by subscription to members of a book club; in general, of little interest to book collectors and of low monetary value...

Book formats

the traditional terms in use for describing book formats are derived from early printing methodology and the size of early handmade sheets of paper. When two leaves (four pages when printed on both si...

Book jacket

the paper, often with illustrations and information about the book and author, used as a protective covering over the book; usually referred to as a "dust jacket" or "dj", sometimes called a "dust wra...

Bookworm

any of a number of moth or fly larvae which tunnel through the pages of books leaving behind small channels, holes in individual leaves. Very early books often have some evidence of bookworm damage.

Broadsheet

a printing which occurs on both sides of a single leaf (see also broadside).

Broadside

a printing, often an official announcement or poem or music, which occurs on a single sheet of paper and only on one side; the verso (other side) is blank. When printed on both sides, the sheet become...

BSA

Bibliographic Society of America.

Buckram

a stiff, coarsely woven, filled cloth used for less expensive, but stronger wearing, cloth book binding material; often used for library books.
C

Calf

book binding leather from a calf hide or cattle hide; a commonly used material for leather binding (see also morocco, sheep, and vellum).

Cancel leaf

a new leaf, often the title page, to which changes have been made, which is glued onto the narrow stub left by the removed leaf which has been excised.

Cloth

book binding material woven from cotton, linen, wool or synthetic fibers.

Collation

used in descriptive bibliography as the term which describes the non-binding portion of the book, verifying the proper sequence and completeness of pages & their gatherings (signatures).

Colophon

a statement occurring at the rear of a volume following the text, relating information about the printing history and physical aspects of the book; often includes name of printer, type of paper, typef...

Conjugate leaves

leaves which are physically attached, part of the same sheet.

Covers

the binding of a book; i.e. cloth, calf, morocco, boards, wrappers, etc.

Cut edges

the most common type of book edges, trimmed even with a large binders knife prior to finishing the binding process (see also uncut, unopened, and deckle edges).
D

DAB

Dictionary of American Biography, a useful 20 volume reference, especially when collecting manuscripts and autographs and attempting to learn about the authors.

Dampstain

stain often of a shade of tan or gray resulting from water or other liquid damage to a volume; tolerated by collectors when it is minimal and occurs in very old, scarce volumes; its presence does lowe...

Deckle edge

natural or sometimes artificial rough edge of page, left uncut (see also cut edges, uncut, and unopened).

Disbound

descriptive term for a book or pamphlet or ephemera which has been removed from its binding.

DNB

Dictionary of National Biography, multi-volume (number of volumes dependent upon the edition) reference of biographies of British citizens (the U.K.).

Dummy copy

book made to appear like a soon to be published title, but with a text block of blank pages (see also salesman sample).

Duodecimo

(see definition under "Book sizes")

Dust jacket

the paper, often with illustrations and information about the book, used as a protective covering over the book; sometimes called a book jacket (dj) or a dust wrapper (dw). Collectors of literary firs...

Dust wrapper

(see above definition of dust jacket).
E

Edition & Printing edition

includes the copies of a book or other printed material which originate from the same plates or setting of type. If 500 copies of a book are printed on Oct. 5 and 300 copies are printed from the same ...

End paper

paper, often of coated stock or marbled paper or otherwise "fancy" paper, with one half pasted to the cover; used primarily to give a finished appearance to the binding.

Ex-library

legitimately removed (discarded/deaccessioned) from an institutional library, such as a public library, university library, historical society, etc. Often has catalog numbers inked or painted on the s...

Ex-libris

a Latin phrase meaning "from the books" or to paraphrase, "from the library or collection of"; the phrase is frequently used on bookplates.

Extra-illustrated

usually a volume made into a unique copy with additional illustrations, autographs, or manuscripts added by carefully gluing or tipping-in this extra material.
F

First Appearances

this term can refer to several different concepts: The first time an author appears in print, i.e. Henry D. Thoreau's first appearance in print was as an anonymous obituary in a Concord newspaper. The...

First Books

the first book appearance by an author (usually refers to a book entirely by the author, not merely a first appearance of a poem or short story in an anthology). Frequently an established, well known ...

First Edition

All of the copies printed from the first setting of type; can include multiple printings if all are from the same setting of type. Every printed book has a first edition, many never have later edition...

Flyleaf

a blank leaf (or leaves) inserted during the binding process between the free end paper and the beginning or end of the printed pages.

Folio

see Book size.

Foxing

rust colored spots which occur on paper resulting from oxidation of both organic and iron impurities left behind during the paper making process. Only when these impurities exist in the paper, given e...

Frontispiece

an illustration or plate inserted immediately in front of the title page, with the illustration facing the title page, often abbreviated as frontis.

Full binding

volume is entirely encased in leather (calf, sheep, morocco, etc.)

Full Binding

usually refers to leather binding, see Binding.
G

g.t.

Gilt top, gilt applied to the top edge of the text block (see also a.e.g.)

Gathering

a folded printed sheet of leaves prior to binding; referred to as a signature after binding.

Gutter

the inner margin of the leaves of a bound book; adjacent inner margins of facing pages when book is open.
H

Half binding

the spine and corner leather occupy only approx. 1/2 of top edge.

Half title

a page which precedes the the title page and the text, with the title (often abbreviated) usually centered on the page.

Hinge

the inside portion of the flexible area where book cover meets the book spine; often used interchangeably with the term joint, which should be used to designate the outside or exterior portion of the ...

Holograph

Anything handwritten entirely by the writer; i.e. a letter written entirely in the handwriting of the correspondent is a holograph of that person.
I

ILAB

International League of Antiquarian Booksellers, the bookseller organizations of at least twenty-one nations are members of the league.

Imprint

when used as a noun refers to the publication data located at the base of a title page, usually includes the city of publication, name of the publisher (sometimes the printer), and the year of publica...

Incunable

anything printed during the 15th century, the first century of printing with “moveable type”; from the Latin, meaning “from the cradle”; can also be used in a relative sense to refer to other ...

Inscribed

a book, or other printed piece, with a handwritten and signed statement usually written for a specific named person(s) and often located on the end paper or title page; when "inscribed" is used to des...

Issue

a portion of an edition printed or published deliberately by the printer or publisher in a distinct form differing from the rest of the printing relative to paper, binding, format, etc. The distincti...
J

Joint

the exterior flexible "hinge" where book cover meets book spine; "hinge" is usually used to designate the equivalent inside or interior flexible area. The joint is often an area that splits or cracks ...
L

Large paper copy

a special edition printed with the pages reconfigured to result in larger leaves with very wide page margins; the text of the individual pages remaining the same as the normal edition; usually large p...

Leaf (leaves)

refers to the smallest, standard physical unit of paper in a printed piece; in the case of books and pamphlets, usually with a printed page on each side of a leaf; a broadside is printed on a single s...

LS

Letter signed, a letter written by another, usually a secretary, but signed by the correspondent, as opposed to an ALS which is written entirely in the hand of the correspondent (see also ADS, ALS, AN...
M

Marbled edges

usually the top, bottom and foreedge of a book with a multi-colored, swirled design, somewhat resembling the coloration pattern of marble stone (see also a.e.m.).

Marbled paper

paper decorated with a multi-colored, swirled design or pattern; often used for end papers or for paper covered boards, especially with 3/4 or 1/2 leather bindings.

Morocco

leather binding made from goat hides; usually used in high quality or fine bindings for the interesting texture of the leather; originally tanned with sumac in the country of Morocco (see also calf, s...
N

n.d.

This abbreviation means "no date" provided in the imprint.

n.p.

No place of publication provided in the imprint.

NAN

Nederlandsche Vereeniging Van Antiquaren (Netherlands or Dutch antiquarian bookseller's association).

NUC

National Union Catalogue; when used in antiquarian book descriptions usually refers to the pre-1956 imprints NUC which lists Library of Congress holdings plus the holdings of all reporting libraries i...
O

o.p.

Out-of-print.

Octavo

see "Book sizes".

Out-of-print

no longer available from the publisher (o.p. or op).
P

Plate

an illustration(s) printed on a separate sheet of paper (usually heavy and better quality than the text pages) and added to the book during the binding process.

Pre-publication price

When a new title is first offered for sale, often this special lower price is promoted and available for a limited time before publication.

Presentation copy

a copy of a printed item inscribed and signed by the author (or publisher) and provided as a gift; see "inscribed".

Printing

the copies of a book or other printed material which originate from the same press run or from the same plates or setting of type at one time. In the example given for "Edition", the 500 copies would ...

Prospectus

printed material, often in the form of a leaflet or broadside, which describes a forth-coming title in detail, often including information on ordering the book including pre-publication price.
Q

Quarter binding

usually lacks leather corners and leather of the spine occupies only approx. 1/4 of the top edge.

Quarto

see "Book formats".
R

Reading copy

well worn, usually abused copy of a book, often in need of rebinding; i.e. suitable for reading, but unlikely to be included in a book collection unless rebound; sometimes refers to a copy that can be...

Rebacked

the spine or backstrip has been replaced with new material, in some cases the original worn backstrip is saved and glued over the new material.

Rebound

copy of a book which has had the original binding removed and a new binding attached; when there is no need to resew or trim the book, the term "recased" is sometimes used to indicate that a new bindi...

Recto

the front side of a leaf or in the case of an open book the page on the right, with the page on the left being the verso.
S

SA

Svenska Antivariatforeningen (Swedish antiquarian booksellers' association).

Salesman sample

volume made for door-to-door sales of a forth-coming title, usually has examples of several binding styles, the title page, a few pages of text and some illustrations (if any) and often a few ruled le...

Self-wrappers

the wrappers of a pamphlet consist of the first leaf of the first signature and the final leaf of the last signature; i.e. no special or distinct paper wrappers have been added; often government pamph...

Sewn-as-issued

a pamphlet which has been sewn together and exists in its original state relative to binding; normally a pamphlet with self-wrappers.

Shaken

indicates that sections (signatures) of a book or pamphlet are becoming quite loose, but remain attached to the binding.

Sheep

a common leather binding material from sheep hides; used like calf for a less expensive binding than morocco, appears to have been frequently used for text books and law books in the 19th century (see...

Shelfback

another term for spine or backstrip.

Signature

a group or gathering of leaves printed together on a sheet of paper which is folded, bound with other signatures and trimmed to form a book or pamphlet; i.e. a section or grouping of pages in a book r...

Signed

refers to a printed item on which the author (or illustrator or publisher) has written their name, usually on the end papers, title page, or in the case of pamphlets on the wrappers.

SLAM

Syndicat National de la Librarie Ancienne et Moderne (French booksellers' association).

Slipcase

a box with one open side, into which a volume or a multivolme set is "slipped" for protection; publishers often issue a slipcase with two and three volume sets.

Solander case

a box in which a book is stored for protection which has one end (often leather) which resembles the spine or backstrip of a book.

Spine

The back portion of a book's binding which is visible when a book is shelved in a bookcase; the portion which is attached at the joints to the front and rear covers.

Started

indicates that one or more signatures of a book are protruding beyond the rest of the fore edge, i.e. beginning to pull away from the binding to which they are still attached; not as loosened as the t...

State

a portion of a printing with changes such as minor alterations to the text either intentional or accidental; insertion of cancels, advertisements, or insertions; copies on different paper without inte...
T

t.e.g.

top edge gilt.

Three quarter binding

volume has leather spine and corners which occupy approx. 3/4 of the space along top edge of board (cover). The remainder of the board is covered with marbled paper, plain paper, cloth, different leat...

Three quarter binding

see "Binding".

TLS

typed letter signed, as opposed to ALS, a handwritten letter signed by the writer (see also ADS, ALS, ANS and LS).
U

Unbound

indicates that the item has never been bound, i.e. unbound sheets; not the same as disbound which indicates that the binding has been removed.

Uncut

refers to the edges of a book in an untrimmed state, edges are somewhat uneven, also see "Deckle edges".

Unopened

a book with signatures which have never been cut as opposed to untrimmed and uneven (see "Uncut"); unopened books retain the folds of the original gathering and contain many pages which cannot be read...
V

Variants

usually refers to differences in bindings or end papers ( paper located just inside the front and rear covers, one half of which is glued to the cover) within an issue or printing. One variant may hav...

VDAV

Verband Deutscher Antiquare e. V. (German antiquarian booksellers's association).

Vellum

true vellum is a thin specially treated untanned "leather" from calf skin, also known as parchment (high quality parchment from calf skin is called vellum; general quality parchment is made from calf,...

Verso

the reverse or opposite or left-hand side, especially used in reference to a leaf which has a recto and verso side; in a open book the recto is the right hand page and the verso is the left hand page;...
W

w.a.f

with all faults, indicates a book or other item which is being offered without careful delineation of its condition or without careful collation; usually indicates a less than "very good" copy, which ...

Wrappers

abbreviated as "wraps", wrappers are the paper covers of a pamphlet, often of a paper of heavier weight than the text paper; when you see "wrappers" you know the item is not a hard bound book, but is ...