Our glossary was designed to help our visitors understand the book-related terms they may be unfamiliar with. Have fun!
Our Glossary is broken up into two main sections. The first deals with Book Sizes, Book Condition and Common Abbreviations. The second section is our General Glossary which lists all other relevant book terms.
The following definitions reflect an idealised standard: any one particular bookseller may in fact have slightly different definitions of the terms below. These definitions are therefore offered as a general guide, rather than a definitive statement.
4to - A book that is up to 12" tall. See Quarto.
8vo - A book that is up to 9 ¾" tall. See Octavo.
12mo - A book that is up to 7 ¾" tall. See Duodecimo.
16mo - A book that is up to 6 ¾" tall. See Sextodecimo.
24mo - A book that is up to 5 ¾" tall.
32mo - A book that is up to 5" tall.
48mo - A book that is up to 4" tall.
64mo - A book that is up to 3" tall.
Folio - A book that is up to 15" tall.
Elephant Folio - A book that is up to 23" tall.
Atlas Folio - A book that is up to 25" tall.
Double Elephant Folio - A book that is up to 50" tall.
Condition of a book is usually in the form of VG/VG, Fine/Good, VG/--, etc. The first part is the condition of the book; the second is the condition of the dust jacket. If a "/--" is present, it usually means that the dust jacket is not present.
As New - To be used only when the book is in the same immaculate condition to which it was published. There can be no defects, no missing pages, no library stamps, etc., and the dust jacket (if it was issued with one) must be perfect, without any tears.
Fine (F or FN) - Approaches the condition of As New, but without being crisp. For the use of the term Fine, there must also be no defects, etc., and if the jacket has a small tear, or other defect, or looks worn, this should be noted.
Very Good (VG) - Describes a book that does show some small signs of wear - but no tears - on either binding or paper. Any defects must be noted.
Good (G) - Describes the average used worn book that has all pages or leaves present. Any defects must be noted.
Fair - Worn book that has complete text pages (including those with maps or plates) but may lack endpapers, half-title, etc. (which must be noted). Binding, jacket (if any), etc., may also be worn. All defects must be noted.
Poor - Describes a book that is sufficiently worn, to the point that its only merit is as a Reading Copy because it does have the complete text, which must be legible. Any missing maps or plates should still be noted. This copy may be soiled, scuffed, stained or spotted and may have loose joints, hinges, pages, etc.
These terms may be arbitrary, but whatever terms are employed, they may be useless or misleading unless both buyer and seller agree on what they mean in actually describing the book.
4to - Quarto
8vo - Octavo
16mo - Sextodecimo
ads, advts, adverts - Advertisements placed in the binding of the book
aeg - All Edges Gilt
al - Autographed Letter
als - Autographed Letter, Signed
ams - Autographed Manuscript, Signed
-ana - A suffix denoting a collection of sayings, anecdotes, or other material regarding a person or subject. For example: Americana, Hemingwayana, etc
ARC - Advanced Reading Copy
bc, bce - Book Club, Book Club Edition
bd - Bound
bdg - Binding
bds - Boards
bomc - Book of the Month Club. See Book Club
b/w - Black and white; usually describes illustrations, photographs, etc
cwo - Check or cash (payment) with order.
dec, decor – Decorated. Often refers to binding
dj - Dust Jacket
dw - Dust Wrapper
ed - Edited, Edition, Editor
ep - End Papers
ex - Example
F - Fine, as in Book Condition
F, FF, fol - Folio
ffep - The end paper that is not attached to the inside front cover. See End Papers
G - Good, as in Book Condition
ge - Gilt Edges
gt - Gilt Edges
hvtb - Hors Texte, versos blank
I - Index.
Ill, Ills, Illus. - Illustrated
insc - Inscribed
l, ll - Leaf
lp - Large-paper edition
Ltd - Limited Edition
ms, mss - Manuscript
nd - No Date
nf - Near Fine, as in Book Condition
No, Nos, # - Number
np - No Place
op - Out-of-Print
orig - Original; as in original binding
pb, ppr - Paperback
pbo - Paperback Original
pc - Price-clipped.
pl, pls - Plates
pos - Prior owner signature
Prefs - Preface
pub - Publisher or published
rem - Remainder
Advanced Reading Copy - A copy for reviewers and/or booksellers, usually bound in paper wraps and usually with either the finished cover art or possibly trial cover art. Generally, this copy is at it will appear in the stores and differs from the Uncorrected Proof.
Backstrip - The covering of the book's spine.
Breaker - A person who breaks up books to sell the plates individually or the book itself when the covers are so bad that it either has to be rebound or broken up.
Cancel - A tipped-in (i.e., pasted in) page to replace a page removed after a book has been bound.
Damp stained - 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 water stains.
Edges - The outer surfaces of the leaves of a book.
Fading - The colour of some book covers fades or becomes less intense when exposed to light. See also Darkening.
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.
Half Binding - A book in which the spine and corners are bound in a different material (frequently leather) than the rest of the covers.
Illum - Referring to polychrome illustrations. It usually means an illuminated manuscript.
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.
Laid In - A letter or other sheet(s) inserted but not glued into a book.
Made-up Copy - A copy of a book whose parts have been assembled from one or more defective copies.
No Date - No date of publication mentioned within the book.
Obverse - The right-hand page of a book, more commonly called the Recto.
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.
Quarter Binding - A book whose spine is covered in a different and generally fancier material than the covers.
Raised Band - The raised areas on the spine concealing a cord which is attached to the covers. In earlier leather books cords were really used. In some modern books the raised bands are purely decorative and conceal no underlying cord.
Self-Wraps - Wrappers which have vestigial flaps that imitate a dust jacket.
Series - A group of volumes with a common theme issued in succession by a single publisher.
Tail - The lower margin of a leaf, cover or endpaper. Sometimes referred to as the bottom.
Uncut- The pages of the completed book have not been shaved down to a uniform surface.
Variant - A book that differs in one or more features from others of the same impression, but a positive sequence has not been established.
Waterstain - Stain on a book cover or leaves from water or other liquids. May cause discoloration and perhaps actual shrinking.
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.Z