Book Terminology

    In the US: the American Booksellers Association membership consists of independently owned bookstores, most with a store front location primarily selling new books.

    In the UK: Antiquarian Booksellers Association (the UK equivalent of the ABAA) A trade association in the British Isles for dealers in antiquarian and rare books, manuscripts and allied materials; founded in 1906 and the oldest organization of its kind in the world.

ABAA Antiquarian Booksellers’ Association of America (the U.S. equivalent of the U.K. ABA.) The Antiquarian Booksellers’ Association of America. A trade association of booksellers established in 1949 with over 450 members located throughout the United States, specializing in fine and rare books, maps, documents, autographs, illuminated manuscripts, ephemera, and prints spanning the economic spectrum.

ABAC Antiquarian Booksellers’ Association of Canada (Canadian equivalent of the U.K. ABA.) The Antiquarian Booksellers’ Association of Canada. A trade association of booksellers in Canada, founded in 1966 with the aim of fostering interest in rare books and manuscripts and maintaining high standards in the antiquarian book trade.

Advanced Copy Cover

Advanced Copy Cover

ADVANCE REVIEW (or READER’S or READING) COPY (ARC) A special pre-publication copy distributed by publishers for review purposes. ARCs are sent to reviewers and editors prior to publication date. ARCs are usually softbound in wrappers, which may be similar to dust jacket art of the first trade edition, but the wrappers are more typically merely printed text. Occasionally the distribution of ARCs lead to textual differences between an advance review copy and a first edition. ARCs are sometimes issued as a hardcover with a review slip laid in by the publisher. ARCs may include an uncorrected proof copies printed for author’s corrections. ARCs also include copies distributed for publicity and promotion – usually published in plain wrappers and which may have substantial textual differences from the finished published book. The textual differences between all the various versions is what gives value to ARCs to the collector.

All Edges Gilt

All Edges Gilt

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.

AUTHOR’S EDITION Around the turn of the nineteenth century, many titles in the international book trade were “pirated,” or published without authorization. The “Author’s Edition” let the reader know that the book was published with the author’s approval.

BACKSTRIP (Sometimes used as a synonym to Spine) A strip used by binder to reinforce the back of folded sheets in the binding of the spine.

BAL Bibliography of American Literature.

BDS An abbreviation for the term Boards.

BIBLIOGRAPHY A reference work detailing published titles on a given subject or by a given author; used by book sellers and collectors to verify the authenticity of an edition or issue of a given title.

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. Traditionally, bindings were actually sewn to the collected gatherings. The two terms- Binding and Casing – are, becoming interchangeabe today.)



BIOPREDATION An attack to books by living matter, which may include insects or mildew.





Blind Stamping

Blind Stamping

BLIND (-Stamped, -Tooled, or -Embossed) Impressed into paper or binding material without color or gilding, leaving an impression only.

BOARDS The front and back covers of a hardcover book, today typically a cardboard base covered with cloth, paper, or leather.

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.). Generally speaking, not first editions although some Science Fiction or other genres where first edition publication took place through a Club. A seller should always disclose if a book is a BCE. The collector should arm themselves with the relevant bibliographies to know when a BCE might be desirable.

BOOK JACKET Separate paper covering for the book. Also referred to as the dust jacket or dustwrapper. A well-established practice among publishers as early as the middle of the nineteenth century.

BOOKLET A small book, often only a few pages long and bound in wrappers (pamphlet could be used as a synonym).

Book Plate

Book Plate

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, especially book plates that can be purchased in batches of 50 or 100 and a space left for the owner’s name to be penciled or inked-in.

BOOKWORM A larva of any insect which harms books by feeding on their binding or leaves. As they eat they way through the pages of a book, they leave a trail known as “worming.” Also, a term for a person devoted to books.



BROADSIDE or BROADSHEET Any piece of printed matter printed on only one side of a sheet of paper.



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 or CASING 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 removed from 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. Contents usually of a popular, sensational, juvenile, or moral / educational character.

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. It could also mean a tear repaired and closed with Japanese tissue or other such type of paper used for page repairs in the trade.

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. For books produced in the hand-press era, this involves some knowledge of format. The leaves in a gathering must be counted and deviations from the expected count noted. Then the book should be compared against a known complete copy, or with a comprehensive bibliography. At this point, the book seller’s description should note how, if at all, the copy at hand is different from a complete copy.



COLOPHON In the fifteenth century, books were originally published without title pages (and the corresponding Copyright Page) The printer indicated his production of the book on the “colophon” typically inserted at the rear of the book. Information contained in these early colophons might include the date the printing was completed, the name of the book, the printer, the printer’s “device”, and often a “register,” or a list of the signatures from which the book was made-up (sometimes the colophon 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).

CONTEMPORARY (or CONTEMPORANEOUS) BINDING: A binding that was placed on the book at the time of publication or within a few years of publication. Up until the 19th century (and continuing much later in some countries, like France), most books were published unbound, in plain paper covers or boards, and the purchaser would have the book bound to his taste by his bookbinder (often these bindings were designed to match other books in his library.)

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 after having been exposed to water.



Deckle Edge

Deckle Edge

DECKLE EDGE A “deckle edge” is left on hand-made paper when the pulp settles at the edge of the frame. When a the pages of a book are printed on such hand-made paper, gathered and bound, but left untrimmed, the book is said to have “deckled edges.” Sometimes it is simulated by binders on regular paper.


DEC Decorated.







DENTELLE A border with a lacy pattern stamped by the binder, usually gilt. In modern fine bindings, dentelles are most often seen on the leather turn-ins on the inside of a book’s cover.

DESIDERATA A listing of books desired.

DEVICE The printer’s device is a design used as a printer’s logo. Classic examples include the “Aldine’s Anchor and Dolphin,” the “Estiennes’ Tree of Knowledge,” or the “Elzeviers’ Globe.”

DIMPLE A small indentation on covers or pages which is usually deliberately created by publishers.

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 (the binding is typically no longer present).

DOG-EARED Worn or ragged, usually referring to the edges of pages. Corners of pages are turned down like a dog’s ear, often to mark one’s place while reading.

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 and original art work designed specifically for the particular book. Jackets are often collectible and highly-desired in their own right and a book published with a jacket that no longer has one can, from a collector’s viewpoint especially, be considered “incomplete.”

ED An abbreviation for 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. Second or subsequent editions usually involve the entire resetting of type.

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, and should be considered a defect.

EPHEMERA Printed material of passing interest in every day life (e.g.: advertising, ticket stubs, photos, postcards, programs, some booklets and pamphlets, etc.). Of interest to collectors because they are often the only record of many quotidian events.

ERRATA A list of errors and their corrections or additions to the printing, found after a book has been printed, usually on a separate sheet or slip of paper. The plural of erratum. If a particular copy of a book lacks an errata slip when one is known to have been issued, that copy should be considered incomplete. (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 in very worn condition, but all of its important parts and dust jacket (if one was issued) 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 collectability of the first printing of the first edition was established in the early days of printing, when the 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/paper covers which are flexible.

FLY-LEAVES (FL) Plain (blank) papers at front and rear of book after endpapers.

FOOT The bottom edge of the text block.

Marbled Foredges

Marbled Foredges

FORE-EDGE The right edge of the text block, opposite the spine.

FORE-EDGE PAINTING With a fore-edge painting the illustration is executed in the small margin just inside the edge. After the painting has been completed, many of these books have gilt applied to the edge. When the pages of a book thus prepared are fanned, the painting becomes visible. 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 Brown spots thought to be caused by impurities in paper (e.g.: acid, exposure to humidity, etc.). Foxing is more likely to be encountered in older books.

FREE ENDPAPER (FFEP: Front Free Endpaper; RFEP: Rear Free Endpaper) Front and rear blank pages added by the binder.

FRONTISPIECE (Frontis) Usually, the illustration facing title page (in rare cases the illustration could be elsewhere near the front of the book and not necessarily opposite the 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. 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 paper or cloth. This in contrast to a book “Quarter Bound,” which has a spine covered in one material, and the boards covered in another material, with the corners covered in the same material as the boards. See Quarter Bound.

HALF-TITLE (Fly Title) The page, preceding the title page proper, normally listing only the title of the book and no other information. While usually present in modern books, it is sometimes lacking in older publications because it was originally designed to be removed before custom binding.

Half Tone Image

Half Tone Image

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.

HC Hardcover.

HEAD Top edge of the text block.

Head band

Head band

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.

ILAB International League of Antiquarian Booksellers. An international trade association that includes 20 national antiquarian booksellers trade associations representing 30 countries.

IL, ILLUS Illustrated.

IMPRESSION All the copies of a book printed during one press run.

INCUNABULA Books printed between Gutenberg’s invention of moveable type and 1500, coined from the Latin word cunae, meaning “cradle”.

INSCRIBED When an author or someone associated with the book signs and handwrites a dedication, etc. Example: “To my beloved Elizabeth, John Steinbeck.”

IOBA Independent Online Booksellers Association.The Independent Online Booksellers Association. An international trade association founded in 1999 and committed to high ethical standards for online booksellers.

ISBN  International Standard Book Number. A unique numeric commercial book identifier administered by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) under international standard ISO 2108. 159 countries and territories adhere to this international standard. Though usually accurate, 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 Neither bound-in or glued down. May include paper, photograph, or print supplied by the publisher (example, an errata slip laid-in) or supplied by a previous owner.

LAID ON See Tipped In.

LAMINATE The thin plastic layer covering the dust jacket of some books.

LIMITED EDITION is produced in a stated number of copies. Typically, a given title is produced only in a small number of copies. Books are usually numbered such as “100/500″ meaning number 100 of an edition of 500.

LITHO Lithograph. Lithography is a method for printing using a stone or a metal plate with a completely smooth surface. It can be used to print text or artwork onto paper or other suitable material.

LOOSE When a book has been read carelessly or too often, and has become loose and sloppy in its binding.

LTD ED See: Limited Edition.

MANUSCRIPT Written by hand.

Marbled Paper

Marbled Paper

MARBLING A process of decorating paper, in which the result resembles the veins of stone marble. Used in the West since the early seventeenth century.

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. Also called by binders, super or crash.

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, but now offers public access at

Open Tear

Open Tear

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 in a book by a 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, usually heavy-weight paper (though 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

Pastedown Endpaper

PASTEDOWN 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.

p. or pp.  abbreviations for Page and Pages.

PPD Postpaid.

PR Printing.

PRESENTATION COPY A book inscribed by the author to someone else (usually of importance to the author, the book, or society in general).

Price Clipped

Price Clipped

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.: auction 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.

PUB Published/publisher.

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). See Half Binding.

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 otherwise it might be described as a Binding Copy.

READING CREASE A crease down the spine of a book (usually a paperback).

REBACKED A repair to a book, where the original spine has been replaced. If the original spine or backstrip can be salvaged, it might be glued down on the new spine. The result of the latter is found in bookseller’s catalogs thus: “Rebacked, with the original spine laid down (or laid on).” Can be considered a defect, i.e., there is original material that has been lost. However, an expertly repaired volume it adds more value than the book in its unrepaired condition.

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. The other side of the recto is the Verso.

REMAINDER A new book returned to the publisher as unsold.

Remainder Mark

Remainder Mark

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.

RET Returnable.

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. It is also used to indicate rubbed cloth covering the boards to the point where the material of which the boards are made is showing through.

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.

Slip Case

Slip Case

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.). In the trade, an “honest” book description should disclose all “sophistications.” In other words, if a bookseller has commissioned repairs of a book, all such repairs should be disclosed to prospective buyers in the description. It is possible for “sophistications” to have been executed on a book long before a given bookseller has bought a particular copy. Whether or not the bookseller was responsible for any such sophistication, not disclosing such repairs in a description are valid grounds for a buyer to return the copy to the seller.

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 tearing, 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

Sticker Damage

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. Also, sticker residue.

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 At the front of a book (usually the first or second page), containing such important information as the author, title, and typically, the city where the book was published, the publisher, and date.

TLS Typed letter signed.



TOOLING The decoration of leather bindings.










Top Stain

Top Stain

TOP STAIN The publisher’s decorative colored stain, applied to the top edge of the pages.

TP Title Page.

TRADE PAPERBACK A large sized paperbound book; not a mass-market paperback.

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.

Proof Copy

Proof Copy

UNCUT Edges that are roughly 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 skin of a calf which is not tanned but de-greased 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.

VERY GOOD (VG) A book that is in “Very Good” condition may have very light wear to itself, and/or its jacket; it has no large tears, or any major defects. One of the most often used terms. Also see our page of descriptive terms

W/O Without.



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 not a cause for return. Synonym for “sold as-is”.

WATERMARK A faint identifying design, usually in quality paper.  from Carter: “A distinguishing mark or device incorporated in the wire mesh of the tray in which the pulp settle during the process of papermaking, and visible in the finished product when held against the light.”





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.

YAPPED – binding featuring a cover that overlaps the three edges of both upper and lower covers continuously. The covers are always limp or semi-flexible, and are sometimes fitted with a zipper.

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