Antiquarian Book Terminology and
If you want to be an antiquarian, you need to speak the
language. Herewith, we offer a list of the most frequently encountered terms and abbreviations
found in book collecting,
followed by a word about book sizes:
- Advance Review Copy - A
complimentary advance copy of a new book often sent to reviewers, usually
a soft cover.
- aeg - all edges
gilt. See also teg. Interestingly, this wasn't just
for show - Gilding the edges of pages retarded browning - clever, eh?
- Annotated - Includes critical
and explanatory notes.
- Antiquarian - Old and/or rare
books, or a dealer of same.
- Antique Book -
not an accepted term, and one which no book collector or
bookseller should ever allow to pass his or her lips. It is a phrase
both jarring and meaningless, and you will do a great service to mankind
if you will immediately make a point of correcting any unfortunate soul
who uses it.
- Appendix - The additional or
supplementary material usually found at the end of a
- Author Copies - Complimentary
copies of the first edition of a book given to the author by the
- Backbone - A book's backstrap, backstrip or
- Bar Code - The common term
for Universal Product Code.
- Boards - The stiff front and
rear panels of a hardcover
- BOMC - Book of the
Month Club edition.
- Book Club Edition -
As a general rule, book club editions are less desirable than regular
- Bound Galley - An uncorrected
galley proof distributed by the publisher before publication.
- Casebound- A hardcover book.
- Chipped - A dust jacket that
has small pieces chipped away at the edges.
- Clothbound - A book with
cloth covering the boards.
- Colophon - Information about
the book's publication printed at the end of the
- Deaccessioning - Selling or
disposing of books from a collection. Librarians use the simpler
and more descriptive term "weeding."
- Dust Cover - See dust jacket.
- Dust Jacket - The paper
covering the boards of a
- Dust Wrapper - See dust
- Edition - All the copies of
the book made from a specific set of type.
- Embossing - A process which
produces decorations raised above the surface (typically of printable
- Endpaper - There are two
sorts of endpapers. The folded sheet of paper pasted to the inside
of the front or back cover is known as a paste-down endpaper or, less
formally, a paste-down. The first and last free pages of a book,
usually blank, are known as free endpapers.
- Ex Library
(ex-lib) - A book with library markings on it.
Generally less desirable.
- Facsimile - An exact
reproduction of an original book depicting the original text and the
book's physical appearance.
- First, First Edition - The
first printing of the book from a collectors
- First American, First US
- First edition printed in the United States of America.
Generally, this term is used when a book has been printed first elsewhere,
e.g., the United
- Flyleaf - Unprinted pages at
the front or rear of a book.
- Fore edge - The front of a
book -- the spine is the back of a book.
- Foxed - Discolorations,
usually with reddish-brown spots on the pages of a
- Frontispiece - Illustration
which faces the title page.
- Galley - A proof copy of a
book -- generally without page numbers.
- Gutter - White space between
- Headband - A decorative strip
added to the top or bottom of a book's spine.
- I.P. - In print.
- Impression - The number of
books printed during a press run, or the run itself. A first impression is
a first edition.
- Imprint - The publisher's
and/or printer's note usually found at the bottom of the title page giving
place, date and publication information.
- Limited Edition - A print run
limited to a specific number. Often inscribed with the author's signature
and a sequence number.
- O.P., OOP -
Out of print.
- QPBC - Quality
Paperback Book Club.
- Shaken - A very loose
- Softcover -
generally, a paperback.
- Stacked - A book with a
- teg - top edge
(Note: AB Bookman's Terms for Describing Condition
also repay study.)
One of the methods of describing a book is, of course, to note its
size. Books are made by folding printed sheets. Generally speaking,
the more folds, the more printed pages to a sheet, and the smaller the
|Number of Folds
||Size of Book
If the sheet of paper being printed on were the same size in all of the cases
above, then the Folio would be the largest book and the Tricesimo-secundo would
be the smallest book.
Of course, none of this tells us what size the book actually is. To
make matters worse, there are differing British and American standards.
And there are numerous sub-categories. For octavo, as an example,
we have (in size order, smaller to larger) the Pott Octavo, Foolscap Octavo,
Crown Octavo, Large Post Octavo, Demy Octavo, Medium Octavo, Royal Octavo, Super
Royal Octavo and Imperial Octavo, the smallest of these being approximately 6¼
inches x 4 inches, and the largest 11 inches x 7½ inches.
For ease of purpose, if you wish to describe a book, you can also give it's
specific dimensions as width by height. For example, a standard sheet of
paper is 8½ inches x 11 inches. Or you can specify which dimension is
which, as "approximately 6 inches high x 4 inches wide."
Of Related Interest