Book Terms - A Glossary for Antique Books

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It is essential to know your field when collecting and collecting books is no different.


By knowing the correct terms you can successfully buy or sell books accurately.


Below is a list of all of the terms that are relevant to book-collecting with a simple definition for each.



Annual - A book published yearly eg Guinness World Record

Autographed - A book that has a signature by the author



Blind stamp - An impressed decoration usually printed on the book cover in gold


Boards - The covers of the book


Book plate - a sticker with details of the owner, the date and often how the book came into their hands eg. School prize


Browning - When the pages of a book uniformly turn brown - often due to tobacco staining or poor quality paper



Calf - A type of fine binding using calf'leather


Chromolithograph - See Lithograph


Cloth binding - A common binding where the covers are linen, cloth etc


Collated - Generally only needed for especially rare or old books, this means that all pages have been checked and are present


Copyright page - The details of the book can be found on this page, usually after the title page. Includes serial number, publication date and edition and is generally found on post 1930 books and certainly on post 1970 books.



Deluxe - A special edition of a book using higher quality paper, often with illustrations and gilt. Arthur Rackham's Deluxe editions are especially well-known.


Disbound - The entire text block is separate from the covers.


Dog-earing - When the edges of pages show creasing and small tears - often occurs on loose pages where the edges can catch.


Dust-jacket - The paper covering used to protect a book.



End-paper - The rear page attached to the inside cover, sometimes illustrated or marbled


Engraving - An illustration created from a metal or wooden block.


Ex-Libris - Ex-library; will have stamps, stickers and could be re-bound by library. Often only reading copy quality.



Facsimile - An exact replica of an original edition.


FFEP - The first page of the book


Fiction - The topic of the book deals with imaginary and unreal topics


Fine binding - Often involving leather binding, this is a higher quality binding than normal and may feature gilt and marbling


First edition - The very first form that the book was printed in - highly collectible


Fold-Out plate - An illustration that folds out from the book


Fore-edge - The longest visible side of the the text block


Foxing - Small brown dots and marks that appear due to age/ damp


Frontispiece - The page opposite the title page, often an illustration


Front-Paper - The front page attached to the inside cover, sometimes illustrated or marbled



Gilt/ Gilding - The use of gold to decorate the page edges or covers



Half-title - The page before the title page that carries the book's title



Illuminated - Elaborately designed text - often with colour and gilt


Illustration - An image, drawing etc


Impression - Denotes how far in the book's print history the edition is


Inscription - A written note often with a name, year and signature



Juvenile - A child's book



Leather-bound - Leather is used in the binding (spine etc)


Limited edition - A rare edition printed in a limited run. Sometimes numbered and signed by the author


Lithograph - A type of illustration



Marbled - A pretty effect involving swirling, colourful patterns found on the book's cover, page edges and front-papers

Moroccan binding - A rare and valuable type of leather binding



Non-Fiction - A book dealing with real-life topics



Paginated - The pages are numbered


Panoramic plate - See fold-out plate


Pictorial cover - A highly decorative cover, popularized in late Victorian times


Plate - An illustration, generally on higher quality paper


Presentation plate - See Book plate


Presentation copy - A copy given by the author or publisher, sometimes with an autograph or blind-stamp


Price-clipped - The method or cutting a corner from the dust jacket to remove the price.


Proof - A copy of a book that is released before the official copy for review purposes


Provenance - Having background information regarding the book to prove it's age/ originality// rarity including signed letters etc



Reading copy - A copy in acceptable condition but complete, generally only worth keeping if the book is rare


Rebound - Where the covers have been replaced with modern binding


Rough-cut - Where the pages of a book are left uneven, rustic. A period feature.



Shaken - The binding is loose with some weakness to the spine.


Shelf-wear - Where a book has only light wear, directly from the reading and moving of the book between shelves


Signed - See autograph


Slipcase - Folio Society and other deluxe editions of book may come with a hard slipcase that protects the book better than a dust-jacket


Spotting - See foxing


Sunned - The covers, spine and pages are bleached to a lighter, faded colour



Text block - The entirety of the pages


Title page - Opposite the frontispeice, this is the book's most important page and can tell you the title, author, publisher and sometimes year of publication.



Unpaginated - The pages are un-numbered



Vellum - A white form of leather binding, using animal skin. Used in deluxe books.



Water-stained - Where a book has water damage - may affect the cover and pages inside although often only a small section of the pages.

Woodblock - A technique of illustration by which pages are printed directly from an engraved wooden block.



Yellow-back - A cheap paperback from the mid to late Victorian era, often with highly decorative covers - the equivalent of a modern-day Airport novel.



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