Books Best Used: A Useful Guide to Book-buying terms

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Books Best Used
A Useful Guide to Book-buying terms

The world of book buying and selling used to be a very closed world enjoyed by academics, aficionados and the assiduous.

eBay has changed all that and opened up that fusty world to all, probably to the  chagrin of many an old-style bookseller.

If you are new to the world of book-buying you will be coming across a lot of words and phrases that you do not understand. Here's a quick guide to some of the more common ones.

Association copy
A book which belonged to someone famous, recognisable because of a signature or bookplate.

Book Club Associates, a publishing imprint that produces new editions of popular books. These are usually worth less than the original publication. Book Club Editions would include new editions by, for example, the Science Fiction Book Club, the Cookery Book Club or in more recent times Quality Paperbacks Direct [QPD]

Design stamped by the binder's tools on binding that will not be inked or gilded.

U.N.E.S.C.O. define a book as being 'a non-periodical literary publication containing 49 or more pages, not counting the covers'.

Book jacket/Dust jacket/Dust wrapper
A protective cover for the book's binding that is commissioned and supplied by a book's publisher. Dust jackets themselves are becoming more collectable. In the earlier part of the nineteenth century book jackets were often thrown away by librarians and collectors, as a consequence because of scarcity their value to collectors of modern first editions is very high. A collectable book can easily double its value if it sports a rare dust jacket in fine condition.

In publications printed before 1600, the colophon refers to the IMPRINT of a book when it appears on the title page; in modern times to the design or trademark of the publisher.

All the copies of a book printed without alteration of text or type-setting. When the same type or plates are reprinted., the later copies are of the same edition, but of a new impression.

The four pages at the beginning and end of the book. These are included to give additional strength. The first and last pages are pasted to the boards. I refer to these as the 'pastedowns'

Ex-Library, ex-libris
Book that has been withdrawn [or stolen] from a library and sold on.

Chemical action in the paper resulting in brown spots and discoloration. This can be treated. "Browning", also used, involves discoloration of larger areas.

A full page illustration tipped in to face the title page.

Dirty, odorous book that must be possessed because of buyer's lust for it's contents

Original cloth/boards
Still in the binding in which the book was published.

Presentation Copy
Usually a copy given to a friend or acquaintance of the author. It will usually be signed and perhaps have a further dedication.

The page on the right-hand side. The reverse is the VERSO.

Open board case, usually supplied by the original publisher, to protect the book and its jacket.

The back of the book. The part of the binding that most often has blocked on it the author's name, the title of the book, and the publisher's name at the foot. It is also the part that becomes detached most easily with over-use or brittle with old age and is the Achilles' heel of a book in good condition.

Top edge gilt. Where the top [head] of the book is trimmed smooth and then covered with very thin gold foil by the binder.

When the pages of a book are still in their folded origin and have to be cut open. Also known as UNOPENED.

The page on the left-hand side. The reverse is the RECTO.

A distinguishing mark or device impressed in a sheet of paper during manufacture, usually barely noticeable unless the sheet is held against strong light.

Block books where each page is printed from a single engraved block of wood.

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