formerly the Archives and Collections Society  

Bibliographic terminology

Book Condition:

Fine - A book which closer examination reveals to be secondhand, but which on first sight looks new. Approaches the condition of "As New", but without quite the same crispness. A Fine book must have no defects, etc., and if the jacket has a small tear, or other defect, or looks worn, this should be noted.

Very Good, vg - A clean book with a tight binding with clean pages, but which may show some small signs of wear - but no tears - on either binding or paper. Any other flaws or defects, such as inscriptions, damage to endpapers, bookplates, foxing or corner nudging must be listed separately. The main criteria for this are cleanness and integrity of binding.

Good, g - This is the average used worn book that has all pages or leaves present - an integral book with a binding that may be (though is not necessarily) slightly loose. The binding may be marked or dirty and the corners bumped. It may have minor cracking on hinges, marked page edges, foxing, or other flaws. Details should be noted in the description.

Fair, f - Worn book that has complete text pages (including any maps or plates) but may lack endpapers, half title page, etc. Binding, dust jacket (if any), etc., may also be damaged or worn, but all defects must be noted.

Poor - losing integrity, with severe blemishes, possibly a dirty binding and pages that may be marked, heavily foxed or untidy.

Reading copy - integrity lost, loose pages, missing boards - however, all the text must be present, and any missing elements other than the text must be noted.

NB: If a slash "/" is used as in Good/Fair, the first term applies to the book, the second to the dustjacket. Intermediate terms may be used, as in: "good to very good", which denotes a book somewhere between these two definitions, or as in "Fair+, f+" denoting a book that is better than "fair" but does not quite meet our standards for "good". Important: we tend to understimate our surplus books so that an eventual buyer will not be disappointed.

Abbreviations and other terms:

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 denotating a collection of sayings, anecdotes, or other material regarding a person or subject, e.g. canadiana
arc - advanced reading copy.
bc, bce - book club, book club edition
bd - bound
bdg - binding
bds - boards: stiff paperboard usually covered with cloth, leather or paper (early "publishers' boards" were always inexpensively paper covered as purchasers were expected to rebind in leather. Cloth beame common in the mid C19th.
blind tooling - the cutting of a pattern onto leather
bomc - book of the month club
cloth - cloth covered boards of a book that most probably was published without a dustjacket
dec boards - boards decorated with gilt or differing colored text or images, often impressed
dj - dustjacket
edges - the three outer edges of the leaves - top, fore-edge and tail
end paper - often of coated stock, marbled or otherwise decorated paper, one half pasted to the board to give a finished appearance to the binding
ex lib, ex-lib - (from a library) has reference numbers on spine, card pockets and/or stamped inscriptions
fep - front endpaper, rep - rear end paper
foxing - the brown spots of discoloration caused to old woodpulp paper
gilt edges (occasionally and incorrectly gilt casing) - page edges have been trimmed smooth and gilt, or gold, has been applied. The abbreviation ge means gilt edges; aeg means all edges gilt; gt means gilt top; teg means top edge gilt.
gilt tooling - tooled leather with gilt inlay
half leather (calf, etc) - spine and corners of boards covered with leather, calf etc
htp, half title page - page preceding the title page, with the (abbreviated) title often centered on the page
inscr - inscription, inscribed; author's signature to a specific person
mylar - used generically for any transparent covering to protect the dustjacket or boards
n.k. - not known
n.d. - not dated
pb - paperback, normal size (7 inch / 17-18 cm) softcover book
quarter leather (calf, etc) - spine only covered with leather, calf etc
signed - author's signature, not dedicated to a specific person - see 'inscr'
tp - title page
tpb - trade paperback, larger, normally better quality, softcover book
uncut - page edges not cut or guillotined to a smooth finish
unopened - signatures have never been cut (as opposed to "uncut"), retain the folds of the original gathering and cannot be read without opening the pages with a knife.

Sizes of books:

64mo - up to 3 inches tall
48mo - over 3 inches to 4 inches tall
32mo - over 4 inches to 5 inches tall
24mo - over 5 to 5 3/4 tall
16mo, Sextodecimo - over 5 3/4 to 6 3/4 inches tall
12mo, Duodecimo - over 6 3/4 to 7 3/4 inches tall
8vo, Octavo - over 7 3/4 to 9 3/4 inches tall
4to, Quarto - 9 3/4 to 12 inches tall
Folio - over 12 to 15 inches tall
Elephant Folio - over 15 to 23 inches tall
Atlas Folio - over 23 to 25 inches tall
Double Elephant - 25 to 50 inches tall

 

Revised: 3 November 2012