Glossary of Terms

Parts of the Book

The covers (usually cardboard) of a book with a final cover of paper.

The page that normally appears on verso of the title page containing the artistic property protection.

The pages which hold the text block and case together.

Front and rear blank pages added by the binder.

The right edge of the textblock opposite the spine.

The bottom edge of the textblock.

Inner margins of two facing pages. Can also refer to the outer indentation that is created by the joining of the boards and spine.

The page preceding the title page proper normally listing only the title of the book. Though usually present in modern books, it is sometimes lacking in older publications because it was originally designed to be removed before custom binding.

The backbone of the book where the title is displayed when it is standing upright on a shelf.

The top of the textblock, sometimes stained with color.

Colored edges of top pages.


Trade paperback versions of books released to book industry insiders prior to the actual official release date for marketing purposes. Generally printed with generic, text-only covers.

Small, inexpensive books produced from the 17th century until today, originally sold by "chapmen", peddlers, and hawkers.

The separate paper covering for a book. Originally intended for protection, these have become an important part of modern books, often including information about a book not found elsewhere. The well preserved dustjacket itself represents 70 to 80% of the total value of an important work of first edition fiction.

A softcover book with front and back paper flaps.

A proof of a book made before the pages are numbered.

A book which has had its spine covered in leather and the rest of the front and rear boards covered in another material such as boards or cloth.

A hardcover book which may or may not have a dustjacket.

A book bound in leather, rather than cloth or paperboards. Usually does not have a dustjacket.

A book bound in a material consisting of leather powder mixed with a bonding agent and impregnated into a fabric then dyed and stamped with a leather-like grain.

Boards covered in paper, cloth, or leather, which houses a book, leaving only its spine exposed.

A book which has had its spine and corners bound in leather

Trade Paperbacks similar to Advanced Reading Copies, but not released specifically for marketing purposes.

A book bound with flexible paper covers.

Condition (From the IOBA)

NB: Ratings apply to condition of book and jacket. A book is generally appraised with two grades, often separated with a slash, such as FINE/FINE. All grades may also be noted with a (+) or (-) if condition nears another grade.

Without faults or defects, unread, in the same immaculate condition in which it was published. Very few "new" books qualify for this grade, as many times there will be rubs/scuffs to the dustjackets from shipping, or bumped lower spine ends/corners from shelving.

Approaches the above, but not crisp. May show signs of having been carefully read, but no real defects or faults.

A book or dustjacket approaching Fine but with a couple of very minor defects or faults, which should be noted.

Very light wear to book, and/or jacket; no large tears, or major defects.

The average used and worn book that has all pages or leaves present.

A book that is sufficiently worn that its only merit is the complete text, which must be legible. May be soiled, scuffed, stained, or spotted, and may have loose joints, hinges, pages, and so forth.

The dust jacket has library markings (the book was at one time the property of a lending library) but is in otherwise good condition.


Signed with a name only, with no other text included. The most desirable form of autograph.

A book inscribed by its author to a famous person or owned by someone of interest. Strong associations may increase the value and collectibility of a book.

A sticker, sometimes decorative or personalized, which is pasted onto book.

Signed and dedicated to an individual by the author or someone associated with the book, but with more wording than simply a signature.

Signed card/photograph/letter is laid in (not glued down).

Autograph on paper affixed into the gutter of a book. Limitation pages of limited editions are often tipped-in.

Editions, Printings, Volumes

Editions published by book clubs such as The Book-of-the-Month Club, Fireside Book Club, History Book Club, The Literary Guild, and so forth.

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. Many printings may be part of a single edition.

An exact reproduction of an original book. Often produced on a book’s anniversary.

In book collecting practice this refers to the earliest issue of the first printing of the first edition. In the publishing industry, any issue of the book without significant content change.

The first time that the book appears in a particular form, which may mean the first appearance under a new title, or the first appearance with a new introduction, or frequently the first with a particular set of illustrations. Not a true First Edition.

Book restricted to a comparatively small number of copies, usually numbered and often signed by the author and/or illustrator.

A group of books produced from a single run of the printing press. Actually, though the press may be stopped and re-started, the term still applies if the plates are not removed from the press. Subgroups within a printing are sometimes further distinguished by state or issue.

Variations within an edition, which are made prior to publication, including alterations due to stop-press insertions, damaged type, etc.; the addition of errata leaves or advertisements; textual changes affecting page lay-out; some special-paper copies.
For example, a small number of copies of J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone were printed with the author’s full name (Joanne) on the copyright page. After the first run of 500 copies, her name was shortened to J.K. and the second state of the first printing of the first edition resulted.

The first appearance anywhere in hardcover from a publisher made available to the public. Normally, first US and first UK editions are available, but the true first is the one published in country where the book was first released.

Bookselling terms

A paragraph printed on the cover or dust jacket of a book in which the book or author is commented upon.

The discoloration of book paper by poor storage and age.

Damage usually to the corners or spine ends of a book because of carelessly handling or shelving.

Small flakes or tears to the edge(s) of a dust jacket, pages or spine of a book.

A tear with no material missing. Closed tears may be undetectable by the naked eye.

A pattern of spotting or speckling on paper or sometimes cloth, usually brown or yellowish brown in tone and often more or less circular in shape.

Page edges cut smooth and covered with a thin layer of gold leaf.

Transparent paper sometimes used as a dustjacket to protect a book.

A change, textual or otherwise, made after the book has been published. For example, the first issue dustjacket of García Márquez’s One Hundred Years of Solitude contains an exclamation point at the end of the first sentence on the flap not found in later printings.

A defect in which the covers of a book no longer line up squarely when the book is laid flat.

A process of decorating paper in which the result resembles the veins of stone marble.

A tear that may have some material missing.

Words written by previous owner of book.

The price on the inner flap of a dust jacket has been cut off. Very common in the UK.

Evidence of the history of the ownership of a particular book such as auction records, booksellers' records, book plates, and so forth. Provenance is most important for establishing the authenticity of autographed books.

A book without a dustjacket.

Hinges or joints beginning to show signs of becoming loose, either through wear or defective binding.

The discoloration of a book's binding or dust jacket, usually the spine or edges, by light.

The mild discoloration of book paper due to poor storage and age. Not as severe as browning.