Quarto (4to) - More than 9 3⁄4", up to 12" tall. We will often describe a book at the lower end of this range as "small quarto," one at the upper end as a "large quarto."
Octavo (8vo) - More than 7 3⁄4", up to 9 3⁄4" tall. We will usually describe a book at the lower end of this range as an octavo, one at the upper end as a "large octavo." This is the most common size for hard cover books.
12mo - More than 6 3⁄4", up to 7 3⁄4" tall.
16mo - More than 5 3⁄4", up to 6 3⁄4" tall.
24mo - More than 5", up to 5 3⁄4" tall.
32mo - More than 4", up to 5" tall.
48mo - More than 3", up to 4" tall.
64mo - Up to 3" tall.
Folio - More than 12", up to 15" tall.
Elephant Folio - More than 15", up to 23" tall.
Atlas Folio - More than 23", up to 25" tall.
Double Elephant Folio - More than 25", up to 50" tall.
Note: in all grades, except Fair, Reading Copy and Poor, any defects will be noted within description.
New (As New, Mint, Fine) - A perfect copy, as published.
Near Fine (NF) - An excellent copy, fresh, clean and square. Dust jacket, if present, is crisp and bright, with little (if any) sign of wear. A tight book that may have been read once, carefully, or an unread copy that is no longer quite new.
Very Good (VG) - A nice copy that shows minor signs of wear but is in better than average condition. Dust jacket, if present, will be undamaged and reasonably fresh.
Good (G) - An average copy, noticeably worn but clean, solid and free of major defects. Dust jacket, if present, may have a few minor closed edge tears but is otherwise intact.
Fair - A heavily worn book, with all pages present, that has a number of defects. We will describe major flaws on Fair books, but not minor ones - one should assume that minor faults are present.
Reading Copy - Generally, either a Fair copy, or an otherwise Good or better copy with a major fault. A solid book, complete with all pages bound in (unless noted), but fit only for reading or reference.
Poor - A badly hurt book, with major faults. Normally, only the most serious faults will be described.
Backstrip - The covering on a book's spine.
Binding - The cover of the book.
Boards - The stiff binding material used for most modern hard cover books.
Book Club (BC, BCE, BOMC) - An edition made specifically for a book club. Book Club editions are usually produced with cheaper materials and may be in a smaller format than normal editions.
Bookplate - A relatively large, usually pictorial label identifying a book's owner.
Brodart - Manufacturer of high-quality clear plastic sleeves, of the sort used on library books. We enclose all dust jackets in Brodart covers (without tape or glue, of course!) to keep them nice and to enhance their appearance.
Chipped - A dust jacket with small pieces missing from the edge is said to be chipped.
Circa (ca.) - Approximately. Usually used in describing a book that contains no date of publication, e.g., nd (ca. 1960).
Cloth - The usual textile covering of a hard-bound book.
Cocked Spine - A twisting of the spine so that the boards do not line up evenly with each other.
Covers - The binding of the book, especially the front and rear boards.
Ding -A tiny bump or chip on a book's cover.
Dust Jacket -The protective paper covering or wrapper, usually decorative, of a book.
Edges -The outer surfaces of the pages of a book.
Edition -All of the copies printed from a specific plate or typesetting.
Editor (ed.) -A person who prepares a text for publication, either by gathering materials written by others, by overseeing the work or the writer, by amending the text to improve readability, or, very often, performing a combination of these tasks.
End papers (ep) -The sheets of paper that are glued to the inner cover and attach to the book itself.
Ephemera -Describes a wide variety of short-lived publications, such as pamphlets, programs, menus, advertising fliers, etc.
Errata -errors or mistakes. Usually appears as "errata slip," a small sheet of paper, laid or bound in, on which the publisher notes errors in the text discovered prior to publication.
Ex-library (x-lib) -A book that was once in a library. Typically, such copies have various handstamps, labels, card pocket, etc. If dust jacket is present, it will usually be enclosed in a clear plastic sleeve, glued or taped to the end papers, or taped to the book itself.
Fep -Front end paper. The end paper that is attached to the cover. We usually refer to inside cover of a paperback as the fep in our short grades, simply because the field in our dB is limited, and not all of the on-line venues through which we sell pick up the text in the actual description field.
Ffep -Front free end paper. The end paper that is not attached to the cover, typically the page before the half-title page. We usually refer to the first page of a paperback as the ffep in our short grades, simply because the field in our dB is limited, and Amazon does not pick up the text in the actual description field.
First Edition -The first appearance of a book, in its first printing. Thus a hard cover book described as a First Edition is the First Edition, first printing. Later printings are identified specifically, not as First Editions.
First Thus -A first printing in the form offered, but not the first edition of the book.
First Trade Edition -The first edition published for general release. Many modern novels are first published in deluxe, limited editions, often signed and usually expensive, being followed by standard printings for the public.
Foxing -Brown spotting caused by a chemical reaction in the paper. Commonly encountered in books printed before 1900 and in 20th century books printed on enamel surfaced paper.
Frontispiece (frontis) -An illustration at the beginning of a book, usually facing the title page.
Front matter -The first pages of a book, preceding the main text. Typically, in order, these will be the front free end paper, half-title (or bastard title or fly title) page, frontispiece, title page, copyright page, dedication, preface or forward, table of contents, list of illustrations, introduction, acknowledgments.
Gilt edges -Pages have a gilt (gold) application.
Glassine -A thin, fragile translucent paper, sometimes used as a dust wrapper.
Half Cloth -Paper-cover boards with the spine bound in cloth.
Half Leather -A binding where the spine and corners are covered in leather, while the rest of the binding is cloth or paper.
Half title -The page carrying only the title, usually preceding the title page.
Hinge -The joint at the front or back of the book. This is a sensitive point of wear, and a book may be described as "starting at front/rear hinge," when the end paper has cracked or separated at this position.
Laid In -An item that is inserted into a book, but not bound in. This may be a collateral item of interest that is not part of the book itself.
Large Print -An edition in large type, for the visually impaired.
Leaf -A single sheet in a book, usually bearing two pages, printed back-to-back on the leaf.
Limited Edition -A printing deliberately restricted to a small number of copies. Often, limited editions are numbered and signed by the author.
Marbled -Paper decorated with an imitation marble pattern. Most often seen in the end papers or paper-covered boards of 19th century books.
Mylar -A chemically inert plastic used for archival storage. Many booksellers refer to regular plastic covers (see Brodart) as mylar, a misnomer.
No Date (nd) -No date of publication appears in the book.
Number (No.) -An issue of a periodical.
Out of Print -A book no longer being published.
Pamphlet -A small work in paper wraps.
Paperbacks -A book with a soft paper cover. Mass Market Paperbacks are typically about 4 1⁄4" by 7", while Trade Paperbacks are any paperbacks that are larger in size. We usually describe soft-cover books as Mass Market Paperbacks, Trade Paperbacks (up to approx. 5 1⁄2" x 8" or Soft Cover (with specific book size -octavo, quarto, etc.) to make descriptions clearer.Paperback Grading -Any faults or markings are specifically described, except for Reading Copies, which are faulty by definition. Roughly, our NF grade corresponds with the "A" grade used by many paperback booksellers, our "VG" with "B" and our "G" with "C."
Near Fine (NF) -virtually new, a square, tight copy with no creases, markings, etc.
Very Good (VG) -a copy in nice condition, with only minor wear. It may have light reading creases on the spine but is a clean, bright book.
Good (G) -An acceptable copy but worn, with moderate cover creases and edge wear.
Reading Copy -A heavily worn but complete copy, suitable only for reading.
Reading Crease - Crease line breaking the colored surface of a paperback book. Reading creases are the norm for books in very good or lesser condition.
Perfect Binding -A form of binding wherein the inner page edges are glued together, then glued to the paper cover. Used for soft-bound books and magazines that are too thick for saddle-stitched (stapled) binding.
Pictorial -Describes an illustrated cover.
Pirated (Pirate) Edition -An edition produced without the permission of the author or publisher. Commonly produced in the Far East.
Plates -Whole-page illustrations bound into a book. Illustrations within the text are called cuts.
Preface -The author's introductory statement.
Price Clipped -Indicates that the corner of the fly-leaf bearing the price has been removed.
Quarter Leather -A book with a leather spine, with the boards themselves being cloth or paper covered.
Reading Copy -A well-worn book with minor or major faults (but complete, with no loose pages) not nice enough to be collectible but suitable simply for reading or reference.
Re-backed -A book that has been repaired with a new spine and hinges.
Rebound -A book whose cover has been replaced. This is most common when the original cover has become too worn to function as a suitable holder of the pages or when libraries have bound soft cover books into hard-cover bindings for greater durability in use.
Remainder -A book that a publisher has sold to the trade at a discount price. Remaindered books are usually marked in some way, such as a small ink mark on the bottom edge of the text block, to prevent their return as unsold normally-priced books.
Rolled -The slight twisting of a paperback's spine from reading, so that the spine is no longer at clean right angles to the covers. When a book is twisted so that it is out of alignment both vertically and horizontally, it is said to be "cocked." This most often occurs when books are shelved loosely and aslant.
Shaken -A book whose pages are beginning to loosen.
Shelf-worn -Friction in movement on the book shelf may cause disproportionate wear on the bottom edge, as the cloth binding is worn away to reveal the boards beneath. Not surprisingly, this is most often encountered with ex-library books.
Signature -The group of pages formed from a single folded sheet, ready for sewing or gluing into the book.
Slipcase -A three-sided cardboard box, covered in paper, cloth or leather, that holds a book, with just the spine exposed.
Spine -The backbone of a book, where the signatures are gathered. The spine is covered by the backstrip.
Starting -A book is said to be "starting" when it shows wear at a binding point, often the hinges, especially the front hinge. This may appear as a crack in the paper or wear through the paper to reveal the sewn binding beneath.
Stress Line - A faint crease, normally on the spine, of a paperback book, that does not break through the colored surface printing of the book’s cover.
Sunned -Refers to fading from exposure to light, often affecting the spines or top edges of books exposed to sunlight or strong artificial light. Many red, purple and green inks are especially susceptible.
Tanning -Because of its relatively high acid content, the paper used in modern soft-cover books generally darkens with time. Typically, this first appears as a toning on the inside covers. Most paperbacks more than a decade old demonstrate some degree of darkening, or tanning. We note this condition in most cases, but some degree of tanning is the norm on paperbacks as they age.
Tipped-in -Refers to the attachment of an item to the book. Tipped-in plates, for example, refers to separately-printed illustration that have been attached within the book (typically by being glued on one edge) prior to release.
Title Page -The title page lists the title and subtitle, author(s), editor(s), publisher, and sometimes the date and place of publication.
Trade Edition -An edition sold to the public, as opposed to limited editions of various kinds.
Trimmed -Indicates that the original pages have been trimmed from their original size, sometimes done when a book is rebound.
Unpaginated -The book's pages are not numbered.
Wrappers (Wraps) -The outer covers of a paperbound book or pamphlet.
Yapped -Refers to the edges of a book bound in soft material that extend beyond the page edges. Yapped books are fragile by nature.