Glossary of Common Book Terms and Definitions

Here is a list that you might find helpful. It is a glossary of commonly used books terms and definitions, both for reading and collectible copies.


Advanced Reading Copy – A copy for reviewers and/or booksellers, usually bound in paper wraps and usually with either the finished cover art or possibly trial cover art. Generally, this copy is at it will appear in the stores and differs from the Uncorrected Proof.

All Edges Gilt – The top, fore-edge and foot of the book are colored in gold.

Antiquarian Books – A loose term implying collectible books rather than used books. Refers to old, rare, and out-of-print books.

Apocryphal – A work whose authenticity or authorship is in doubt.

Appendix – Additional or supplementary material generally found at the end of a book.

As Issued – A term indicating a given book is in the same condition as when originally published.

Association Copy – A book that belonged to or was annotated by the author, someone close to the author, a famous or noteworthy person, or someone especially associated with the content of the work. Should have documentary evidence of its association, such as a bookplate.


Backstrip – The covering of the book’s spine.

Binding – The cover of the book.

Binding Copy – A book that needs to be rebound and is worth rebinding.

Blind-stamping – An impressed mark, decoration, or lettering, not colored or gilded, usually appearing on the binding. One way that the Book Clubs have marked their editions when they are otherwise identical to trade editions is to use a small square, round, or sometimes leaf-shaped blind stamp in the bottom right corner of the rear board.

Blurb – A comment from a review (often by another author praising the particular book) printed on the dust jacket or covers of a proof copy, or on a wrap-around band.

Boards – The stiff binding material for most modern books.

Book Block – The entire book sewn together before it is bound.

Book Club Edition – A book usually printed especially for a book club such as “The Book of the Month Club” or “The Literary Guild.” These copies will usually have the words “Book Club Edition” printed on the bottom right corner of the front flap of the dust jacket. Occasionally, if the book club does not wish to do a separate edition they will have a publisher blind stamp the rear board and print a supply of dust jackets without a price on the front flap and now without the bar code data on the rear panel. Book Clubs are not solely an American phenomenon as there have been numerous British Book Clubs over the years.

Bookplate – A pasted-in sign of ownership. Modern bookplates are pressure sensitive (peel-and-stick) as opposed to the older bookplates, which were made with water-activated adhesive (lick-and-stick).

Bound – A book with a cover of any type, or a periodical that has a cover other than its published wraps.

Bowed – A condition of the covers or boards of a hard cover book. Bowed covers may turn inward toward the leaves or outward away from the leaves. The condition generally results from a rapid change in the level of moisture in the air and is caused by different rates of expansion or contraction of the paste-down and the outer material covering the board.

Broadside – A single sheet of paper, usually printed on one side only.

Buckram – A heavy linen cloth used in book binding. It is often starched or coated with some protective material.


Cancel – A tipped-in (i.e., pasted in) page to replace a page removed after a book has been bound.

Case-Bound – The book is hardbound as opposed to a paperback.

Chipped – Used to describe where small pieces are missing or where fraying has occurred on a dust jacket or the edge of a paperback.

Cloth – A cloth-bound book. The covering can be linen, buckram or another textile.

Cocked – Also shelf-cocked. A condition resulting from storing a book on a shelf so that it leans and rests against its neighbor or the side of a bookcase. Gravity deforms the book binding. Cocked also refers to a book in which the spine no longer remains at right angles to the covers.

Codex – An ancient volume of manuscript.

Collation – Technically, the examination and notation of the physical makeup of a book. By checking for the presence of every leaf or page originally in the volume when issued, a book may be collated as complete.

Colophon – An identifying inscription or emblem from the printer or publisher appearing at the end of a book. Also the emblem at the bottom of the spine on both the book and dust jacket as well as a logo on the title or copyright page.

Conjugate Leaf – The unsevered second half of a printed page.

Contemporary – Refers to bindings and hand-colored plates (generally of the period when the book was published) and author inscription (dated the year of publication).

Corners – The right angles on the unbound edges of the front and back covers of a hardcover book.

Covers – The binding of the book, most particularly the front and back panels of the book.

Covers bound-in – The original cloth covers, usually including the spine, bound into the book when a new binding is made. Normally they are mounted as pages at the end of the book. Also refers to the covers of books originally issued in boards or paper wraps, but in these cases the covers are usually bound in their proper positions.

Cut – Many modern books are smooth-trimmed after binding so that all edges are even, or flush. This is described as having been “cut.”


Dampstained – A light stain on the cover or on the leaves of a book caused by moisture such as a piece of food or perspiration. Generally not as severe as waterstains.

Darkening – When book covers are exposed to light, the color darkens or becomes more intense. See also Fading.

Deckle Edges – Another term for uncut or untrimmed edges.

Decorative Stamped Binding – A highly detailed impression stamped into the cover and/or spine of a book.

Dedication Copy – The copy of the book inscribed by the author to the person to whom the book is dedicated.

Definitive Edition – The most authoritative version of a work.

Dents – Damage to the edges of the cover of hardcover books.

Device – A printer’s ornament. Also an insignia that is the publisher’s identifying mark. Now interchangeable with Colophon.

Disbound – Refers to a book or pamphlet, once bound, from which the binding has been removed.

Dog-Eared – Book pages that have been folded over in the corners.

Dos-a-dos – Two separate books bound together so that each cover represents the cover for a different title. The Ace paperbacks or many science fiction books were issued this way.

Dummy- A mock-up of a book used by salesmen in the late 19th and early 20th century to show prospective buyers what the book would look like. It usually had a title page, 10 or 20 pages of text, and then blank pages to fill out the rest of the binding.

DuoDecimo (12mo) – A book approximately seven to eight inches tall.

Dust Jacket – A term synonymous with Dustwrapper, indicating the usually decorative paper wrapper placed around a book to protect the binding.

Dustwrapper – See Dust Jacket.


Edges – The outer surfaces of the leaves of a book.

Edgeworn – Wear along the edges of hardback book covers.

Edited – Prepared for publication.

Edition – All the copies of a book printed from the same plates or typesetting.

Editor- A person who gathers material for a book, oversees text written by others, and/or makes the text more readable.

Elephant Folio – A book about 23 inches tall.

End Papers- The sheets of paper pasted onto the inner covers, joining the book block to the covers. One side of the sheet is pasted to the inside cover, the other is left free.

Ephemera – From the Greek work ephemeron, meaning something that disappears quickly. Examples are: manifestos, broadsides, programs, menus, tickets, playbills, etc.

Errata – Mistakes or errors. Generally encountered in the term “errata slip,” a small sheet of paper laid into a book by a publisher who has discovered errors prior to publication.

Example – A particular copy of an edition.

Ex-Library- A term used to indicate a book was once in a library. They are usually identified with one or more markings of the library such as stampings, card pockets, cataloging numbers, etc. Frequently they are marked as “discarded” or “withdrawn” when sold by a library.

Extra Illustrated- A copy of a book into which additional illustrations have been bound.


Fading – The color of some book covers fades or becomes less intense when exposed to light. See also Darkening.

First and Second Printing before Publication – This indicates the publisher was successful in promoting the book and had more orders before the actual publication date than the first printing quantity would cover, therefore a second printing was ordered. Not a first edition.

First Edition – Generally used by book dealers and collectors to mean the first appearance of a work in book or pamphlet form, in its first printing.

First Separate Edition- The first appearance as a complete book or pamphlet of a work that has previously appeared as part of another book.

First Thus – Means not a first edition, but something is new. It may be revised, have a new introduction by the author or someone else, be the first publication in paperback form, or first by another publisher.

First Trade Edition – The edition produced for general commercial sale, as distinguished from a limited edition.

Flyleaf- A blank leaf, sometimes more than one, following the front free endpaper, or at the end of a book where there is not sufficient text to fill out the last few pages.

Fly title – See Half-title.

Folio- Has several meanings:
(1) a leaf numbered on the front;
(2) the numeral itself; and
(3) a folio-sized book.
See Book Sizes.

Fore Edge – The trimmed edge of the leaves of a book; the edge of the page opposite the spine, bound or back edge of the book.

Fore-Edge painting- The front page edges of the book are bent back to expose a greater area and a watercolor painting is applied to this surface. After completion the book is closed and the painting cannot be seen. The opposite is also true. The painting is done on the edge of the pages so it can be seen when the book is closed but is not visible when the book was open.

Foxed, Foxing- Brown spotting of the paper caused by a chemical reaction, generally found in 19th century books, particularly in steel engravings of the period.

Free Endpaper – See End Papers.

Frontis, Frontispiece- An illustration at the beginning of a book, usually facing the title page.

Front Matter- The pages preceding the text of a book, in the following order:
bastard title or fly title
title page
copyright page
preface or forward
table of contents
list of illustrations

Full Binding – A binding in which the spines and boards are uniformly covered with the same material.


Galleys – Sometimes called “galley proofs” or “loose galleys” to distinguish them from bound galleys. Long sheets of paper bearing the first trial impression of the type.

Gathering – A group of sheets folded together for sewing or gluing into the binding.

Gauffered – An ‘engraved’ design on the edges of a book.

Gilt Edges – The 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.

Glassine – A transparent paper dustwrapper.

Gutter – The inner margin of a leaf near the spine of a book. See Tail.


Half Binding – A book in which the spine and corners are bound in a different material (frequently leather) than the rest of the covers.

Half Cloth- Paper-covered boards with the spine bound in cloth.

Half Leather- A term indicating that the spine and the corners of a book are bound in leather, while the rest of the binding may be cloth or paper. Also see Quarter Leather.

Half-Title – The page carrying nothing but the title of the book, usually preceding the title page.

Head – The upper margin of a leaf, cover or endpaper. Also referred to as the top.

Headband – A decorative cloth band, sometimes colored or multi-colored, appearing inside the backstrip at the top (and sometimes bottom) of the spine of a book.

Headpiece – A decorative type ornament found at the start of a chapter or division of a book.

Highlighting – The use of transparent and brightly colored markers to draw attention to particular text. Frequently done by students. See also Underlining and Marginalia.

Hinge- The joint (generally inner) of the binding of a book – the part that bends when the book is opened.

Holograph – A term indicating the handwriting of the author.

Hors Texte, versos blank – “Hors texte” is French for “outside of the text,” and the term usually refers to plates, without printing on the reverse sides. The plates may be tipped in to paper of a different stock from that of the text.


Illumination – Decoration applied by hand in gold, silver or colored paint.

Illustrated – Decorated with pictures or other graphical material to portray or clarify the text.

Illustration – A design, picture, plate, plan, diagram, chart, or map printed within the text.

Imprint – A term that can refer either to the place of publication or to the publisher.

Index- An alphabetical listing of names or topics mentioned in the book, with their page numbers. For serials and journals, the index is usually published after the volume is completed and is usually found in the last issue.

India Paper – An extremely thin, yet relatively opaque paper, used to help reduce the bulk of what would otherwise be a book of unwieldy size.

Inscribed – Usually indicates a book signed by the author, either with an inscription to a specific person or bearing some brief notation along with his signature.

Integral – A leaf or page is said to be integral when it is one that was sewn and bound into a book during its manufacture.

Interleaved – When blank leaves alternate with the printed leaves a book is said to be interleaved.

Issue – Synonymous with State, referring to the priority of copies within the first edition.


Jacket – The printed or unprinted cover, usually paper, placed around the bound book. Sometimes called Dust Jacket (dj), Dustwrapper (dw), dust cover or book jacket.

Japan Vellum – A smooth, glossy paper, made in imitation of vellum, generally a light tan color.

Joint – The exterior junction of the covers and spine of a book.

Juveniles – Books originally or primarily written to be read by (or to) children.

Juvenilia – Work written when an author was extremely young, often as a child.



Laid In – A letter or other sheet(s) inserted but not glued into a book.

Laid Paper – A handmade paper showing parallel lines of the papermaking frame, visible when held up to the light.

Large Print – A book that is made with large type for the visually impaired.

Leaf – A single sheet in a book; each leaf contains two printed pages, one on each side.

Ledgit – A label or memo slip projecting from a book’s pages.

Library Binding – Reinforced bindings used by public libraries.

Limited Edition – Any book whose publication is deliberately restricted to a comparatively small number of copies, usually numbered and often signed by the author and/or illustrator.

Loose – The binding of a new book is very tight; that is, the book will not open easily and generally does not want to remain open to any given page. As the book is used, the binding becomes looser until a well-used book may lay flat and remain open to any page in the book.


Made-up Copy – A copy of a book whose parts have been assembled from one or more defective copies.

Marbled – Paper decorated with a swirled pattern.

Marginalia – Notes written in the margins of a page around the text. Frequently used by students and others when studying a text. See also Highlighting and Underlining.

Mass-Market Paperback – The most common paperback book, about four inches wide and seven inches high. Seen most often as mystery, science fiction and romance books. See also Trade Paperback.

Mint Copy – An absolutely perfect copy; as perfect as the day it was issued.

Misbound – Pages or signatures sewn together in an improper order.

Modern First – First printing of a book published in this century.

Monograph – A work, generally short, dealing with a single subject and usually issued in pamphlet form.

Morocco – A type of leather made from goatskins, especially suitable for book bindings because of its durability and beauty.


No Date – No date of publication mentioned within the book.

No Place – No place of publication listed in the book.

Number – An issue of a periodical.


Obverse – The right-hand page of a book, more commonly called the Recto.

Octavo (8vo) – A book of about five inches wide and eight inches tall to about six by nine inches. Octavo is the most common size for current hardcover books. To make octavo books, each sheet of paper is folded to make eight leaves (16 pages).

Offprint – A separate printing of a section of a larger publication; i.e., a periodical.

Offset – The transfer of ink from one page to another, either as a printed page or an engraving.

Out-of-Print – A book no longer being printed.

Out-of-Series – Refers to overruns or extra copies of limited editions.


Page – One side of a leaf. The front side of a leaf is called the recto or obverse and the back side of the leaf is called the verso or the reverse.

Pamphlet – A small separate work issued in paper wraps.

Paperback – Books in paper wraps published since the 1930’s, although it can describe any book with a paper cover.

Paper Boards – Stiff cardboard covered in paper.

Parts – The practice of publishing novels in separate monthly installments in magazine format.

Paste-Down – The portion of the end-paper pasted to the inner cover of a book.

Perfect binding – Used in paperback books, trade paperbacks and magazines that have too many pages to be stapled. The page edges are glued together, then placed in the covers. This is a less expensive process than traditional book binding and stapling.

Pictorial – Describes a book with a picture on the cover.

Pirated Edition – Any edition of a work issued without permission of the author and without payment of royalties to the author or copyright holder.

Plates – Whole-page illustrations printed separately from the text. Illustrations printed in the text pages are called cuts.

Points – Distinguishing characteristics, usually errors, that occur within a first edition and indicate the priority of copies.

Preface – Author’s introductory statement.

Presentation Copy – A copy of a book given by the author to someone of his acquaintance, usually with an inscription of some sort testifying to this.

Price Clipped – The price has been clipped from the corner of the dust jacket.

Printed Cover – Used to describe a dust jacket or paper cover that is only lettered.

Private Press – A small press, often operated by one person, usually devoted to the production of small quantities of finely printed books.

Privately Printed – This term refers to a book or pamphlet whose printing was paid for by an individual or a group, and which is meant for private circulation, not public sale.

Proofs – Precede the published book. The normal course of events would be galley proof, uncorrected bound proof and advance reading copy bound in paper wraps.

Provenance – The history of ownership or possession of a given book.

Publication Date – The date a book is formally placed on sale.


Quarter Binding – A book whose spine is covered in a different and generally fancier material than the covers.

Quarter Leather – A book with a leather spine. Also see Half Leather.

Quarto (4to) – A book between octavo and folio in size; approximately 11 to 13 inches tall. To make a quarto, a sheet of paper is folded twice, forming four leaves (eight pages).


Raised Band – The raised areas on the spine concealing a cord that is attached to the covers. In earlier leather books cords were really used. In some modern books the raised bands are purely decorative and conceal no underlying cord.

Rare- Implies the books is extremely scarce, perhaps only turning up once every ten years or so.

Reading Copy – A copy of a book that is worn or used to such a degree that it is not in good enough condition to be considered collectible.

Re-backed – A book that has been repaired by replacing the spine and mending the hinges.

Re-cased – A book that has been glued back into its covers after having been shaken loose.

Recto – The front side of a leaf in a bound book; in other words, the right-hand page of an opened book. Also called the Obverse.

Rejointed – Means the book has been repaired preserving the original covers, including the spine.

Remainder – When a book has ceased to sell, a publisher may get rid of his overstock by “remaindering” the title, selling it at a reduced price, generally marked to indicate the reduction.

Remainder Marks – The publisher will mark the bottom edges of books sold as remainders with a stamp, a black marker, or paint.

Reverse – The rear side of a leaf in a bound book; in other words, the left-hand page of an opened book. Also called the Verso.


Self-Wraps – Wrappers that have vestigial flaps that imitate a dust jacket.

Series – A group of volumes with a common theme issued in succession by a single publisher.

Sextodecimo (16mo) – A small book, approximately four inches wide and six inches tall. To make it, each sheet of paper is folded four times, forming sixteen leaves (32 pages).

Shaken – An adjective describing a book whose pages are beginning to come loose from the binding.

Shelf Wear – The wear that occurs as a book is placed onto and removed from a shelf. It may be to the tail (bottom) edge of the covers as they rub against the shelf, to the dust jacket or exterior of the covers (when no dust jacket is present) as the book rubs against its neighbors, or to the head of the spine when it has been used to pull the book from the shelf.

Sheet – The piece of paper on which the printer prints. The sheet is folded one or more times to form the leaves of the book.

Signed – A book that the author has autographed. See Inscribed.

Signature – In bookmaking, this does not mean the author’s name written out in his hand. It refers rather to the group of pages produced by folding a single printed sheet, ready for sewing or gluing into a book.

Slipcase – A cardboard case covered in paper, cloth or leather that holds a book with only the spine exposed.

Spine -The book’s backbone, where the signatures are gathered. The spine is covered with the backstrip.

State – Closely allied to the definition of Issue. State generally refers to a change other than a correction of a misprint.

Stub- A narrow strip of paper usually remaining where a leaf has been cut away.

Sunned – Faded from exposure to light or direct sunlight.


Tail – The lower margin of a leaf, cover or endpaper. Sometimes referred to as the bottom.

Tailpiece – Decorative typography ornament on the lower part of a page at the end of a chapter or a poem.

Tight – The binding of a new book is very tight; that is, the book will not open easily and generally does not want to remain open to any given page. As the book is used, the binding becomes looser until a well-used book may lay flat and remain open to any page in the book.

Tissue – A thin, protective sheet laid over an illustration.

Tipped-in – Means the plate, autograph, letter, photo, etc., is actually attached to the book.

Title Page – The title page, near the beginning of the book, lists the title and subtitle of the book, the authors, editors, and/or contributors, the publisher or printer, and sometimes the place and date of publication.

Title Page Index – Used in describing periodicals to indicate that the title page and index are present; without a title page and index, the volume is incomplete.

Tooling – The decoration of a binding.

Top Edge Gilt – Usually abbreviated teg, it means that the top edges of the pages have been covered with gold leaf or gilt material.

Trade Edition – The regularly published edition. This term is used to differentiate it from a limited signed edition of the same book.

Trade Paperback – A softcover book that is generally large in size and made of better quality materials than a Mass-Market Paperback.

Trimmed – An adjective indicating that the pages have been cut down to a size smaller than when originally issued.


Uncut- The pages of the completed book have not been shaved down to a uniform surface.

Underlining – Using a pencil or pen to underline passages in a book to draw attention to the underlined text. See also Highlighting and Marginalia.

Unopened – The leaves of the book are still joined at the folds, not slit apart.

Unpaginated – The pages are not numbered (although each signature may be designated by letter).

Unsophisticated – Pure, genuine, unrestored. If a book is so described, it can mean trouble as far as condition is concerned.


Variant – A book that differs in one or more features from others of the same impression, but a positive sequence has not been established.

Vellum- A thin sheet of specially prepared skin of calf, lamb, or kid used for writing or printing, or for the cover.

Verso – The second, or rear, side of a leaf in a book; in other words, the left-hand page of an opened book. Also called the Reverse.


Waterstain – Stain on a book cover or leaves from water or other liquids. May cause discoloration and perhaps actual shrinking.

Worming, Wormholes – Small holes resulting from bookworms (the larvae of various beetles.)

Wrap-around Band – The band of printed paper the length of the dust jacket of a book. Wrap-around bands contain favorable reviews and are put around some copies of books. Obviously fragile, they are of interest to collectors.

Wrappers – The outer covers of a paperbound book or pamphlet. Not to be confused with Dustwrapper.


Yapped – Refers to the edges of the cover of a book bound in paper or another soft material. These yapped edges are not flush with the pages but extend beyond the edges of the book and are fragile by nature.


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