Old & Rare Glossary

Each old and rare book in our online store is described using our old and rare book cataloging style. This consists of two paragraphs, the first of which describes the physical book, the second its bibliographic history and information about it. The information in each description is in the following format:
We begin by listing each book under a “heading.” In most cases, the heading in the book’s author. Some books are listed under their appropriate subject (e.g. Fairy Tales, Robin Hood, Greek Myths), others under their illustrator (especially in the case when the author is uncredited). Books about an author or their works are usually listed under that author, but with the author’s name in brackets.
The heading is followed by the book’s title and any additional statements on the title page, including illustrator (if any), sub-titles, etc. If the book is not listed under it’s author, this is where the author’s name appears.
Publishing Data
Next, we list the publishing data, in the following format:
City: Publisher, Year.
When the year is give in brackets it means that the date is not printed on the title page, but we know for certain that this is the date this particular copy of the book was printed. If the year is in parenthesis it means that this is an approximate date, give or take five years.
Size & Pagination
Following the publishing data, we give the book's size and pagination (the number and arrangement of a books pages).
We use the standard bibliographic size terms, as follows:
Folio -- 15 inches
4to -- 12 inches
8vo -- 9 3/4 inches
12mo -- 7 3/4 inches
16mo -- 6 3/4 inches
24mo -- 5 3/4 inches
48mo -- 4 inches
64mo -- 3 inches
The size in inches is approximate. For example, a 13-inch book, we would list as 4to, while a 14-inch book we would list as "Small Folio." A 10-inch book would be 8vo, while a 9-inch book would be Small 8vo.
Pagination is expressed in Roman and Arabic numerals. A book is divided into frontismatter (the pages preceding the start of the actual story or text), the text of the book itself, and any advertisements that appear at the end. When the frontismatter's page numbers are not continued into the text of the book itself (meaning that the page count begins or starts again when the story starts), then the frontismatter's pagination is expressed in Roman numerals. The page count that runs through the text of the book is always stated in Arabic numerals. If there are any advertisements at the end of the book, those are accounted for by placing them in brackets with the abbreviation "advts" after the closing bracket.
For example, a 12-inch book with 12 unnumbered pages of frontismatter, followed by a 212-page story that starts on a page numbered page 1, and has 3 pages of advertisements at the end, would appear as follows:
4to; [xii] 212pp + [3]advts.
If the frontismatter had been numbered, but the page count had started again when the story began, we would list it like this:
4to; xii 212pp + [3]advts.
If the fronismatter and story all had a continuous page count of 224 pages and there were no advertisements at the end (as is the case with most modern books), it would appear as follows:
4to; 224pp.
The book's binding is described next. We describe the color of the cloth or boards, any decorations or stamping, and if the edges of the pages are gilted (meaning edged with gold leaf). When the top edge of a book is gilted, we list it as t.e.g. (top edge gilt); when all three edges of the pages are gilted, we list it as a.e.g. (all edges gilt).
Now, we list the internal features of the book, including a description of the endpapers (their color, patterns, or illustrations, if any) and any illustrations, photographs, or maps to be found in the book.
At the end of the first paragraph, we give a detailed description of the book's physical condition. When a book is in the kind of condition one might hope to find it in after one or two very careful readings, we describe the book as "fine." If it is as new or - since even new books in bookstores often have slight flaws - is a flawless, gleaming copy, we will describe the book as "very fine" or "pristine." If the book has any flaws, such as rubbing or wear to the binding, soiling, internal tears, etc., these will be carefully described. We grade the seriousness of such flaws as follows:
Minute -- An almost imperceptible flaw
A tad -- just perceptible
Slightly -- very minor
Lightly -- noticeable, but not a major flaw
A bit -- more noticeable, but still not a major detraction
[no modifier] -- No modifier means that the flaw is definitely noticeable, but not too bad.
Heavily -- The problem is very noticeable and a serious defect
The dust jacket (or dust wrapper) is described after the book itself, since this is a separate component from the book. If there is no description of the dust wrapper, that means the book does not have one (if the book was originally published without a dust wrapper, we will specify that). The same gradations listed above are used to describe the condition of the dust wrapper.
This is the final item in the first paragraph and is only included if the book is signed or inscribed by the author or artist.
The second paragraph annotates the book’s bibliography (i.e. first printing, second printing, etc.) and a brief description of what the book is about and/or information about the book that is pertinent


Brackets - [ ] - are used in several places in describing old and rare books. They generally are used to inform the reader that the information being given is known to be factual (not an approximation or deduction), but is not stated in the book. For example, if a New York publisher does not state on the title page the city in which the book was published, we would list New York in brackets. If a book was originally published anonymously, we would list the author's name in brackets.

The number and arrangement of a book's pages.
A single sheet of paper in a book, either side of which would be considered one page. Leaves is the plural.
Top edge gilt - meaning that the top edge of the book's pages are covered with gold leaf
All edges gilt - meaning that all three exposed edges of the book's pages are covered with gold leaf
Gold leaf.
Dust jacket
The paper jacket or cover which is folded and wrapped around the binding of a book. In the late 19th century, dust wrappers were introduced to protect books before being purchased by the consumer, who usually threw them away. These early dust wrappers were usually printed in one color and were usually not very decorative. Starting in the early 20th century, dust jackets were printed in full color and became decorative, promotional tools. Today, most collectors consider any book published after the start of World War II as incomplete if it lacks its original dust wrapper, but books published prior to the war, are usually considered complete without their dust wrappers. However, when these pre-war books are found in their dust wrappers, they are considered extra desirable and command a significant premium in value.
Dust wrapper
See dust jacket
A book is referred to as being signed when the author's or artist's signature appears in the book without any dedication to an individual.
A book is referred to as being inscribed when an author or artist has signed a book and written a message to the recipient before or after their signature.
The pages at the front and back of a book, one half being pasted to the inside cover (the fixed endpaper) and the other half (the free endpaper) being affixed along the fold to the first or last page of the book. The endpapers described here are also known as "Inserted Endpapers." Some books, though not many, have instead "Self Endpapers" which are endpapers where the front fixed endpaper is the first leaf of the first signature and the rear fixed endpaper is the last leaf of the last signature.
A group of pages which are formed by folding a single, large printed sheet for binding. Most signatures consist of either 16 or 32 pages, though any multiple of 4 is possible. Most 32-page picture books consist of only one or two signatures, whereas novels are almost always comprised of many signatures.
A discoloration of paper resulting in brownish or tan spots, usually caused by a bacterial or mildew when a book has been left in a warm, humid environment. If left in this environment, eventually the foxing can spread to discolor entire pages or even entire books, but if removed from the humid environment, the foxing usually ceases spreading.
When a book is said to be rubbed, it refers to wear to the binding. The edges, covers, and stamping of a binding can all suffer from varying degrees of rubbing.
When a book's binding is said to be soiled, it refers to light amounts of dirt, usually from dirty hands, that have gotten onto a binding. If a book is described as internally hand-soiled, that means that there is evidence on the inside pages of someone with dirty hands having handled the book.
When a book is sunned, it means it's binding has either faded or become darker due to discoloration caused by the rays of the sun.
Edge Wear
Edge wear refers to rubbing around the edges of a book's binding or tiny nicks and rubbing to the edges of a dust wrapper.
When a book's binding is slanted so that the spine no longer lays flat.
Discoloration of a page resulting in its darkening to a brownish color (usually associated with paper with a high acid content)
Discoloration of the paper in a book due to aging (usually associated with paper that is not acid free)
A small piece missing or torn from a page of a book or its dust wrapper
The illustration on the page facing the title page
Pictorial stamping
A binding may be printed or stamped; when it is stamped with a metallic dye resulting in a picture on the binding, it is said to be pictorial stamped
black and white - usually referring to the illustrations in a book
the art and science of the history of printed books, including their physical characteristics as well as their printing history. Since many books are published with no indication of their printing history or - worse yet - inaccurate information about their printing history, it is through comparing numerous copies of a title and noting the changes that occur over the course of book's printing history that the bibliographer determines the points by which a first edition and each subsequent edition and state of a book is identified.
Many bibliographical terms are used by the public in a colloquial fashion that is actually different from their technical meanings. Most people are familiar with the colloquial use of the bibliographical term "first edition" to describe the earliest (or first) printing of a book. A more accurate, bibliographically sound description of the first printing of a book would be "First edition, first printing" or "First edition, first state." We use the term "First edition" by itself as a short hand for "First edition, first printing" when a book's first printing is clearly identifiable and subsequent printings have no major changes.
When describing a more bibliographically complex book, especially those with numerous states and complex identification points, we use the bibliographical terms that follow:
The copies of a book printed over time from substantially the same setting of type, illustrations, and features. An edition may be made up of one or more printings (or impressions), issues, or states.
First Edition
We use the term "First edition" by itself as a short hand for "First edition, first printing" when a book's first printing is clearly identifiable and subsequent printings have no major changes. For more information, see Bibliography.
The total number of copies printed of a title at a single time.
Another term for printing
When there is a consciously planned alteration of a book within a single print run so as to form two distinctly different versions of the same book, printed at the same time from the same setting of type, illustrations, and features, the divisions are distinguished by reference to issues. For example, Arthur Rackham's illustrated edition of "Grimm's Fairy Tales" was issued both in a signed and unsigned issue. Both issues were printed from the same type and with the same illustrations, but the signed issue featured an extra leaf signed by Rackham and was bound in a more deluxe binding.
The term state is used to indicate alterations that are either within a single printing or for changes in an edition when there are no indications of printings. For example, "The Marvelous Land of Oz" by L. Frank Baum had no statement of printing. Those copies with feature - or points - that have been identified as those which mark the earliest printed copies are referred to as being first edition, first state copies. Those identified as being from the next identifiable change in the book are referred to as being from the first edition, second state. It is possible that a single printing may consist of more than one state due to deterioration of plates, broken type, etc.