Below is a list of terms and definitions traditionally used when describing books and book content. These are terms that may be unfamiliar or unclear to the average reader. The definitions below are for educational
use only, but represent what we
believe to be common use.
terms and definitions
Common definitions differ for these terms, but for use in our library, an antique or antiquarian book is one that is 100 years old or older.
Great effort is made to assure that signatures in books are authentic by comparing the example looked at to a known example. Also, care has to be taken to assure that signatures are not facsimile signatures, which can look quite genuine. Unless requested by the buyer, certification of a signature is not performed since this can be quite expensive, adding additional cost to a book.
The paper used as a protective covering over a book, often with illustrations and information about the book and author.
Boards are the covers of a hard bound book. These are typically made of stiff cardboard or paperboard which is then usually covered with cloth or leather.
The earliest published form of a book. A book may have more than one first edition in cases where it has been published in multiple forms, including foreign releases or editions with substantially changed content such as an illustrated or a limited edition.
Foxing is an age-related process of deterioration that causes spots and browning on old paper documents such as books, postage stamps, old paper money and certificates. The name may derive from the fox-like reddish-brown color of the stains, or the rust chemical ferric oxide which may be involved.
If you can't bend the cover without damaging it, it's a hardcover. These covers themselves are also referred to as "boards". The boards may be covered in a variety of materials including leather and cloth. If a book is listed as having a "cloth binding" it is a hardcover since most boards are covered in cloth, or at a minimum, attached to the spine via cloth.
Books published in severely limited quantities (usually in the hundreds,) typically signed by the author and either numbered or lettered. Usually only available for purchase directly through the publisher and not generally available in bookstores
Paperbacks, Mass Market
AKA "rack sized", these are the books that you can find in any store selling books. Most measure aproximately 4.25" x 7".
Paperbacks, Trade Paperbacks
Paperbacks that are larger than mass-markets, many times having the same dimensions as a hard cover. Known as trades because they are generally only carried by actual bookstores (in the trade) and not in non-bookstores.
Raised bands refer to the ridges that protrude slightly from the spine on leather bound books. The bands are created in the binding process, and show the structure of cord-bound books.
The spine is the vertical edge of the book where all of the pages are connected.