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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.


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.

Autographed/Signed Editions

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.


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.


A bookplate (or book-plate, as it was commonly styled until the early 20th century,), also known as ex-librīs (Latin for "from the books (or library)"), is a printed or decorative label pasted into a book, often on the front endpaper, to indicate ownership.

Deckled edge

This is the natural, or sometimes artificial, rough edge of pages - as opposed to having cleanly cut edges.

Dust jacket

The paper used as a protective covering over a book, often with illustrations and information about the book and author.

End paper

Endpapers form a hinge between the boards and the book. They hide the raw edges of the board material where it is turned in.  One half is pasted to inside cover.

First Edition

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.

First Edition Thus

"First Edition Thus" means the first appearance in this format. These are typically reprints or alternate formats but not considered the "true first." "Thus" can also cover various reprints and revisions, as long as they are the first edition of the book to be published in that format.


The flyleaf of a book is a page at the front that has nothing printed on it.


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.


An illustration, picture or plate inserted immediately in front of the title page, with the illustration facing the title page.

The half-title or bastard title is a page carrying nothing but the title of a book—as opposed to the title page, which also lists subtitle, author, publisher and edition.

Hardcovers/Hardback books

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.

Limited edition

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 approximately 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

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.


A slipcase is a five-sided box, usually made of high-quality cardboard, into which binders, books or book sets are slipped for protection, leaving the spine exposed.


The spine is the vertical edge of the book where all of the pages are connected.

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