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Observer's Books

Part of the Stella & Rose's Books family

Glossary of Descriptive Book Terms

Our books are graded using the following terms:-

As New / Mint: In the condition you would expect in a shop selling new books.

Fine: Almost as new, no major blemishes but showing signs of being previously owned. No major faults.

Very Good: A book showing signs of previous ownership. Expected blemishes to include:- light finger marks to some pages; slightly bumped corners / spine; pages dusty or lightly browned; writing to endpapers or wrapper flaps; wrapper might be price-clipped, lightly chipped or have a few small tears.

Good: A book showing clear signs of previous ownership. Blemishes to include:- joints cracked or partially broken; bumped corners / spine; marked or torn pages; inscriptions or library stamps; dustwrapper chipped or torn with some loss. Overall a little grubby.

Fair: A reading copy only. Text usually complete, but illustrations, maps, or plates may be missing. Joints weak or broken. Dustwrapper is likely to be seriously torn, with pieces missing.

Poor: A book that is likely to have some parts missing, detached covers, serious signs of wear, or extensive writing / scribble to contents.

Other descriptive terms:-

B/W = Black and white

BACKSTRIP = The paper, leather or cloth covering the spine.

BINDING = The process of fixing the gatherings together to form a book.

BLIND = For example, 'blind stamped'. An impression made in the leather, cloth or paper without the addition of any colour.

BOARDS = The stiff outer protection of a hardback book.

BOOKPLATE = Paper label often found on the pastedown, indicating ownership / library details.

BROKEN = Usually referring to damage to the joints or hinges of a book. Indicates substantial damage when the binding may become loose.

BUCKRAM = a coarse weave cloth binding.

BUMP(ED) = Usually at the corners or spine ends, where a book has been knocked / dropped.

CARD WRAPS = Stiff or semi-stiff card used as covers for the book (similar to paperback).

CHIPPED = Usually referring to the dustwrapper, where pieces are missing along the edges.

CLOSED TEAR = A clean tear in which there is no paper loss.

CRACKED = Usually referring to damage to the joints or hinges of a book, generally used when there is some damage but the binding remains tight.

CHROMOLITHOGRAPH = A lithograph printed in colour.

DUSTWRAPPER = The loose paper dust jacket on a hardback book.

EMBOSSED = Carved or moulded in relief in which the figure stands out from the surface.

ENDPAPERS = The leaf of paper at the end of the book, half of which is pasted to the inside of the boards (= PASTEDOWN), and half forming a blank page (= ENDPAPER).

EX LIB = Ex library book, often well worn with plates and stamps, and missing the front endpapers etc.

FIRST THUS= The first edition of a book in that particular format.

FLAPS = The parts of the dustwrapper turned in over the pastedowns.

FLYLEAF = technically, a binders blank sheet in addition to the front endpaper, but may also be used of the endpaper itself.

FOXSPOT = Spots of discolouration ranging from light brown or yellow to dark brown. Caused by ageing when acid in the paper reacts with the atmosphere around the book.

FRONTIS/ FRONTISPIECE = Illustration opposite the Title Page, sometimes 'tipped in'.

FULL (eg full morocco) = The same material covers the whole of the boards and spine

GATHERING = A group of leaves formed from one folded sheet of paper, the number of leaves depending on the size of the sheet and the way in which it was folded. Multiple gatherings are sewn together to form the unbound book.

HALF-TITLE PAGE = Usually preceding the Title Page, showing just the book title.

HEADPIECE = An ornament or vignette at the start of a chapter.

HINGES = Inner junctions between pages or gatherings.

INSCRIPTION IN INK = written inscription by a previous owner, or by a person presenting the book to a previous owner. Used to denote inscriptions NOT made by the author.

JOINTS = Junction of spine and sides covered by front and rear endpapers.

LAID DOWN = A method of repair to paper where it is laid down onto or backed by a further layer of paper.

LIBRARY BINDING = In collector's parlance this refers to circulating libraries, not to public or institutional libraries. 20th century books in library bindings (usually from public libraries) are usually rebound from their original cloth with edges cut down in the process.

LITHOGRAPH = Illustration resulting from the process of printing from a small stone or metal plate - the image to be printed is ink-receptive and the blank area is ink repellent. The printer covers the plate with a sheet of paper and runs both through a press under light pressure.

MARGINS = The unprinted parts of the page around the text.

MOROCCO = The tanned skin of a goat used in binding. A fine grained leather taking a variety of colours.

MOUNTED = Usually an illustration smaller than the full page which has been pasted or tipped-in.

NAME IN INK = a written name in ink, usually of a previous owner of the book. The name is NOT that of the author, in which case the book would be described as 'Signed'.

OFFSETTING = The transfer of ink from the printed page to the opposite page. Also used to refer to the light browning of the endpapers not protected by the wrapper flaps.

ONLAY = A pasted panel, often an illustration on the covers of a book.

PAPERBACK = The same as PAPERWRAP but normally used (on this site) only for fiction books, sometimes childrens books.

PAPERWRAPS = Paper covers of a book (ie paperback). Thinner than Card Wraps.

PLATES = Illustrations on a separate leaf, usually printed one side only.

PRICE-CUT- Pricing information removed from the corner of the dustwrapper or internal pages.

PRELIMS = The pages up to where the main text of the book starts.

PROOF = Printed for the publishers in-house use only. Used for author's corrections, checking text and typesetting etc.

READING COPY = A copy not in collectable condition but with the complete text.

REBACKED = Indicates that the book has been given a new backstrip or spine. Sometimes the original backstrip, or portions of it, will be used in the new binding.

RECASED = A new binding.

RUBBED = With abrasions to the surface.

SPLIT = Usually refers to damage to joints or hinges of a book. Generally used when there is some damage but the binding remains tight.

SUNNED = damage caused by exposure to sunlight. This may cause bleaching or darkening depending on the colours or media involved.

SURFACE PAPER LOSS / DAMAGE = damage to the paper covering of pastedowns or the covers of a book. Used when the damage does not result in a hole through the paper, for example when a name has beeen clumsily erased or a label removed.

TAILPIECE = An ornament or vignette at the end of a chapter.

TEXT BLOCK = The leaves or sections that comprise the main body of the book contained within the boards.

THREE-QUARTER (eg three-quarter morocco) = Refers to the covering of the boards of the book, usually when the book has a leather spine / backstrip.

TIPPED-IN = Plates, or similar, added to the book by being lightly attached along one edge.

UNCUT = The edges of pages are left rough and are not trimmed to give a smooth finish.

UNOPENED = The leaves of the book are entirely untrimmed (i.e. the foldings of the component sections are still intact at the top and foreedges) so that individual leaves are not separated from their neighbours. Not to be confused with UNCUT.

UNPAGINATED = Without page numbers.

VERSO = Opposite of recto. The back or reverse side of a leaf, ie the page on the left when the book is open.

VIGNETTE = A small decorative or ornamental design.