Glossary of Terms Used in the Sale of Collectible Books
State of the edition of the copy described
Edition: In the common parlance of the book trade, a book called a “first” is the first printing of the first edition. When the book is produced, unless the type is reset or it is re-illustrated, it is considered to be the same edition, even if reprinted. A book can have several states, hardcover or paperback, if the plates used to print the book are the same. Sometimes these are referred to as the simultaneous issue in trade paperback, or the simultaneous hardcover issue. If the text is reset or the book is re-illustrated, then it is considered to be a different edition.
Printing: It is a later printing if more copies are printed after the first printing. The first copies produced are the first printing of the first editon. If this is reprinted, those copies are the second printing of the first edition. If the type is reset or the cover is changed or is produced by a different publisher it is a second edition. Hence, there could be a second printing of the second edition, etc. Modern publishers usually have a printing code on the copyright page [the page back of the title page] that ends with “1” and a year code that ends with the printing year.
Issue and variant and state: Issue generally refers to differences between copies where they were prepared differently by the publisher, ie, hardcover issue, signed and numbered issue, etc. State usually refers to a difference where the publisher made a change such as a correction in the text during the print run. Variant usually refers to differences such as different colors of cloth. Variants are not usually associated with precedence. Many dealers use issue and state in very similar ways. Some will call a binding the first state binding; others will call it the first issue binding.
Binding: Hardcover refers to a book with stiff cardboard [boards] covered with cloth or paper or a combination of paper with a cloth spine [also sometimes leather, or a combination of paper and leather spine].
Mass market paperback: A softbound book measuring 4-1/4" x 7." Older mass market paperbacks measure 4-1/4" x 6-3/8."
Trade paperback: A softbound book larger than a mass market paperback.
Wrappers: A softbound issue. A terminology used today where there is a pamphlet issue and a hardbound issue. Also used describing some advance issues as the publisher’s advance in wrappers [most commonly used to describe an advance review copy – ARC – with a glossy printed cover] or the uncorrected proof in wrappers which does not have a glossy cover.
Size: Large 8vo is the most common size of books published today [now usually called 8vo]. Larger books, say of the size of an art book are 4to. Very large books such as an atlas are folio. Smaller ones are 12mo or even smaller 16mo. These terms refer to an earlier time when books were printed starting with a standard sheet, which when folded once was a folio size. When folded twice it was 4to. Folded again was half that size and was called 8mo. Folded again was half of the previous size and was called 16mo. The 12mo was folded twice, overlaping. Generally, a book that is thirteen inches or larger is considered to be folio in size; smaller is considered to be quarto [4to] but larger than ten inches: smaller still to be 8vo, being eight to ten inches in height.
Condition of the copy described.
Fine: a fine copy is as new and without defect and as published. A fine copy has nothing lacking, nothing in less than new condition and will look fresh. [The dust jacket, slipcase, etc, will be present if issued with same]. It will not show evidence of being read. Anything in the way of a defect will be noted: as dust jacket price clipped else fine, etc. There is a slight expectation that a book from the 1920’s or 1930’s will show very slight evidences of age and still be considered a fine copy.
Nearly fine: A nearly fine copy may have some minor rubbing, soiling, or shelf wear but no major defect. A nearly fine copy is better in condition than a very good copy but is slightly less than a fine copy.
Very good: a very good copy can have evidence of being read, can have some shelf wear, can have some browing, can have some rubbing or wear to the dust jacket, and can have some tiny chips or tears to the dust jacket. Any actual defect, as the presence of a former owner’s name, or if the dust jacket is price clipped, or if there is more than the expectable wear, will be mentioned.
Good: a good copy will have wear but will be complete. Often this term is used as a good sound copy lacking the dust jacket, etc.
No copies, fine, very good, or good will be underlined or have high lighting unless mentioned.
The terms “very fine” and “mint” are borrowed from the terminology of coin collecting [and comic book collecting] that a few dealers use to intimate that their copies are superior to others.
Broadside: An item printed on a single sheet on one side [printed on both sides would be a broadsheet – rarely issued in modern times].
Incunable: Book printed with moveable type printed 1452-1500.
Nd: no date indicated.
Np: no place indicated.
Presentation copy: A copy signed by the author with an accompaning presentation. This term is generally reserved for copies given by the author to friends, etc, and not for copies inscribed by the author to a collector at a reading.
Inscribed copy: A copy signed by the author and with an accompaning presentation to someone.
Dedication copy: A presentation copy to the person to whom the book is dedicated [the printed dedication in the book].
Signed copy: A copy signed by the author, with or without the date, but not with an accompaning name.
Rebound: A book that has been bound again.
Rebacked: A book that has had the spine replaced.
Disbound: Printed sheets that had been bound but have now been removed from its binding. Especially used for pamphlets that had been bound together in the past but have now been removed and offered for sale individually.
Uncut: Where the edge of the book has not been trimmed.
Unopened: Where the edge of the book has not been trimmed and the pages are not able to be read without being cut apart.
Signature: The holograph signature of the author or artist of the work. Additionally, the large printed paper folded down to page size is called a signature. A modern book has a number of signatures sewn or glued together to make a book block which is sewn or glued into a binding.
Cocked: Where the binding is slanted.