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2 4 8 12 A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z

2 Occasionally used as an abbreviation for folio.
4 4°, 4to Abbreviations for quarto.
8 8°, 8vo Abbreviations for octavo.
12 12°, 12mo Abbreviations for duodecimo. Other formats include 16mo (sextodecimo), 24mo (vigesimoquarto) all the way up to 64mo.
A a.e.g. Standard abbreviation for "all edges gilt," referring to the gilded edges of the text-block in a bound work.
ALS Autograph Letter Signed.
à la fanfare An elaborate style of French binding developed in the late Sixteenth century.
à repetition A style of French binding incorporating a design element repeated over the entire cover.
all published Usually used of a serially published work to indicate that all issued parts are present.
    a.e.g.  All edges gilt, booksellers' cataloguing term.   
aquatint An etching method widely used in late-Eighteenth and early-Nineteenth century illustrated books, frequently colored by hand after printing.
arabesque A style of ornament originally of Moorish origin often used in the tooling of bindings.
arms An armorial device was often used on bindings, bookplates and the like as a mark of ownership.
attrib. (Authorship) attributed to.
as new A copy in unimpeachable condition, as fresh as the day of publication.
avant la lettre A term used in describing French illustrated books to indicate that the plates are in the earliest state, before the addition of titles.
azured (A binding ornament) decorated with a pattern of thin parallel lines.
B before letters As avant la lettre, although not pertaining specifically to French books.
bifolium, bifolia (pl.) Two conjugate leaves from a folio work.
binders' ticket A small slip of paper pasted into a book with the name of the bookbimder.
binding The casing of the text block, be it pasteboard or gold-encrusted.
blank An unprinted leaf, usually included as part of a signature to make an even count.
blind tooling Decoration of a binding by embossed impressions without gilt.
book arts Typography, Calligraphy, Papermaking, Bookbinding & related disciplines.
boss On early bindings, a raised metal stud intended to protect the cover of a book from abrasion.
browning An overall discoloration found in the paper of some old books, sometimes due to the decomposition of the paper coating.
C calf Calfskin with a smooth finished used in binding. It may be decorated in various ways by mottling and staining. Tree calf is a stained calf with a painted grain.
chemise A sleeve wrapping around the spine and covers of a binding to protect it from wear when inserted into the slipcase.
chiaraoscuro Literally, "clear-obscure." In the context of print-making, a technique for producing color prints from wood by multiple blocks, used for the reproduction of old master drawings and objets d'art from the Sixteenth century on.
chromolithography Color printing from multiple impositions of lithographic stones or similar lithographic printing surfaces. A process of illustration that reached its zenith in the mid-Nineteenth century.
chromoxylography Color printing from wood blocks, a technique extensively used for illustration in the nineteenth century, but pioneered in the 18th. An extension of the chiaraoscuro technique.
clamshell case A protective case with hinged side that securely retain the book within while permitting easy inspection.
collation The act of checking a book for completeness. A collational formula is an algebraic expression of the arrangement of the leaves and signatures in a book.
collotype A photomechanical process of reproduction capable of producing results of exceptional fidelity. It does not use a screen (like a half-tone) but produces continuous tones.
colophon The leaf at the end of many private press and artist books providing information on edition size, manufacture etc.
color plate book A volume illustrated with hand-colored aquatints, engravings or the like.
compartment On the spine of a book, the areas between the raised bands. These are considered from top to bottom; the title label is usually in the second compartment.
conjugate Joined at the gutter margin.
cornerpiece In a binding, the decorative elements in the corners of the covers in the angles of the fillets.
covers The front and rear surface of a binding, as opposed to the spine. These may be composed of card, wood or other materials, covered by cloth, paper or leather.
    crown  The head of the spine (of the binding).   
D dentelle Literally, "lace." The thin strip of turned-in material inside a binding, often elaborately decorated and frequently the location of the binder's stamp.
designer or design binding A product of the modernist approach to binding that seeks to reflect (and sometimes deconstruct) the text within, rather than providing a simple ornamental container.
    dos-à-dos  A binding in which two volumes are joined by a shared central cover with the fore-edges on opposing sides of the book so formed. This method of binding is a novelty most commonly found in books of the 17th century and earlier, although the technique has been used for modern books on occasion.  
doublure The paste-down of a binding when covered with decorated paper, silk, leather or a similar material.
duodecimo A book format formed by a single sheet folded into twelve sections.
E editio princeps The first printed edition of a work previously available only in manuscript.
edition The whole number of copies of a work printed from the same set of type.
endpaper A sheet or sheets attached to the text block by the binder. The free endpaper is the extension of the paste-down.
engraving The preparation of a printing surface by cutting or etching the surface.
etching The chemical treatment of a printing surface to incise a design or lettering.
extra illustrated Enhanced with the addition of plates from other sources, autograph material etc. Also grangerized.
F f., ff. A single folio or leaf, leaves.
Festschrift A publication honoring an individual with a series of scholarly essays.
fine A subjective indication of condition, generally taken to mean a fresh, largely unimpeachable copy of a book, with perhaps the merest trace of use.
fine binding A book, usually bound in leather, with elaborate or tasteful tooling and decoration.
fine printing The art of producing beautifully designed and executed books.
    first thus  A booksellers' term, indicating that although earlier editions of the book in question exist, this edition is the first to contain some feature, such a noteworthy set of illustrations, which is in itself desirable.   
fillet A rule in gilt or blind on the cover of a book, usually around the circumference of the cover.
folio As a designation of format, a single sheet of paper once folded. Commonly used in the trade to indicate an oversize volume, usually > 15 inches tall.
fore-edge The front edge of the text block
fore-edge painting A painted decoration to the fore-edge (see also gauffering). Foredge paintings may be double (a different painting appearing according to which way the book is fanned) or single; the foredge may also be concealed beneath gilt.
foxing A patchy discoloration found in the paper of old books. It can range from barely visible to ruinous.
french-fold Pages joined at the fore-edge and printed on the outer side only, also accordion fold.
frontispiece Pictorial element opposite the title-page.
full binding A binding in which boards and spine are uniformly covered with the same material.
G gathering see signature
gauffering A technique of decorating the edges of a book by embossing the (usually) gilt edges. Sometimes (as in the bindings of Fazakerley) this method is combined with painting to produce spectacular results.
gilt extra A rather old-fashioned cataloging term for a richly gilt binding.
good A description of condition implying some degree of wear but structural soundness and reasonably good appearance. A book described as good will not usually appeal to the fastidious collector but may prove a bargain for a reader or researcher.
grangerized See extra illustrated.
gutter margin The inner margin (adjoining the spine) of a page.
H half-title A leaf bearing the title of a work sometimes found before the title-page.
hand-colored Of prints and illustrations, the coloring of plates by hand in specialized ateliers.
hand-made paper Laid paper made by hand in a mould.
headpiece Decorative ornament at the head of a page.
hinge The interior junction between the covers and text-block.
hors commerce A portion of an edition not offered for sale.
hors texte "No text," usually in the context of prints in an artist book .
I impression All copies of a book printed at one time from the same set of type or plates. An edition may have several impressions. Synonymous with printing.
Imprimatur From the Latin "Let it be printed." A statement of permission to print found in early printed books, now largely confined to the Catholic Church as an indication that the work contains no doctrinal error.
incunabula Literally, cradle-books, books produced before and including the year 1500.
intaglio The class of reproductive process to which etching, engraving and mezzotint belong.
issue Copies of a book made up from sheets of a given printing but with the addition of (for instance) a new title-page.
J jansenist binding A binding with an austere exterior, sometimes with elaborate doublures.
Japanese vellum A smooth fibrous paper of plant origin, sometimes used as a substitute for animal vellum.
joint The exterior junction of the covers and spine of a book.
K Kelmscott Press The private press of William Morris, founded in 1891.
L LS Letter (non-autographic), signed by author.
laid down Mounted to a blank. Sometimes used of detached leaves.
laid paper Paper made in or after the traditional manner. Held to the light, such paper will display distinct vertical or chain lines at wide spacing and narrowly spaced horizontal laid lines,
large copy Of early books, with margins substantially uncut and untrimmed.
large paper A portion of an edition issued on paper with oversize margins for an effect of luxury.
letterpress Printing from metal type ("hot metal)."
levant A variety of goatskin of high quality used in bookbinding. It has a coarse grain and can take a high polish.
limited edition Issued in a stated, usually small, number of copies.
limitation Statement of edition size
lithography One of a class of processes termed planographic, in which the printing surface (stone, zinc or a similar smooth-surfaced material) is not incised but instead treated with a medium that selectively absorbs (or repels) printing ink.
livre d'artiste A (generally, French) artist book.
loose Starting to detach or detached.
M maquette Model for a binding or book layout.
marbled paper A technique for producing decorative papers for book work by floating pigments in a tank of water or size, manipulating them, and laying paper over them to take the design.
mezzotint A type of intaglio engraving in which the plate is roughened with a tool called a cradle and those areas which are not to take ink are smoothed. This method is capable of producing prints of exceptionally rich tone.
mis-en-page The arrangement and design of page elements (type, illustrations and margins).
N NS Note Signed
nature printing A method for printing impressions of great accuracy from botanical specimens by impressing them in a soft lead plate.
O octavo A book size resulting from folding a sheet with three right angle folds. In bookselling terminology, a book measuring from about seven to ten inches in height.
onlaid Of a leather binding, a design built up from cut scraps of leather in mosaic manner.
out of series An un-numbered example from a limited edition.
P p., pp. Page, pages.
paste-down That portion of the end-sheet of a book that is glued to the inside of the cover.
paste paper Paper decorated by manipulating a combination of pigment and gum with combs, stamps, brushes etc.
plaquette binding An ornate binding (or portion of a binding) decorated from a single plate rather than separate tools.
pochoir A method for coloring prints and illustrations by hand through multiple stencils, capable of very rich and elaborate effects.
pointillé, pointille A type of binding ornamentation using a field of tiny gilt dots.
portfolio Unsewn sheets in a simple folder. Often. ornament books were issued in this fashion.
printing See impression
private press A privately established though not necessarily non-commercial printing office.
prospectus A printed announcement of impending publication.
provenance The history of ownership for a given copy of a book, manuscript or work of art. Often, indications of previous ownership are given by bookplates, inscriptions, special bindings and similar features. An especially noteworthy provenance may add substantial value to a book.
publisher's cloth A cloth binding issued by the publisher.
Q quarto Technically, the book size resulting from folding a sheet with two folds at right angles, giving pages a quarter the size of the sheet. Often used loosely by booksellers to indicate a size between ten and fourteen inches, approximately.
R raised band On a binding, the raised areas on the spine through which the cords that attach to the cover-boards are passed.
rare Like terms describing condition, statements of rarity are somewhat subjective. Books are frequently described as rare when they are merely valuable. To us, a rare book is one which we may handle every few years; a very rare book is one which we may handle only once a decade; and an exceedingly rare work is one which we may handle once in a lifetime.
relief printing The class of reproductive process to which letterpress and woodcuts belong, in which the raised areas of the block or plate are the principle printing surface.
    remainder mark (pertaining to modern books, especially first editions). A small stamp, usually ink, applied to one edge of the text block to indicate that the book was remaindered (sold discounted after initial publication). Since this is an indication of later release, it tends to be considered a detriment to the collector.   
remarque A small sketch in the margin of an etching or engraving.
remboîtage The transfer of a binding from the work it originally contained to another. Sometimes simply an act of salvage, this is more frequently sophistication.
retrée A copy of a vellum book assembled from excess sheets and not accounted for in the statement of edition.
rule, gilt rule A gilt line on a binding
russia A reddish-brown calfskin impregnated with birch bark oil. A popular binding material in the late Eighteenth century, it is rarely met with today as it tends to deteriorate badly.
S semé A variety of binding decoration constructed from an evenly spaced array of gilt ornaments.
    self-wrappers  A paper binding in which the first and last integral leaf of the text block form the binding.  
shagreen Sharkskin.
shaken A defect in condition resulting from loosening of the sewing of the binding.
signature The basic structural unit of the text block. Most books are constructed of signatures or gatherings, sewn or otherwise joined together.
silked (A leaf) restored by lamination with a thin, almost invisible application of Japanese tissue.
slipcase An open-ended box, sometimes leather-covered, made to protect a book
sophistication An attempt to increase the value of a book by "improving" it, by adding missing leaves from another copy, by heavily restoring it or by other means. This is not necessarily a dishonest practice, provided that the improvements are declared.
state Of a book: a portion of a printing with minor typographical emendations or alterations.
Of a print: A minor reworking of the original design on a plate.
state proof Artist's proof impression of a variant ("state") of an engraving or etching.
stereotype An cast impression in from set-up type or another plate into which stereotype metal is poured. The result is a durable plate whose use saves wear to the original type.
suite In luxury book illustration (usually French), a separately printed, hors texte unbound set of the illustrations.
T t.e.g. Booksellers' abbreviation, top edge gilt
TLS Typed Letter Signed
tailpiece Decorative element at the end of a page.
    text block  The textual matter of the book, everything that lies between endpaper and endpaper i.e. non-inserted blank leaves, half-titles, titles, illustrations, ads, etc.   
three-quarters binding A binding with the spine and corners amply covered with the specified material, usually leather.
tipped-in Usually of plates, mounted to the page with adhesive along one edge.
tissue A thin protective sheet laid over an illustration.
title-page The leaf found in most books bearing the title, author, publishing information etc.
tooling The decoration of a binding by various bookbinding tools.
U uncut Text block not trimmed by the binder.
unopened The edge folds of the signatures unsevered. Many books in the last century were so issued; the reader was expected to have the binder do the job or to open the pages with a paper-knife.
unsewn In original folded sheets, never bound.
V vellum The skin of newly born calf, kid or lamb prepared for writing or printing. Vellum is capable of taking a very rich, dark impression from type, for which reason it has long been used by private presses to prepare a few special copies of a book.
very good A description of condition implying some slight wear. A book so described would usually be acceptable to all but the most condition-conscious of collectors.
vols. booksellers' abbreviation for volumes
W washed A method of removing foxing or staining by treatment of paper with a mild oxidizing agent, under the care of a professional restorer.
watermark A translucent design, often emblematic, in a sheet of paper indicating the papermaker.
wood cut A method of illustration in which a block of wood is carved with special tools to prepare a raised printing surface. This is the oldest of all techniques for reproducing illustration.
wood engraving A process somewhat similar to the wood cut in which a design is incised as a series of fine lines . This technique is of later development and is capable of far more detailed effects than the woodcut.
worming Small holes left by the action of the book worm (the larvae of various beetles).
wove paper Paper which, when held to the light, appears to have an even pattern of fine mesh, distinct from laid paper.
wrappers A flexible paper binding.
X xylography Wood engraving, a term used commonly of books illustrated by this method in the nineteenth century or earlier.
Y yapped binding Named after William Yapp, a binding with overlapping flaps around the edges.
Z zincograph A zinc etching. An uncommon term, but what is an alphabet without Z?
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