Confused? Don’t worry; you're not alone. To help you make sense of it, all Reading Vintage has compiled a glossary of standard terms booksellers use in describing the condition of books.
Many of these terms are in the description of the unique books found here at Reading Vintage. Bookmark this page for a handy reference guide
Boards– The covers, front, and rear, of a hardbound book.
Binding– As a noun, the covers and spine of a book. As a verb, the process that secures the pages or sections of a publication to keep them in order and to protect them. The binding may be stapled or sewn, sewn and enclosed in wrappers, or by gluing the pages to the outer cover, but most often refers to a hardcover binding.
Bindings– A term generally used in the antiquarian book world to mean Fine Bindings, of which there are numerous styles. Some examples include Antique, Cambridge Style, La Greque, Dos-A-Dos, Etruscan, and Spanish Cal
Bookplate– A label on the front pastedown or flyleaf or sometimes elsewhere in the book, used to mark ownership. Unless it is the book plate of a well-known person, this usually decreases the value of a book. Alternatively, a bookplate is sometimes signed by the author and then included in the book. While not as valuable as having the signature on the book itself, this can be a nice collectible
Browning– An overall discoloration found in the paper of some old books, sometimes due to the decomposition of the paper coating.
Dedication Page– The page on which the author writes his/her dedication, usually the page after the title page.
Dust Jacket– A paper cover protecting a book from dirt and wear, often with illustrations and information about the book and author, sometimes called a “dust wrapper”. Dust jacket art work is used to promote and sell the book. The dust jacket condition is often one of the most important factors in determining a book’s value.
Edition– Comprises all the copies of a book printed from the same setting of type. An edition may have multiple printings, but it is only the first printing (or impression) that is a true first edition, even when the copyright page may state first edition.
First Edition– The first appearance of an author’s work in book form.
Inscribed– A book in which a written inscription has been made by the author, to a specified person. This is not to be confused with a non-authorial inscription, which would be written name, note, phrase, or comment made by someone other than the author (usually a previous owner).
Plates– Whole sheet illustrations, as opposed to “cuts”, which are illustrations printed on text pages.
Reinforced dust jacket– A dust jacket that has been strengthened with tape by the previous owner.
Slip-case– An open-ended box, sometimes leather-covered, made to protect a book.
Title page– After the half-title page; generally contains the title of the page, the author, the publisher, and occasionally the publication date.
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.