Any specialized area of knowledge will have its own words and phrases. In the book trade, special terms differ widely. The list below gives those terms commonly used in our book descriptions. More complete list will be found in John Carter’s ABC for Book Collectors (7th edition, 1998).


  • All edges gilt (a.e.g.) – The three outer edges of the leaves of a book are cut smooth and gilded.
  • Aquatint – A process in etching which is not confined to the use of line only, but produces continuous tone not unlike a wash drawing.
  • Aquatint photogravure – The most delicate form of photogravure, using an exceptionally fine aquatint grain. See Photogravure; Gravure.
  • Armorial binding – Binding, mostly leather, stamped in gilt or blind with a coat-of-arms.
  • As issued – Certain anomaly of the book’s binding, printing, illustration, etc., is in fact the original state that it was published, i.e. first issued
  • Association copy – A book that by the evidence of an autograph, notes, inscription, bookplate, etc., is believed to was either owned by its author or by someone otherwise connected with the book or its author.



  • Bevelled edges – A decorative binding technique in which the edges of both covers have been cut to a slanted angle. Also known as Bevelled Boards.
  • Binding copy – A book whose covers are in poor condition but the text is fine, making it worth re-binding.
  • Blanks – The leaves at the beginning and the end of a book which are essential part of it. Known also as Blank Leaves, Printer's Blanks.
  • Blind – A plain impression that is embossed on the binding for decoration.
  • Blocking – A decoration on a binding applied by a machine. See Tooling.
  • Boards – The upper and lower covers of a hardbound book, covered by paper, cloth, or leather. Attached together by the spine, they consist the binding. See also Sides; Spine.
  • Bookplate – A label which identifies ownership, often pasted to the inside of the front cover. Bookplates can be of artistic or bibliophilic interest. Also referred to as Book Label.
  • Broadside – A larger sheet of paper printed on one side only.
  • Buckram – A stiff, strong cotton fabric used for binding.
  • Bumped – The corners of the boards are bent, worn.



  • Calf – Leather made from a calf hide. Smooth and without grain, it may be dyed and polished.
  • Called for – As it should be, as required. Indicates that a certain anomaly in the book’s collation signifies in fact its completeness according to a particular bibliographic authority.
  • Cancel – A correction, a “cancel”, made by the publisher after the book has been printed and is inserted into the book.
  • Chipped – A small piece is chipped off the dust-jacket or leaf (page) of a book.
  • Chromolithography – A colour printing process using a series of lithographic stones or plates. See also Lithograph.
  • Cloth – A common binding material. A book that is bound in cloth can be referred to as “original cloth”, etc. See also Hardcover.
  • Cocked – The book’s spine is no longer straight.
  • Collated – The physical completeness of the book, its pages, illustrations, etc., has been checked and verified.
  • Collotype – One of the most accurate and attractive methods of photomechanical tonal printing processes. Has been used for single-sheet prints and luxury portfolios. Since the 1950s has been abandoned by all except a few small specialist firms.
  • Comb binding – A spiral binding made of plastic.
  • Compartments – The decorative square panels on the spine of a leather binding which are formed by the binding cords, the raised bands. Also known as Panelled.
  • Contemporary – Describes a binding, notes, illustrations and their colouration, inscriptions, bookplate, etc., which were created at the same time the book was printed or within a decade, sometimes a quarter of a century, from the date of publication.
  • Cracked – A narrow opening or break in the binding’s Joints or Hinges.
  • Cropped – The leaf, or the complete book margins have been trimmed by the binder too close to the text. Also referred to as Shaved.



  • Deckle edges – The rough edges of a book which is not trimmed flush. Also known as Uncut.
  • Dedication copy – A copy of a book which is inscribed by the author in a dedication to a particular person.
  • Dedication page – The page of a book that lists, in print, the persons, officials, or institutions to whom the author has committed the work. See also Privilige; Imprimatur.
  • Dentelle – A decorative pattern, usually gilt, on the inner edges of a leather binding. Also known as Turn-in.
  • Device – A printer's mark or symbol on the title page or at the end of a book.
  • Disbound – A book that is lacking its binding. See Unbound.
  • Doctored – See Made-up.
  • Dust-jacket (dj) – The paper cover that wraps a cloth-bound book. It may protects the binding from soiling, but serves mostly as a decorative and commercial instrument.



  • Edges – The three outer edges of a book, i.e. top, fore-edge, and bottom (tail; foot).
  • Embossed – Binding, mostly leather, with a raised design stamped onto it. It can be coloured, gilt, or plain, i.e. “blind”.
  • Endpapers – The double leaves at the front and end of a book. The half which is pasted down to the cover is called “paste-down”; the other half is known as “free endpaper” or “flyleaf”.
  • Engraving – The term applies to all processes of incising a design or illustration on a hard surface, i.e. wood (relief) or metal (intaglio), and to the prints which they produce.
  • Errata – A list of printing errors, laid in the book.
  • Etching – An intaglio print-making process using acid rather than manual force in order to bite the design into the plate.



  • Facsimile – An exact copy of a single leaf or a complete book, usually made through a photomechanical process.
  • False bands – Fake raised bands attached to the spine of the book for decorative reasons. See Compartments; Raised Bands.
  • Flyleaf – See Endpaper.
  • Fleuron – A flower-shaped printer’s ornament.
  • Foot – The lower part of the spine (or a leaf). Sometimes referred to as Tail. See also Head.
  • Foxing – Brown spots that stain old paper.
  • Frontispiece – The illustrated leaf, often printed on a different paper, that faces the title page.



  • Gilt edges – See All Edges Gilt.
  • Gutter – The inner margins of two facing leaves in a bound book, when opened.
  • Gathering – A printed sheet of paper after it has been folded to form a group of leaves. The gatherings, bound together, make a book. Also known as Quire. See Signature.
  • Gothic – Early type-face, developed in Europe. Became in 1517 the national script and type in Germany until abolished in 1941. Also known as Black Letter.
  • Gravure – The machine-printed version of photogravure. Both are intaglio printing processes using photography. Also known as rotogravure; called erratically Heliogravure. See Photogravure.



  • Half cloth – A book in which the spine and corners are covered with cloth, the rest of the sides with paper.
  • Half leather – A book in which the spine and corners are covered with leather (calf, morocco, sheep), the rest of the sides with cloth or paper.
  • Half-title – The title of the book, abbreviated, as it sometimes appears on the page before the actual title page.
  • Halftone – A photomechanical printing process using a cross-line screen to break up a continuous tone image into dots of varying size.
  • Hardcover – A book with stiff boards, covered in either cloth, paper, or leather.
  • Head – The upper part of the spine. See Tail.
  • Head-piece – Ornament or decorative illustration at the head of a section or chapter of a book. See also Tail-piece; Vignette.
  • Heliogravure – See Photogravure.
  • Hinge – The inside junction of the board with the spine; this at the front, or beginning, is the “front hinge” (“upper hinge”); this at the back, or end, is the “back hinge” (“lower hinge”). See Joint.



  • Imprimatur – Latin for “Let it be printed”. An official, whether secular or religious, authorization to print the book. Common in 16th and 17th century books, it was often printed on a separate leaf, known as “imprimatur leaf” or “license leaf”. See Privilige.
  • Imprint – The name of the publisher, place of publication, and the date, usually to be found on the title page or in a colophon at the end.
  • Intaglio – Italian for incising or engraving. A plate-making process in which the lines are cut out of the surface of the plate by engraving or etching rather than made to stand up from it as in relief. See also Relief; Planographic.

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