Glossary of Book Terms

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Book Types & Sizes | Book Condition | Book Flaws | Parts of a Book | Alger-Specific Terms

Book Types & Sizes

advance copy A review copy. When a book is published, complimentary advance copies will often be sent to reviewers. 
atlas folioDescription of the size of a book: about 25 inches high. 
bound galley An uncorrected page or galley proof sent out by a publisher before publication for publicity. 
caseboundA hardcover book.
chapbook A small, usually paperback, book of poetry or a religious tract or somesuch. 
clothbound A book with cloth covering the boards. 
codex  A volume of ancient manuscript. These books are the earliest form of the type of book binding we use today.
double elephant folioDescription of the size of a book: about 50 inches high. 
duodecimo Description of the size of a book: about 7.75 inches high (12mo). 
elephant folio Description of the size of a book: about 23 inches high. 
facsimile editionAn exact reproduction of an original book depicting the text and the book's physical appearance. 
first editionThe first printing of the first edition (as far as collectors are concerned). 
first state Used in book collecting to refer to a book from the earliest run of a first edition, generally distinguished by a change in some part of the binding or correction of the text which has been made in later versions of the first edition print run. Compare to second state
folio Description of the size of a book: about 15 inches high (Fo). 
format  A specific binding; a certain combination of size, spine, and cover design.
fortyeightmo Description of the size of a book: about 4 inches high (48mo). 
galleyA proof of a book made before the pages are numbered. 
gift book A 19th century book, often lavishly decorated, which collected essays, short fiction, and poetry. They were primarily published in the autumn, in time for the holiday season and were intended to be given away rather than read by the purchaser.
hornbook A child's primer, made of parchment, mounted on a board with a handle, protected by a transparent plate made of horn. 
illuminated Old manuscripts and early books decorated with ornamental letters or colored illustrations. 
illustrated Decorated with pictures or other features usually for the purpose of clarifying the context. 
octavo Description of the size of a book: about 9.75 inches high (8mo). 
mass market paperback A smaller paperback, the size you often find at a supermarket.
PPI  Pages per inch; used as a measure of the thickness of the paper the book is printed on. If a type of paper is 400 ppi, it means that a 400-page book printed on this paper will be 1 inch thick. 
quarto Description of the size of a book: about 12 inches high (4mo). 
saddle-stitchedLoose printed, folded, and nested pages secured with stitches or staples down the middle of the fold (the spine).
scroll A roll of papyrus, parchment, or paper which has been written, drawn or painted upon for the purpose of transmitting information or using as a decoration.
second state  Used in book collecting to refer to a first edition, but after some change has been made in the printing, such as a correction, or a change in binding color. Compare to first state.
sixteenmo Description of the size of a book: about 6.75 inches high (16mo). 
Smyth sewn  A high-quality type of binding in which the pages are sewn into the book using binders thread and further reinforced with fabric backing and adhesive. An interesting feature of books with Smyth sewn bindings is that they lay completely flat. Also known as "section sewn".
thirtytwomo Description of the size of a book: about 5 inches high (32mo). 
trade cloth  A book industry term for a hardcover book, which may or may not have a dust jacket.
trade paperback  Usually taller, wider, with larger font, and printed on nicer paper than a mass market paperback.
twentyfourmo Description of the size of a book: about 5.75 inches high (24mo). 


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Book Types & Sizes | Book Condition | Book Flaws | Parts of a Book | Alger-Specific Terms

Book Condition

fair A worn book with defects such as a torn dust jacket, foxing, or loose binding, etc.
fine Nearly new, with slight signs of aging, but no defects. This is the highest rating you'll see on a collectable book.
good A complete book with no major defects, showing normal wear and ageing. Shorthand: G.
poor A “reading copy” having signs of heavy use. It is very well worn and may have major soiling or binding defects. Cover may be damaged and may have loose joints, hinges, pages, etc. Usually books are only bought in this condition if they are particularly rare or inexpensive.
reading copy A book which has little or no value as a collectible item, but has complete text.
very good A complete book, as issued, with very few blemishes or signs of wear. Shorthand: VG


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Book Types & Sizes | Book Condition | Book Flaws | Parts of a Book | Alger-Specific Terms

Book Flaws

broken hinge A condition in which the end papers at the front and/or back of a book have cracked due to age or poor construction, resulting in a loose or completely disconnected case.
chipped A condition in which small pieces of the dust jacket have been chipped away at the edges.
cocked If, when looking down on the head of a book, the corners are not square it is said to be cocked or rolled. Also known as a spine slant.
ex library A book with library markings on it.
foxed Discolored, usually with reddish-brown spots, especially the leaves of a book.
loose hinge A condition in which one or both boards of a book have pulled away from the endpapers at the spine, resulting in looseness in the connection between the text block and the case.
shaken A condition characterized by very loose binding.
stacked A condition characterized by a shift in the binding of a book.

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Parts of a Book

addendum, pl. addenda A supplement to a book. When material needs to be added to a finished book at the time of its binding, it may be printed on a slip of paper and tipped in, or pasted in.
appendix The additional or supplementary material sometimes found at the end of a book.
backbone A book's backstrap, backstrip or spine.
bar code A machine-readable code in the form of numbers and a pattern of parallel lines of varying widths, printed on and identifying a product. Almost always found on the bottom corner on the back of the book.
bds. Abbreviation for "boards," which see.
blurb The paragraph or so printed on the cover or dust jacket of a book which almost always tells you how important the book is. Often the blurb is a very brief comment from a respected reader. "Fascinating! -- Barack Obama"
boards The stiff front and back parts of a hardcover book.
cloth wrapper Refers to a book bound with rigid protective covers (typically of cardboard covered with cloth, or sometimes leather); a hardcover.
colophon Either a publisher's trademark or information concerning the book's publication printed at the end of a book. Literally the finishing stroke.
case The boards and spine of a hardcover book - in other words, the "outer shell".
comb binding A binding similar to a spiral binding, but made of plastic, and which if flattened would resemble a comb.
dust jacket The paper cover (d.j.).
dust wrapper The same as a dust jacket (d.w.).
endpapers The paper at the front and back of the book that connects the case to the text block. Can be both plain and decorative.
flyleaf Unprinted pages (other than endpapers) which may appear at the front or back of a book.
fore edge The front of a book, considering the spine to be the back of a book.
fore-edge painting A form of book decoration popular in the late eighteenth century which displays a painting when the books pages are fanned.
frontispiece Illustration which faces the title page.
gilt edges When the edges of a book have been gilded, or edged in gold (or another metallic color).
gutter White space between facing pages.
headband A decorative cloth band added to the top of bottom of a book's spine.
imprint The publisher's and/or printer's note usually found at the foot of the title page giving place, date and publication information. Also may refer to a seperate line of books with a different designation under a large publisher. "Sleuth Mysteries is an imprint of HarperCollins."
ISBN International Standard Book Number: a ten-digit number assigned to every book before publication which records such details as language, provenance, and publisher.
peper wrapper Refers to a paperback book.
recto The right-hand or front of a book leaf. Contrast "verso," the back of the leaf.
text block The pages of the book. In hardcover books, the text block is what's inside the case.
verso The back of a leaf. Contrast "recto," the front of the leaf.

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Alger-Specific Terms

Bennett Refers to Bob Bennett or his bibliography of Alger's works, A Collector's Guide to the Published Works of Horatio Alger, Jr. This book is considered one of the definitive authorities on what constitutes a first edition. Most often seen in the phrase "according to Bennett."
Bennett first Implies a first edition about which there is some disagreement between Bennett and Gardner. A Bennett first meets Bennett's points, but not Gardner's. See also Gardner first.
Canal Boy Shorthand term for the Alger book From Canal Boy to President.
Gardner Refers to Ralph Gardner or his bibliography of Alger's works, Horatio Alger: Or, The American Hero Era. This book is considered one of the definitive authorities on what constitutes a first edition. Most often seen in the phrase "according to Gardner."
Gardner first Implies a first edition about which there is some disagreement between Gardner and Bennett. A Gardner first meets Gardner's points, but not Bennett's. See also Bennett first.
p.f. Partic'lar Friend. Horatio Alger Society members are given p.f. numbers instead of membership numbers. Hence, if a member signs his name to something related to the HAS, he will often follow his name with his p.f. number.
Polyglot Books published by Polyglot Press. This publishing company has put out several modern editions of rare Alger titles.
purple Loring A format published by Loring, most often featuring blind-stamped clothbound purple covers with gold lettering. Due to age and sun exposure many purple Lorings now appear tan, at least on the spine. There are several first editions in this format.
Westgard Modern Alger first editions published by Gilbert K. Westgard. These include signed, limited edition printings printed in miniature (2.25” x 3”).