Abbreviations for, respectively, folio, quarto, octavo, duodecimo, sextodecimo.
These are the standard book formats, and are closely linked to the size of the book. They actually refer to the number of book leaves formed from one original sheet of printing paper, and this depends on how the sheet has been folded before being gathered up with others and sewn into the book. The smaller the number of folds, the fewer the leaves formed from the original and the larger the ultimate size of the page - usually!
An indentation only, with no ink, colouring or gilt applied to it. This can refer to tooled designs on bindings ('blind tooled'), or to ownership / library stamps or any other uncoloured impressing on to paper..
The covers of a 'hardback' book. Usually made from pasteboard, the front and back boards are sometimes termed upper and lower boards.
In the days before publishers issued their own finished cloth bindings, boards were left plain or perhaps covered in plain paper when books were purchased. They were then bound to suit the new owner's taste, with fresh or trimmed boards covered in a decorative material such as leather or marbled paper.
The most common leather used in the British binding tradition, noted for its smoothness and workability. It can be patterned in various ways, and is easily tooled.
The generic term for any fabric covering the boards of a book, as opposed to animal skins (generically, leather). Important in the history of books, because publishers began to issue books ready bound in cloth from about 1830 in order to make them more affordable to a wider section of the public. Before then, books were very expensive to buy, and sold in plain boards or wrappers, which the owners would then get bound in leather in a style to suit their libraries. The development and increasing sophistication of the publisher's cloth binding makes a fascinating study, and for books published after about 1830, 'original publisher's cloth' is an essential requirement for many collectors.
Repeating pattern - usually in gilt - along the inside margins of the boards.
A small format book, where the original printed sheet has been folded in such a way as to produce 12 leaves from 1 (24 pages)
(Sometimes called dust-wrapper, but this term can be ambiguous - see wrapper.) Paper or thin card which is separate from the book, but is issued by the publisher, wrapped around the boards and spine, and held in place by 'flaps' tucked into the front and rear. Initially a means of protecting new cloth bindings, dust-jackets began by being very plain with just a printed title - and sometimes not even that. Often discarded by booksellers, they were rarely kept by owners either, so that tracing their early history (c.1850 -1900) is difficult.
By the beginning of the 20th century, publishers began to make more use of these jackets for promoting the book itself and for advertising others. Because it was much easier to print on a dust-jacket than to tool a cloth binding, a trend evolved amongst publishers to make them look striking, and they would often commission well known artists in their design. A dust-jacket would now stay on a book for at least as long as it was in the shop, and very often, depending on the owner, for much longer. Correspondingly, the original cloth bindings of the publisher became plainer and plainer. The further one goes into the 20th century, the more important does the jacket become to the appearance of books and to the collector - particularly of first editions of novels.
A single sheet of paper, half of which is glued over the inside book cover (the front or rear paste-down), the other half of which is free to form the first sheet of paper in the book (the free end-paper)
Abbreviation for front free end-paper - see above. This is often quoted in book descriptions, because it can bear ownership inscriptions, library stamps or be cut away completely (e.g. 'lacks ffep').
Large format book where the printing sheet is folded just once to give 2 very large leaves, (4 pages).
The brown spotting that occurs in paper, which is caused both by its constitution (mainly acid content) and by the environmental conditions of its storage. It varies in severity from occasional light blemishes to deeply brown marks.
e.g. 'full calf'. Where the binding material covers the spine and boards completely.
The two most commonly used condition gradings. VG (Very Good) suggests an exceptionally well cared for volume; G (Good) suggests an acceptable copy. In between (the much used G/VG), look out for the identification of specific faults.
Where the paper edges of a book, when pressed together, have been tooled, usually having first been gilded. The patterns are striking and, when gilded, luxuriant.
e.g. 'half calf'. Where the binding material covers the spine, a little way into the boards and then the corners. The material covering the rest of the boards is usually less robust or expensive, e.g marbled paper or cloth.
The 'half-title' is a leaf which is largely blank, but has just the short title on the recto, and occasionally, publisher's adverts on theverso. It was often discarded by binders, and not all books contained half titles, so that their presence or absence is often noted and compared by cataloguers. Scary as it sounds, 'lacks half title' is not a phrase that implies a fatal fault with a book.
Front and rear - where the book boards join the spine. The front hinge is subject to more mechanical wear then any other part of the book, and, particularly if the binding is leather, it will begin to deteriorate after repeated openings and closings of the volume. The stages of hinge problems, in order of severity, are 'tender' 'worn', 'beginning to split (or the single word: 'starting'), and 'cracked'. The ultimate end to this sorry progression is 'front board detached', when not even the front end-paper behind the hinge can keep the book together.
The only solution is to 're-back' the book with fresh material going round the spine before being skillfully pared into the original covering of the boards. Sometimes material from the original back-strip is 'laid on', sometimes the spine is totally new.
To 'houfe' a book is to insert loosely within the book any number of notes, newspaper cuttings, letters, articles, photographs and other such material which the owner considers relevant to the contents of the book. Very often these items are collected within the fold of the front free endpaper, although they may also appear appropriately distributed throughout the book.
The reaction to houfing amongst collectors and archivists is split: Whilst the practice undoubtedly puts a physical strain on the binding and chemically endangers the paper, some have argued that houfiana should not be removed as it is an important and revealing mark of ownership and should be preserved within the book even at the expense of the long term survival of the book itself.
etym: Houfe = Simon Houfe, noted scholar and practitioner of the art.
A single sheet within a book, consisting of two pages: the verso and recto. Leaves are often numbered by the printer usingsignatures: A1..., B1... C1..., where the letter corresponds to each folded gathering that came from the original printing sheet. A cataloguer will sometime identify an important or defective leaf using these numbers, whether or not they are printed on the leaf.
Printed text, as opposed to illustrations - traditionally by pressing inked font (metal type) onto paper or, rarely, vellum.
Morocco goat skin - a high quality leather used in book binding, usually with a strong texture to it. ('Crushed morocco', though, is smooth - almost mirror like - and takes a very high polish).
The most common of all book formats - the standard 'hardback novel' size and shape. Formed by three successive folds in half of the original sheet, giving 8 leaves from 1, or 16 pages.
The unwanted transfer of traces of ink or other chemicals from a plate to the page opposite, either caused by the book being closed before the printing ink on the illustration has had time fully to dry, or by chemical reactions across the paper. Sometimes offsetting is strong enough and clear enough to produce a ghost impression of the image on the affected page. Illustrations in books are often 'guarded' by a piece of tissue to prevent offsetting - hence the term 'tissue guard' used by cataloguers. Offsetting can also occur from incorrectly dried letterpress pages - producing a confusion of type which is difficult to read.
A side of a leaf, which can be printed, illustrated or blank. If not numbered by the printer, pages are often counted by the cataloguer in square brackets e.g. ' + pp264.
The half of the end-paper glued to the board - front or back.
An inserted illustration or photograph, often printed on different paper and using an entirely different process from the text printing. (Often a copper, steel or zinc printing plate is used, hence the term).
Plates can be tipped in (glued along the inner margin) or sewn in with a fold which tucks round one of the letterpress gatherings.
A larger, squarish format book (depending on the original size of the printing sheet and binder's trimming.) Made from two folds of the original sheet, giving 4 leaves from 1, or 8 pages.
See hinges. Replacing the back (back-strip, spine) of a book, either because of direct damage or, more frequently, because the hinges have perished.
From 'Right' - the side of the leaf that is on the right as the book is held open. Each leaf has a recto side, and, visible when the leaf is turned, a verso. Familiarity allows us to think of recto as the front and verso as the back of a leaf.
A very small format book, where the original printing sheet has been folded in half four times to produce 16 leaves from 1 (32 pages)
The printed identifier on the first of a group of leaves to mark their position in a book for the binder - rarely used in modern machine bound books.
They are small characters (usually a letter, doubled, tripled etc. when the alphabet has been used once, twice etc.) at the foot of the lead page for each folded gathering. Numbers may also appear after the letter(s). By extension, the term 'signature' can also be used to refer to the gathering itself.
Glued along an edge.
A piece of tissue tipped into a book to protect an illustration and prevent offsetting of the ink to the page opposite.
Impressing a leather (or, later, cloth) binding with a hot metal tool. If the tool is laid with gold leaf, the result is the traditional 'gilt tooling'. If no colouring or leaf is applied, so that the effect is purely an indentation in the material, the effect is known as 'blind tooling.' Tooling can also be applied to page edges - gauffering.
A creamy coloured calf skin, much used in Europe as a binding material, though less frequently in this country. It was, however, a popular choice for deluxe special editions of illustrated books in the UK in the early decades of the twentieth century, although, sadly, its soft, light colouring does leave it vulnerable to appearing somewhat grubby over time.
Before the development of printing, the use of vellum as a medium for manuscripts was widespread, and some early printed books were also printed on vellum. In more recent times, specialist presses have occasionally produced strictly limited (and very expensive) editions printed on vellum.
As a binding, the effect of vellum is sometimes imitated by specially treated, cream coloured papers which can be quite convincing from a distance. Japanese vellum is a traditional, hand-made creamy coloured, translucent paper made from the long fibres of certain tree barks. It is often used as the printing paper in fine editions of books, along with its cheaper imitation, japon.
The other side of recto - see above. Effectively, the back of a leaf. 'title page verso' is an expression often used in cataloguing.
Not to be confused with dust-jackets, publisher's wraps (or wrappers) can refer to the temporary, plain paper covers glued by the publisher over the sewn but unbound book in the days before publishers issued their own permanent bindings. A cheap alternative to publisher's boards (see above), they were discarded when the book was bound (although many examples of unbound books from this era survive - hence the term: 'in original wraps').
Particularly in Europe, and sometimes in the US, the meaning of wrappers or wraps is extended to include the integral printed paper or card covers of more recent books - what we term 'softbacks' or 'paperbacks'. Very often, academic journals were left in such printed wraps, as the expense of binding extensive runs was rarely merited. The early days of the paperback novel - cheap reads in highly printed wrappers to last a railway journey - are the forerunners of the paperback book industry.
The description of a modern book as being 'in wrappers' is ambiguous - it is as likely to mean a paperback as a hardback in dust-jacket!