27Nov Book Collecting Terminology - Condition Descriptions

Here follows a list of terms we use when describing our books.

NOTE: We expect to update this post every now and then, so please check back to look for updates.

ABRASION: This refers to the boards, jacket, wraps of even leaves having had something scuff their surface. It can occur just from handling, also scraping and things like stickers being removed.

BOOKPLATE: This is a paper plate usually glued to the front pastedown. It can be a bonus if it's implies an interesting history. 

BLEEDING: This is when a little moisture has caused dye from one part of the book to be transferred to another. Most commonly this is found when the colour from the cloth has bled on to the jacket interior.

BROWNING: See toning.

BUMPING: Refers to the book's boards having been bumped, sometimes from being dropped but mostly from handling. The most common place to find bumping is on the spine tips and usually results in a little rolling and creasing. Sometimes the corners on the fore-edge will get bumped and occasionally on edges.

CHIPPING: Chipping refers to small areas of loss to either the dustjacket or the binding covering. It means that part of the material has chipped off, c.f. with loss. Just a singular instance of chipping is referred to as a chip.

CLOSED TEAR: As opposed to an open tear, this is a tear in the book, jacket or elsewhere, where the material is torn but nothing is lost (i.e. they damaged parts meet together when placed next to each other)

COCKING: Synonymous with spine lean.

EX-LIBRARY: Refers to the book having spent some time in a public or circulating library. We generally don't sell ex-library copies.

EX-LIBRIS: Refers to the book having at some point in it history been part of a private (as opposed to public or circulating) library.

FADING: See Sunning

FOXING: Comes from ferrous oxide, refers to brown spots anywhere on the book or jacket. With modern books it's most commonly found on the block edges, and first few leaves where the moisture can penetrate. The interior of the jacket can get foxed too. Older books often have foxing throughout the leaves.

FUSTY: See musty.

HINGES STARTING: This usually means that the page block is a little loose and the paper that ties the boards to the block (making up the endpaper and pastedown) is starting to separate and tear. The notion is that the binding is starting to fail and might not hold up to subsequent readings. It can also indicate that the webbing is showing.


INSCRIPTION: Unless it's an author's inscription, this will refer to an ownership inscription by a previous owner or a gift inscription when the book has been offered as a gift. Sometimes an inscription can simply be hand-written text within the book.

KNOCKING: Basically synonymous with bumping. Means the book has taken a knock.

LIBRARY STAMPS: Refers to the, usually ink, stamps within the book that a librarian has placed. Other library markings can include slips, perforations, bindings. We generally don't sell library copies.

LOOSE: This can apply to either the book or the jacket. If the jacket is loose it means that it doesn't wrap tightly around the book. This is often caused by jacket protectors with a paper backing or jackets that have been adjust by realigning the flaps. On the case of a book it occurs from multiple readings. Usually with sewn binding, the glue cracks a little and the integrity relies more on the strings holding it all together. This results in the gatherings moving somewhat independently of each other, and becoming a little looser. It doesn't mean the book's falling apart necessarily.

LOSS: Refers to part of the jacket, binding or leaves being missing. Often qualified with a measurement, such as one inch of loss to the jacket at the spine.

MARRIAGE: A marriage is where the book and jacket, as sold, were not paired together when the book was first sold. Usually, but not always, the jacket and book should match (i.e. be the same published state). The reason for this is nearly always to improve the offering. A good book with a fine jacket, and a fine book with a good jacket will be more collectable if they are swapped over giving a fine book with a fine jacket and a good book with a good jacket. That said, it's not always seen as a good practice. Many collectors don't want supplied copies as it can be seen as lessening the overall offering. We rarely offer marriages, but when we do it's it noted if known.

MUSTY: Usually caused by a book having been stored in less than suitable conditions (usually damp/humid). This causes the book to smell mouldy and even mould to be present.

OFFSETTING: This refers to a type of toning where the toning has been offset in some part by another part of the book. This is most often found on the book's pastedowns where the paper under the jacket flaps is white and the rest is toned. It can also occur, and frequently does, opposite illustrated plates.

OPEN TEAR: Basically a chip. The material has torn and doesn't meet when placed together again.

PRICE CLIPPING: Refers to the practice of cutting the price from the dustjacket. If the book was at one point given as a gift it was common for the corner (where the price usually is) to be cut off to disguise how much it cost. It isn't common, but sometimes a publisher would clip the price and re-price with a sticker or printed overlay. We refer to this as a publisher's price clip.

RUBBING: Usually refers to light abrasion to the jacket or boards. On a jacket this can result in the colour being removed, sometimes down to the white paper beneath. Sometimes it can just refer to the sheen of the jacket being removed.

SEPARATION: Usually where the gatherings have separated even split.

SOILING: Refers to a jacket, binding or leaf having gotten a little dirty. Usually from handling or poor storage. Sometimes it will clean off, but usually it's an area of staining.

SPINE LEAN: If a book hasn't been opened correctly (which is nearly always the case), the result can be that after one or more read-throughs the book develops a bit of a lean. This is where, when laid flat, the upper board and lower board are no longer align, and the page block leans.

SPLITTING: Refers to a part of the book having split. This can be the jacket, usually at the creases or the spine at the hinges. Anywhere where the material has separated.

SUNNING: This refers to the colour having been faded by UV light. This is most often due to books having been left in the sun. Most commonly found on the spine of a book which is facing the sun on a shelf. Occasionally, upper and lower boards can be sunned non-uniformly.

SUPPLIED JACKET: This is where a jacket has been supplied from another copy of the book. Also referred to as a marriage (see marriage).

TONING: This refers to a section of the book (leaves, jacket, boards) having taken on a colour tone different to how it was issued. Usually this is a brown tone.

STAINING: This refers to any kind of damage caused by contact with a liquid, often water. Usually we will indicate the type of staining (water damage, tea ring etc).

WRINKLING TO THE LAMINATE: This refers to the laminate that covers the dustjacket having lifted a little or not quite made perfect contact. Sometimes this is simply with wear and drying out, other times it's due to the manufacturing process.

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