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 Glossary of Terms & Information

Condition of Books

The most important feature of the value of a book is it's condition. Is is used or new? Signed or unsigned? Does it have the dust cover? Consider all the aspects of condition to determine the value.

Description of Condition


A new book is a book previously not circulated to a buyer. Although a new book is typically free of any faults or defects, "new" is not actually a description of condition as a new book may possibly display shelf wear from the shop or distributor supplying it or printing errors or defects from publishing that were not detected. Many of our books have never been used or read - rather have been in storage.  They many show signs of age.  The actual specifics of a new book may be hard for a bookseller to state or predict as they may be shipping one of any number of copies of the title to fill the order. We try to describe the book in detail, and are happy to explain for individual inquiries. 


  A book that has had at least one previous owner and has been in cirdulation.  There may be writing or other evidence of use.  Used is not really a condition, but rather a description of the book. 


A poor book is in minimal condition, and unless the content is desired it has minimal value.  If we offer any "poor" books, we will be happy to include actual photos of the book with a complete description.


Fair is a worn book that has complete text pages (including those with maps or plates) but may lack endpapers, half-title, etc. (which must be noted). Binding, jacket (if any), etc., may also be worn. 


Good describes the average used and worn book that has all pages or leaves present. The oft-repeated aphorism in the book collecting world is "good isn't good." However, this can be a little misleading: while generally not considered an acceptable condition for collectors, except in cases of very scarce material.

Very Good

Very Good condition can describe a used book that does show some small signs of wear - but no tears - on either binding or paper. Should not have markings or highlighting, except names inside the front cover. Any defects must be noted. A book in very good condition is often cited as the minimum condition requirement for most collectors. Books in grades less than very good, such as good, poor and fair (and the indeterminate acceptable) are not generally accepted as collectible copies, except in the cases of very rare books or manuscripts.

Age Tan or Sunned

Damage done to a book cover or dust jacket caused by exposure to direct sunlight.  Very strong fluorescent light can cause slight sunning to a book.  Sunning can fade out the design on the cover and it can also sometimes warp or melt the dust jacket.


Generally refers to minor discoloration or staining.


In reference to a hinge or a book's binding, means that the glue which holds the opposing leaves has allowed them to separate, revealing the stitching or binding underneath.

Shelf Wear

Shelf wear (shelfwear) describes damage caused over time to a book by placing and removing a book from a shelf. This damage is caused by the book rubbing against the shelf, causing the edges and cover to become worn down or even torn.  The book can also receive damage from neighboring books rubbing against the front and back covers causing warping and other damage. The spine and head of the book can also receive damage from being pulled from the shelf without caution.  Shelfwear can be maintained with caution used when storing books, paying attention to tension when removing or placing a book, also sometimes placing the books on their sides can reduce shelfwear damage. 


Copyright page

The page in a book that describes the lineage of that book, typically including the book's author, publisher, date of publication and generally the printing history of that book. This page is typically within the first few pages of a book on the verso of the title page. It is referred to as the copyright page for the simple reason that it will often make a legal statement of who owns the rights to publication of the material in the book The copyright generally offers a wealth of additional information to readers, collectors and libraries, including the Library of Congress number for US books, the ISBN for recent publications, credits for the author, editor, and other important personnel in the production of the book, and often even typographical details.

Dust Cover or Jacket

Also known as book jacket, dust cover, or dust wrapper, a dust jacket is a protective and decorative cover for a book that is usually made with paper and wraps around the binding of a book. The dust cover has folded flaps to cradle the book, those flaps often contain a summary of the book, a blurb about the author of the book, and something features illustrations or text excerpts from the book. The dust jacket first appeared in the early 1800's as a way to protect the bindings of a book and to keep it clean from dust or other damage.  As most readers threw the plain jackets into the trash, early dust jacket examples are rare and quite collectible.  Later in the 1920's, covers became more decorative and highly prized due to the illustrations or book award seals, and more readers kept the dust jackets on their books.  Original dust jackets in good condition greatly increases the value of a modern first edition.


A book which is produced and supplied in an electronic form only, rather than a printed edition, known also as a digital book or e-edition. Ebooks are book publications in digital form which contain text, images, or both.  Ebooks can be opened and read on a computer or other e-book formatted electrical devices.


An exact copy of an original work. In books, it refers to a copy or reproduction, as accurate as possible, of an original source, whether a book, map, manuscript, or other historical item. 

First Edition

In book collecting, the first edition is the earliest published form of a book. A book may have more than one first edition in cases where it has been published in multiple forms, including foreign releases or editions with substantially changed content such as an illustrated or a limited edition. Typically, the earliest version of the book is considered the first edition, with subsequent releases referred to as first edition or first thus. In collecting, first edition refers to the first printing unless a later printing is specifically stated.


A pre-publication state of a book. A galley proof edition has already undergone all basic edits for content and corrections, but is still prior to the final commercial production of a book. The term refers to the historic process of book printing using moveable block letters. The letter blocks would be laid into the galleys to that held the type, and the proof copy would be printed from those galleys. In modern times, the term is often fairly interchageable with uncorrected proof and advanced review copy. Galleys may be sent to reviewers and book stores as pre-relase promotion for upcoming titles. Those galley editions may seep into the used book market. Since the galley edition precedes the initial publication of the book, it may techincally be the first appearance of that book, and as such, could be considered collectible. Typically, the unfinished appearance of the book detracts from its collectiblity, but completists will seek all collectible editions, including galleys, advanced review copies and/or uncorrected proofs.

ISBN:  International Standard Book Number

International Standard Book Number is a unique identifier for commercial publications.

While it was in sporadic use earlier, it was first standardized in 1970 as a 10-digit number (sometimes X can appear in the last position, which is an algorithmic checksum), it was later expanded to 13-digits in 2007 in order to make it more compatible with common point of sale systems for products other than books (products which use the similar 13-digit EANs).  The ISBN is printed on the copyright page but also generally found in the bar-code label on the rear cover or jacket of a book or jacket flap. Occasionally it might be found on the front cover, especially on older paperbacks.

Out of Print

A book which is no longer being printed by the publisher. Generally only used copies of an out of print book are in distribution.

Print on Demand

A book which is printed by special order. Often a paperback printing, reproduced by scanning or photocopying the text from a copy of a book, reproduced with permission.

Age Tan, Tone or Sunning

Age tanning, or browning, occurs over time on the pages of books.  This process can show up on just the edges of pages, when this occurs it is sometimes referred to as "edge tanning."  This kind of deterioration is commonly seen in books printed before the advent of acid-free paper in the 1980s. In 1984, The American National Standards Institute (ANSI) adopted a voluntary standard under the umbrella of the National Information Standards Organization (NISO), that provides consistency for the production of acid-free paper resistant to tanning and other forms of aging.  Archivists have long dealt with the problem of deteriorating books and papers. While processes developed in the 1930s and standardized in the 1980s make this issue less of a problem for newer volumes, the browning of pages in older books will continue to  be both part of the charm and challenge of book collecting.

Title Page

A page at the front of a book which may contain the title of the book, any subtitles, the authors, contributors, editors, the publisher or publishing house name, the printer, and in some books the date and time the title was printed, colophon, and devices. It is a relatively modern innovation, as early books such as incunabula did not contain a title page.



A decorative design or illustration placed at the beginning or end of a book. They can also be located at the beginning or end chapters in a book. It may also specifically refer to an illustration without a border that fades into the background.
In the middle ages, "vignettes" referred to an engraved design that was placed over a printed letter press page.