Glossary of terms used in book descriptions

A brief summary of abbreviations and explanation of terms follows. A fuller description may be found in John Carter’s ABC FOR BOOK COLLECTORS, Hart-Davis, 1952 (also later editions) and similar works.

Edn. - Edition - refers to all the copies of a book printed from the one setting of type (may be more than one printing run).
Impr. - Impression - refers to all the copies of a book printed in the one production (printing) run.


Folio - refers to a book where the pages are printed “two-up” and the sheet folded once.
4to - (quarto) - pages are printed “four-up” and the sheet folded twice.
8vo - (octavo) - pages are printed “eight-up” and the sheet folded three times. This is the most common format and is therefore often omitted in descriptions.
16mo - (sextodecimo or “sixteenmo”) - the pages are printed “16-up” and the sheet folded four times.
12mo - (duodecimo or “twelvemo”) - the pages are printed “12-up” and the sheet folded in three and then folded twice (or various similar combinations). There are some other imposition (printing) and folding schemes but these are less common, less standard, and more complex.

The above folding schemes are combined with various sheet sizes to give the finished size of the printed book - for most books the edges and folds are trimmed resulting in slightly smaller page sizes than a strict division would imply, however the size of the boards for casebound books approximates the uncut size. The commoner full sheet sizes are as follows:

Foolscap (F'cap) - 17" x 13½" (= 432 x 343 mm)
Crown (Cr.) - 20" x 15" (= 508 x 381 mm)
Post - 20" x 16" (= 508 x 406 mm)
Demy - 22½" x 17½" (= 572 x 445 mm)
Medium (Med.) - 24" x 19" (= 610 x 483 mm)
Royal (Roy.) - 25" x 20" (= 636 x 508 mm)
Super Royal (Super roy.) - 27½" x 20½" (= 698 x 521 mm)
Imperial (Impl.) - 30" x 22" (= 762 x 559 mm)
Elephant - 46" x 28" (= 1068 x 711 mm) - size of drawing paper.


pp. - pages - the numbers following indicate the number of preliminary pages (title, contents, list of illustrations etc.) in small roman numerals, followed by the number of pages in the main part of the book (in arabic numerals). Numbers in square brackets indicate that the pages are not actually numbered. Items or comments in round brackets following page numbers refer to those pages e.g. pp. [iv](half-title, title, versos blank) means that there are four preliminary pages, unnumbered, comprising the half-title and title-pages, the reverse sides of which are both blank.
ff. - folios or leaves - used where none of the pages are numbered or where the pages are printed on one side of the leaves only (usually on the rectos).
recto - a right hand page, the front side of the leaf.
verso - a left-hand page, the back side of the leaf.
plate - a page of illustration(s) usually printed on a different paper or by a different printing method from the remainder (text block) of the book.
frontis. - frontispiece - a plate at the front of the book, usually facing the title-page.
half-title - a page bearing a short title only and usually preceding the title-page.
title (-page) - the page bearing the title of the book, the author, usually the publisher and often also the date - if this information is present on the title-page it is shown without parenthesis; if on the back (verso) then it is shown in round brackets ( ) ; and if only to be found elsewhere in the book it is shown in square brackets [ ] .
No Imprint - No publisher’s imprint. N.P. - No Place (of publication); No Pub. - No Publisher; N.D. - No Date.
As more books in English are published at London than anywhere else in the world, the convention is usually followed that all books are assumed to be published at London unless otherwise stated.

adv. - advertisements - usually following a number in the pagination indicating the number of pages of advertisements (usually but not always publisher’s announcements).
half - half binding - spine and corners (or spine and fore-edge) covered in the specified material - usually cloth, calf, morocco (i.e. goatskin - one of the best book leathers) or other leather.
quarter - quarter binding - similar to a half binding but only the spine is covered in the specified material - the remaining part of the board or cover is usually covered with a less expensive material such as cloth or paper. A full binding is entirely covered in the one material - most modern books (other than paperbacks), are cased or bound in full cloth or simulated cloth (i.e. paper - regrettably becoming more common nowadays).
roan - sheepskin - usually the split skin and not as durable as other book leathers.
buckram - a linen book cloth, usually fairly coarse and unevenly grained; attractive, strong and durable - one of the best materials for bookbinding.
Australian calf - a leather made from Australian kangaroo skin, similar in appearance and texture to traditional calf, but much more durable, and a highly suitable leather for bookwork.
Art. leather - artificial or imitation leather, usually made from some sort of plastic with a more (or less) convincing leather look.
cloth-grained papered boards - a fairly modern binding technique used by publishers in which a paper with a cloth-like texture is used in place of the more durable and expensive cloth once usual.

b/w. - black & white.
orig. - original, as issued by the publisher.
wrappers - limp paper covers - similar to a paperback, though often sewn or stapled in sections.
dustwrapper - the loose paper covering (often highly decorated) on the outside of the book (also called dust-jacket) - not generally considered an essential part of the book, although it often carries information (such as biographical notes of the Author, illustrations, etc.) not otherwise contained in the book.

endpaper - the fold of paper at each end of a book - one side is stuck to the board (the paste-down) and the other is free (the free endpaper).
bibliography - often really only a book-list - a true bibliography should contain detailed information as to the publication and physical make-up of the books listed.

CONDITION: the following terms are used -

mint - as new, as it came from the publisher (sometimes, however, publishers supply anything but mint copies!)
fine - close to mint for recent books. For older books the criteria are relaxed a little - the condition is judged relative to the average or usual condition of copies encountered; a fine copy is therefore considerably above average.
nice - much as the word implies - clean and pleasing to the eye and without significant defects or blemishes - neat inscriptions or names are not usually considered detrimental if unobtrusive.
good, very good - above average condition.

In our listings, all significant blemishes and any defects have been noted in the descriptions. If no comments are made about condition then the book is not necessarily mint but is sound and complete and in good secondhand condition.