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Basic Dealer Speak

(see also: glossary)

Any reputable book seller will add to their description of a book with details of any faults. The English language is quite versatile so there are many, many ways to describe a book’s condition. Below are some of the most commonly used descriptors (in conjunction with the condition grades).

BOWED: Also sometimes referred to as distorted. This is when the board covers of a hardback book have curled in or out, often because of changes in humidity.

BINDING COPY: This refers to a book who’s pages are complete, including any illustrations, but the binding is very poor (loose, detached or missing).

BUMPING: Similar to edge-worn but more frequently used to refer to corners. This is often the result of how a book is stored.

CHIPPED: Usually applies to the cover of a book, whether hardback or paperback, and/or the dust jacket. It shows as small pieces missing from the edges.

DAMPSTAINED: This refers to small stains caused by moisture to the cover or on some pages, but it is not as extensive as water stains.

This dust jacket, although dry, has quite heavy damp staining

DARKENING/FADING: Usually caused by light which results in the colour becoming more vivid or faded.

EDGE-WORN: Light wear along the edges of the book cover and/or dust jacket.

EX-LIBRARY: A book which has previously been available in a public library. It will likely have stickers, labels and stamps and may have a “withdrawn” stamp accompanied by a handwritten price.

EX-LIBRIS: From the library of ... a previous private owner. This is usually indicated on a printed plate inside the front cover on the front endpapers. The previous owner's name may be hand written or printed.

FOXED/FOXING: Foxing is the brown spots frequently found in old books as the result of a chemical reaction. It may be described as: Heavy, light, moderate, sporadic, profuse.

LOOSE: This refers to the binding which is often tight on a new book but becomes loose when a book is well read.

MADE-UP COPY: This refers to the marriage of different parts of the same book made up and bound from defective copies.

PRICE CLIPPED: Many books with dust jacket include the published price on the front flap (usually the top or bottom corner). A book which is price clipped has had that corner cut away.

READING COPY: Usually in poor condition, sometimes fair, this is a book which is complete but might only be desirable for reading.

RE-BACKED: A book which has had its spine and hinges replaced.

RE-CASED: A book which has previously become detached from its cover and has now been re-gummed in place

RE-JOINTED: A book which has been repaired within its original spine and covers.

RE-BOUND: This often applies to antiquarian books and refers to the complete replacement of the cover, spine and hinges.

RUBBING: Usually manifests as light surface marks on a book cover or dust jacket, caused by rubbing against other books or objects.

SEALED: Refers to a book which, when published, was enclosed in a sealed covering (usually clear polythene/plastic).

SHAKEN: A book who’s pages are coming loose from the spine.

SHELF WEAR: Usually fairly light wear which results from storing a book on a shelf. It frequently affects the bottom edges and corners and is the result of sliding a book into place. Conversely, the top of the spine may be affected from withdrawing a book from a shelf.

SUNNED: Often effects book spines, sometime the covers, and is the result of direct sunlight which causes fading.

TANNING: This affects the pages of a book when the paper takes on a brown hue. It is often more apparent on the endpapers.

TEARS/TORN: Self explanatory: Usually referring to the dust jacket or pages. Sellers will normally give some idea of the length of any tears.

TIGHT: This refers to the binding of a book, usually new, and indicates that the book pages will not lay flat when the book is opened.

TRIMMED: Suggests the pages have been trimmed and are now smaller than when the book was published

UNOPENED: The pages are still joined, usually along one edge.

UNTRIMMED: Some older books have one, two or three edges which are uneven. These are untrimmed pages and should be left as they are.

WATER STAINED: Water stains are usually more widespread than damp stains and will likely affect large parts of the cover or pages of a book.

WORKING COPY: Similar to a reading copy, hence in poor condition. Such a book will likely need to be re-bound before reading

WORMING/WORMHOLES: Bookworms are something of a scourge for collectors. Often caused by the larvae of beetles or insects such as silverfish, wormholes are small holes in the pages or cover of a book.

Booksellers often use what seems like a completely different language when describing a book, particularly when outlining format and size. I'll cover such things in later posts.