CALF: binding material made from cowhide—versatile, durable, usually tan or brown in color, of smooth texture with no or little apparent grain. Readily marbled (“tree calf”), mottled, diced, colored, polished, tooled in gilt or blind, even scented (known as “russia”). Reverse calf, with a distinctive suede-like texture, is occasionally used.

CANCEL: leaf inserted in place of a leaf removed to correct an error or as a result of censorship; the page removed is called the cancelland. Can also refer to a slip of paper pasted over the changed passage, often then called a cancel slip. 

CATCHWORD : first word of the next page placed just below the last line of the preceding page, an obsolete practice. Catchwords were for the printers, not the readers, to ensure that the signatures had been properly folded and stacked; the printer only had to make sure each catchword matched the first word on the following page as he flipped through the text. These are often useful in collating an early printed book in which page numbers are sometimes incorrect or repeated (mispaginated).

CHROMOLITHOGRAPH: lithograph printed in colors, typically more than three. Lithographs printed in black plus only one or two additional colors (usually a muted earth tone and possibly a pale sky tone) are usually referred to as tinted lithographs rather than chromolithographs, which are generally vibrantly multicolored and often have gold or silver ink highlights.

COLOPHON: printed note at the end of a text containing information about the printing of the book.

COLLATION: process by which the contents of a book are inspected for completeness, checking against internal evidence, the table of contents and/or plate list, and reference works. Also a shorthand bibliographical description of a book’s composition by its leaves and signatures, rather than its pages. A-C, for example, would indicate a quarto volume composed of three signatures or gatherings of eight pages each for a total of 24 pages.

CONTEMPORARY: of the period of issue. Can be used to describe a book’s binding, if within a decade or two of publication, marks of ownership or marginalia, hand coloring, rubrication, anything done to a text block at roughly the same time as it was issued. Not to be confused with modern.

DEDICATION COPY: copy of a book presented by the author to the book’s printed dedicatee.

DOCUMENT SIGNED (DS): official or legal document, whether printed and completed in manuscript (i.e., by hand, typically secretarial) or executed entirely by hand, signed by a person of some import.

DOUBLURE: pastedowns made not of paper but of leather or silk, usually decorative.

DUODECIMO (12MO): smaller than an octavo, typically less than six inches tall; smaller formats, such as 24mo and 32mo, are uncommon.

EDITION: print-run from a single setting of type. Depending on demand, any number of printings can be made from a setting of type: a first printing might consist of 1000 copies, for example, followed by a second printing of 2500 copies, followed by a third of 550.

ENDPAPERS: double leaves—plain, colored or decorated—with which a bookbinder covers the insides of the book’s boards, therefore not part of the text block. The leaf pasted to the inside of the front board is the front pastedown, the leaf following is the front free endpaper; the same applies to the rear pastedown and rear free endpaper.

ENGRAVING: illustration produced by carving or etching lines into a plate of copper or (after 1830) steel; shading is achieved variously by cross-hatching, “biting” the plate with acid (aquatint) or roughing the surface with a rocker (stippling or mezzotint). Ink is poured over the plate, then wiped from the surface, leaving ink only in the recesses made by the engraver’s tools; the image is transferred by pressing thick dampened paper against the metal plate with great force, requiring engravings to be printed on a separate stock and separate press from any text.

ERRATA: list of mistakes and corrections noted after printing, often compiled on a separate sheet or slip and inserted into the text block.

EX-LIBRARY MARKINGS: bookplates, blind- or inkstamps, shelf numbers and other indications that a book once belonged to a circulating or institutional library.

EXTRA-ILLUSTRATED: process of inserting illustrations, letters or autographs in addition to those already present in a book, supplied either by the collector or the publisher, to make a more deluxe edition. Also called grangerized, after pioneering English publisher James Granger.

FLYLEAVES: additional blank leaves following or preceding the endpapers.

FOLIO: book composed of sheets printed on both sides, folded once, to make two leaves and four pages. Typically above 14 inches tall. Oblong folios are produced the same way but bound at the short edge, producing a book typically more than 14 inches deep.

FORE-EDGE: edge of the book furthest from the spine. Occasionally the text of a book will be put into a specialized book press and painted, often with a scene from the book or a landscape, so that the painting is invisible when the book is closed but visible when somebody bends the text and fans the pages—known as a fore-edge painting.

FOXING: light brown spots that naturally appear on some papers as they age.

HALF TITLE: leaf preceding the title page that bears the book’s title, originally used to identify the unbound text block. The book’s binder would often remove and discard the half title at the time of binding. Remaining half-titles are always of interest to collectors.

HAND-COLORED: illustration that has been colored by hand, typically with watercolors, at or shortly after the time of publication. Before color printing processes were widely available, hand-coloring was the most economically feasible way of producing illustrations in color; the coloring could range from finely rendered paintings with rich palettes to a few brushstrokes of color. The colorist would often finish with clear varnish (gum arabic) to heighten colors.

HINGE: interior joining of the covers to the text block, the gutter formed by the pastedown and the front free endpaper.

IMPRINT: statement of place, publisher and date of publication on a book’s title page.

INCUNABLE: from the cradle of printing, i.e., any book printed before 1500.

INSCRIBED: with an inscription (usually though not necessarily signed) by the author.

ISSUE: noted variation in a book’s text, illustrations, binding or dust jacket intentionally made by the publisher - usually after publication. Various issues are treated as separate units for distribution to the trade. “First issue” precedes any such alterations or change.

LAID IN: adjective describing paper or other material loosely inserted into a book.

LETTER SIGNED (LS): letter in a secretarial hand to which the author has added his or her own signature.

LITHOGRAPH: illustration produced by transferring an image drawn on stone to paper. The process allowed illustrations to more closely resemble the original drawings, paintings or sketches, as it gave the lithographer a freedom of line impossible to achieve using a graver on a plate of copper or steel. Does not require the same sort of pressure as an engraving to transfer the image, but still has to be printed on separate stock from the text, usually by a printing house specializing in lithography. Also allows for the possibility of printing in color, adding another stone for each additional color desired (see chromolithograph).

LIVRE D’ARTISTE (or artist’s book): an example of a tradition of books illustrated with original hand-printed prints, usually issued in small editions on fine paper and often signed by the artist and author.

MANUSCRIPT SIGNED (MS): draft of a poem, play or work of prose, handwritten or typed, produced before publication though not necessarily as part of the publication process, and signed by the author.

MARGINALIA: handwritten notes made in the margins by a previous owner.

MISPAGINATED: printer’s error in pagination, typically skipping, transposing or repeating page numbers. Not uncommon in older, larger books; printers assembled books using signatures and catchwords rather than page numbers. Not considered a defect, so long as all integral leaves are present, as all copies from a given print run would likely bear the same mistake.

MODERN: recently accomplished, when used to describe a book’s binding that is not the original casing. Some books bound recently are bound using techniques, tools and styles of the period of the book’s original issue; when done well this is called a period-style binding, a term that implies modern as well.

MOROCCO: binding material made from goatskin—versatile, durable, with a distinctive pebbled texture and visible grain. Readily stretched (“straight-grain”), crushed (flattened smooth), tooled in gilt or blind, inlaid with leathers of different colors. So-called because much of the raw material originally came from the tanneries of North Africa (other types of goatskin bindings denoting regions of origin include levant, turkey, niger).

OCTAVO (8vo): book composed of sheets printed on both sides, folded thrice, to make eight leaves and 16 pages. Typically between six and nine inches tall, more rectangular than square.

PLATE: full-page illustration printed separately from but bound with the text.

PERIOD-STYLE: binding executed with materials, tools and techniques to approximate the look of a contemporary binding from the period of the book’s publication. The term implies that the binding is modern, or recent, unless otherwise specified (e.g., “nineteenth-century period-style calf” could describe a period-style binding executed in the nineteenth century covering a book printed much earlier).

POINT: variation in text, illustration, design or format that allows a bibliographer to distinguish between different editions and different printings of the same edition, or between different states or issues of the same printing.

PRESENTATION COPY: book given as a gift by its author, illustrator or publisher. Sometimes refers to a volume given by a notable donor.

PROVENANCE: history of a particular copy of a book.

QUARTO (4to): book composed of sheets printed on both sides, folded twice, to make four leaves and eight pages. Typically between nine and 14 inches tall, more square than rectangular.

REBACK: to supply a worn binding with a new spine, usually made of the same material as the rest of the binding and decorated to match. When feasible the binder may preserve the original spine and affix it to the new material, described as “rebacked with the original spine laid down.”

SIGNED: with the signature of the author.

SIGNATURE: single sheet that has been printed on both sides and folded down to form the pages required by the book’s format. A single signature of a quarto book, then, would be a sheet folded twice, containing four leaves, eight pages of text. Also called a gathering or a quire. Signatures are identified by a letter, symbol or number in the lower margin of the first page to make it easy for the printer to stack them in proper order for sewing.

STATE: noted variation in a book’s text, illustrations, binding or dust jacket effected during the manufacturing process but to which no priority of issuance from the publisher can be determined. Sometimes a bibliographer can determine which state was produced first, but often the different states co-exist without any such determination. For example, if it is known that at some point during a print run a letter dropped from the page, producing a typographical error, then copies with the correct text would be considered first-state and copies with the error second-state. However, all copies, regardless of state, would have been bound up and offered to the public on the same day.

TIPPED IN: leaf, plate or other paper neatly glued or otherwise attached to the text block.

TRADE EDITION: printing or printings of a book made available for purchase by the general public on publication day (as opposed to a limited edition, often available by subscription).

TYPED LETTER SIGNED (TLS): typewritten letter signed by the author. 

UNCUT: edges of the text block (most apparent at the fore and lower edges) have not been trimmed to a uniform size, characterized by a ragged or deckle edge. A book may be uncut but opened—i.e., with a paper-knife—but all unopened books (see below) are by nature uncut as well. 

UNOPENED: folds of a text block along the upper and fore-edges have not been trimmed away or opened with a paper-knife. While this makes it impossible to read all of the pages, it also indicates a probability that the text block has not been altered since leaving the printer. Considered quite desirable by most collectors.

VELLUM: binding material made from specially treated calfskin—durable, with a distinctive ivory color and smooth appearance. Can be tooled in gilt or blind. So-called Japan vellum (or Japon) is a type of thick paper that has been polished smooth and given a glossy finish to resemble vellum.

WOODCUT: illustration or textual decoration made by cutting away from the surface of a block of wood until the reverse of the image is left in relief; this is then inked and pressed to the paper to leave the image. The woodblock, or multiple blocks, can be fit into the page along with the type, allowing text and illustrations to be printed in the same print run and share the same page, (not possible with engravings, which require thicker, damp paper and much more force; nor with lithographs, which require a different printing process altogether). Woodcuts preceded moveable type and are the earliest known printing technology.

WOOD-ENGRAVING: engraving made with the graver or burin on the cross-section of a piece of boxwood; the harder wood and finer tools allow for more delicate, finely detailed images, while the block can still be set in the page alongside text and printed on the same stock as the text. The favored mode of book illustration of the latter half of the nineteenth century.

WORMHOLE: tiny pinhole-sized trails left by bookworms as they eat through a text block; much more common in older books printed on handmade papers with a high rag content than in books printed on manufactured papers made from wood pulp with a higher acidic content.

WRAPPERS: paper coverings, plain, marbled or printed, attached by stitches, staples or glue to a text block to identify it and afford it some protection (though much more fragile than a binding in plain, cloth or leather-covered boards). More typical of slim volumes such as pamphlets. Self wrappers are leaves, blank or printed, that are integral to the text block, conjugate with other leaves and from the same stock. Original wrappers, those attached at the time of issue, are scarce and extremely desirable to most collectors.