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New or Used: A Glossary of Book Condition Terms, Part III

By Katie Behrens. Apr 9, 2015. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Book Collecting, Book Care

For those at the beginning of their collecting life, it can seem like sales descriptions are filled with confusing jargon. A whole set of terms exist to identify an item’s condition and features. Taken together with our other glossaries, we hope this list of book condition terms will help you kick-start your book collecting efforts.

foxing_PDAs Issued - A term used to describe an aspect of the book that might be perceived as a flaw but was the original state of the book when published.

Association Copy - Book that in and of itself is of no particular interest except that it was owned by someone important or famous.

Bowed – A condition where the boards of a hardcover book have turned either inwards or outwards in relation to the leaves. This often occurs because of a rapid change in moisture.

Chipped – Used to describe a binding or dust jacket which is missing small pieces along its edges. This should be distinguished from ripped, torn, or intentionally clipped binding edges.

Ex-Library – A book that was once part of an institutional or public library’s collection but has been deaccessioned. Ex-library copies often bear the marks of the library, such as stamps, seals, call numbers, or the increasingly outdated (but memorable) pocket for a check-out card. Collectors should be aware that “ex libris” does not indicate an ex-library copy. 

Foxing - A descriptive term for scattered spots on paper which are commonly reddish-brown in color. The term is derived from the rusty red color of Reynard the fox. Foxing is created by a particular chemical reaction and must be distinguished from the discoloration that can occur from surface colonies of mold growth. 

Ghosting, Shadowing, or Offsetting – A description used for uneven fading on paper. Ghosting is often caused by prolonged contact with other paper materials, such as a bookmark, or old adhesives which have triggered a chemical reaction.

Boyd_Solo_SignatureInscribed - A short note with personalized dedication, written by the author or a previous owner, usually in the beginning of a book, generally accompanied by a signature. 

Shaken – Used to describe a book whose pages have become loose in their binding; no longer tight, but not detached.

Sunning – Materials which are faded from direct and prolonged exposure to sunlight. Light can cause a chemical breakdown in printed ink, but also in cloth and leather bindings. A book’s spine will sometimes show the worst sunning from facing outward on a shelf.

Now that you've mastered these terms, catch up on Part I and Part II of our glossary series. 

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Katie Behrens
Avid consumer of books, media, and general nerdery. Ready to dig deep into a story and match the right books with the right readers.

 

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How can I identify a first edition? Where do I learn about caring for books? How should I start collecting? Hear from librarians about amazing collections, learn about historic bindings or printing techniques, get to know other collectors. Whether you are just starting or looking for expert advice, chances are, you'll find something of interest on blogis librorum.

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