Among rare book sellers and collectors, there is no official or universally accepted code of book evaluation and condition, though most dealers do their best to represent a book's condition as accurately as possible. The most commonly used terms to describe a book's condition, and hence it's intrinsic value, include the following: Fine, Near Fine, Very Good and Good. Always keep in mind that these terms, and how they are applied to a specific copy of a rare book, are subjective and will vary based on the seller's experience and interpretation. Please refer to our glossary for an explanation of the defined terms you may see in our listings.
This is our highest grade. A book and/or dust jacket listed in this condition should be almost "like new" with only very minor signs of use, wear and/or rubbing. Any flaws are usually described in the book's listing. A fine copy, particularly if it is of a rare book or rare in that condition, will usually carry a substantial premium in price.
A book and/or dust jacket in near fine condition cannot be classified as fine because it has a greater accumulation of minor flaws and signs of use than a fine copy. It's flaws are usually described in the book's listing. A near fine copy is still an extremely presentable and collectible copy, just not as close to "like new" as a fine copy.
A book and/or dust jacket in very good condition will still be very presentable and in generally sound condition, but it will have visible flaws, including minor fading or staining to covers, rubbing of the extremities, chipping at the spine ends, fraying of cloth, and/or soiling and foxing. A plus (+) or minus (-) sign may be added to a very good designation in order to account for the wide range of condition this classification presides over.
A book in good condition will show considerably more wear than grades which precede it and is usually not preferred by collectors unless it is highly rare or of considerable historical significance.
Glossary of Terms
Advance Reading Copy (ARC) / Uncorrected Proof - These are sent out to booksellers and reviewers in advance of the book’s publication to help drive sales and promote the book. The construction of the ARC is different than the trade version of the published book in that they are often bound in laminated paper covers or color printed wrappers. From ARC's, corrections and revisions will be made before the first published printing is produced.
Association Copy - When the author signs a book to another author, a well-known person, or someone else associated with the author. It can also be a copy (not necessarily signed) which was owned by another author.
Back / Backing - The margin along which the leaves of a text block are attached.
Boards - The front and back covers of a hardcover book, usually covered in paper or cloth, sometimes in leather (for special or limited editions).
Book Club Edition (BCE) - Refers to the fact the book was printed by a book club under license from the publisher and is therefore not a true publisher's edition of the work. BCE's are generally undesirable to collector's and of little to know value.
Bookplate - A printed label which is adhered to the book. It is usually found in two forms: ownership or author signature. Books with bookplates affixed are generally worth less than if the author signed the physical book directly, or such bookplate did not exist at all.
Colophon - A notation in limited, small-press, and certain other books indicating publication and limitation details. It may contain information on the number of books printed, where it was published, the paper type, typefaces used and by whom it was printed and bound.
Copyright Page - In modern trade editions, the copyright page – usually the verso of the title page – contains the publication and copyright information. The edition identifier (if any) is usually found on this page.
Dedication Copy - Indicates the author has inscribed the book to the person to which it was dedicated.
Dust Jacket (dust cover or dust wrapper) - The paper cover issued with a hardcover book, usually finely illustrated and detailed.
Dust Jacket Protector - A clear plastic or mylar cover which wraps around the dust jacket in order to protect it.
Edgewear - Refers to the worn edges of a book’s covers or jacket. Most commonly found where the spine and cover meet but also on the cover or jacket's other edges.
Edition - The copies of a book which originate from the same plates or setting of type.
Endpapers - The "endpapers" are located on the inside of the front and back boards. When you open either board, you will notice one leaf of paper, half of which is pasted to the inside of the board, and half of which is left as a blank page; the latter being referred to as the free endpaper or flyleaf.
Errata Slip - A small piece of paper laid into a book detailing printing errors that were made (i.e. typos, misplaced text, etc.)
Ex-Library - Refers to the fact that a book once belonged to a lending library. These are generally undesirable for collectors because they have been taped, glued, marked with library stamps, or security devices.
First Appearance - This term can refer to several different concepts:
- The first time an author appears in print;
- The first time a specific work of an author appears; or
- The first time a specific subject is treated in book form.
First Book - The first book appearance by an author (usually refers to a complete work by the author and not merely a short story). An author's first book may be of considerable interest and value to a collector, depending on the author.
First Edition - All of the copies printed from the first setting of type. The term first edition can include multiple printings if all are from the same setting of type. Every printed book has a first edition and may or may not have later editions. A later edition would, by its nature, have substantial changes in the printing plates, such as the addition of a new preface or new chapter or other major changes throughout the text. It is, therefore, often printed from a complete resetting of the type. When book collectors use the term first edition, they are referring to the first printing of the first edition and if there are different states or issues, the earliest of those.
First Thus - The first edition published in the present form. The term first thus often denotes that a book was published previously by a different publisher.
Flap - The portions of the dust jacket that wraps around the inside of the cover. The front flap usually contains the blurb or description of the book and the back flap may include the author’s photo and/or a short bio.
Foxing - Spotting that appears on the pages of a book, usually caused by mold, mildew, or impurities within the paper such as acidity.
Free Endpaper - Refers to the "free" page located opposite the pastedown.
Gift Inscription - Someone, NOT THE AUTHOR, that has written something on the book before giving to someone else as a gift. Generally devalues the book, unless it is by a famous person.
Half-Title Page - The page which precedes the title page and contains only the title of the work.
Hardcover - Refers to a book bound between boards, which are usually covered in paper, cloth, or sometimes leather.
Hinges - Interior or exterior points where the covers meet the spine of the book. The weakest part of the book, the hinges are often the first place wear and tear occurs. Generally referenced in rare book listings when the hinges begin to separate from each other or begin to loosen, particularly when the endpapers have become unglued at the hinge.
Inscribed - or Presentation Copy - Refers to when an author has signed a book to a specific person. It may sometimes include additional thoughts, sayings or other copy by the author.
Issue - A portion of an edition printed or published deliberately in a distinct form different from the rest of the printing (in paper, binding, format, etc.). The difference between issue and state is that the former relates to changes made purposely by the printer or publisher and therefore intentionally meant to be treated as a separate unit.
Leaf - A single sheet of paper, or one half of a folded sheet of paper. Each side of a leaf in a book is a page.
Limited Edition - Refers to when a books’ publication is limited to a certain number of copies, which may or may not be numbered, lettered or signed by the author.
Pastedown - Refers to the endpaper that is glued to the inside of the cover.
Printing - Refers to the copies of a book that originate from the same print run, plates or type-setting at one time. For example, if 500 copies of a book are printed initially, such 500 copies would be considered the first printing of the first edition. If another 500 copies are printed thereafter, such later copies would comprise the second printing. Some publishers may consider later printings of a book later editions, such that the second printing referred to above would actually be considered a second edition by the publisher and labeled as such on the copyright page.
Recto - Refers to the right-hand page of an open book i.e., the front of a page.
Remainder - Refers to a book that has been sold to a bookstore or wholesaler at a reduced price by the publisher because it is out of print or overstocked. Usually designated by a mark which is typically made with either a marker or stamp. Remainders may or may not slightly lower the value of a book, depending on the work in question.
Signed - Refers to the signing of a book by its author (editor or illustrator).
State - Refers to the portion of a printing with changes, including minor alterations to the text made either on purpose or accidentally, insertions, the use of different paper without intending to create a separate issue, and/or other changes. For example, if a printer discovers broken type and decides to stop the presses and replace the broken type by resetting that portion of the page, the resumption of the printing would result in the occurrence of at least two states.
Sunned / Sunning - Refers to the fading of a book where it is most frequently exposed, usually at its spine or covers.
Tipped-In - Refers to the physical attachment of an item (or page) to the inside of a book (usually with glue).
Title page - Refers to the page toward the front of the book which precedes the text and carries on its recto the title of the work, the author’s name and the publisher's name.
Toned - Refers to the darkening of a book's paper (most often occurring at the page edges) as a result of exposure to sun light or high acidity.
Verso - Refers to the left-hand page of an open book i.e., the back of a page.
Wrappers - Refers to the covers of a paper-bound (or softcover) book.