18 December 2009

23 Handy Substitutes for Old Used Book Terms that are Not Correctly Handled by Modern Search Engines and Might Not be Understood by the General Public Either

. . . Since the used book business went out onto the internet, some dealers have discarded some treasured old bits of jargon due to their embarrassing sound, their potentially misunderstood meaning, or their tendency to get flagged by search engines for the wrong reasons. Here's a small collection. (Please note: In places where a color would generally be indicated I have used blue as an example.)

Old Term > New Term

1. appendices > appendixes

2. bastard title > half title
Some books have both a bastard title and a half title, but the term bastard title is often avoided, for obvious reasons.

3. cocked > slanted or askew

4. cutline > caption
The old term cutline literally means caption, but since it could be taken to mean the book has been cut up, it is often avoided.

5. first or 1st

Any use of the word "first," in any context, will be flagged as a "first edition" and will be returned in a search for a first edition. Thus, where the dealer needs to use the word "first," a number of workarounds have been invented. Examples:

index of first lines > index of f*rst lines

first volume in series > volume one in series

author's first book > author's inaugural book

facsimile reprint of first edition > facsimile reprint of original edition

textbook for first-year chemistry students > textbook for freshman chemistry students

The word "first" should never be used in the description of any used book unless the copy in hand is a true first edition.

6. foxed > spotted or discolored
The term "foxed" or "foxing" is still in wide use but may not always be understood.

7. half bound > cloth over spine, blue boards
"Half bound" will be understood by serious book collectors but the general public will be completely in the dark.

8. indices > indexes

9. inscription > gift note or penned note
Any use of the word "inscription" or "inscribed," in any context, will be flagged as a "signed book" and will be returned in a search for a signed edition. Therefore the word should never be used in the online description of any used book unless it is in fact signed by the author or by a notable person.

10. paste-on > label or overlay
Having a paste-on generally indicates quality workmanship, but you don't want the buyer thinking the book has been abused by a six-year-old with too much time on their hands.

11. quarter bound > leather over spine, blue boards
"Quarter bound" will be understood by serious book collectors but the general public will be completely in the dark.

12. rag paper > cotton paper
Rag paper was common in the 1700s and 1800s but was pushed out of the market by high-acid wood-pulp paper. Rag paper is much more durable than paper made of wood pulp, does not normally turn brown like wood-pulp paper, and does not become brittle over time. However, the term rag paper can potentially evoke an image of a book printed on dirty rags.

13. recto > front
No comment.

14. saddle stitch > fold-and-staple binding or stapleback binding
This term could easily be misunderstood as some kind of fancy binding when in fact it is one of the cheapest.

15. stabbed or side stitched > side stapled
Saying a book has been stabbed or stitched when in fact it has been stapled (bound with staples near the folded edge) will be misunderstood by a large portion of the general public.

16. suede > brushed leather
Let's face it, "brushed leather" just sounds a whole lot fancier than "suede."

17. three-quarter bound or 3/4 bound > leather spine and tips
Refers to a binding in which the spine is covered in leather, and there is also leather over the corners of the boards, usually placed diagonally, and also that the central parts of the boards are covered in cloth or paper.

18. thumb index > thumb notch

19. topstain, as in:
blue topstain > top edge blue
Some books have colored top edges, with the most common colors being black, blue, or red. The correct term is topstain, but this word can be mistaken as a description of an accidental stain.

20. unfoliated or unpaginated > unnumbered pages
Seriously, who but a bookdealer knows that foliation refers to page numbers?

21. verso > back

22. vicesimo-quarto or 24mo > [size given in centimeters]
There are a number of wacky old terms for book sizes, although, technically, these terms do not refer to sizes but to the number of times the original paper stock was folded during the process of printing and manufacturing the book. In any case, the modern method of indicating size is simply to give the height of the book in centimeters, rounded up. Click here for a detailed list of these old size terms.

23. wraps, wrappers, paperwraps or stiffwraps > paperback or softcover
Few today understand the old term "wraps" and its variants.


Check out a complete Glossary of arcane terms for new, used and antiquarian books

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