Book Terms

When ordering books or looking at booksellers catalogues many terms may at first seem difficult to understand .

The best book on the subject remains the classic.

ABC Of Book Collecting by John Carter

This post hopefully will explain a few of the most common terms you will encounter on our site.

Common abbreviations used;

pp. printed pages. followed by those with and without numbers so pp.viii + 115 , = printed pages 8 pages before the main text + 115 pages main text.

Dust wrapper or dust cover or dust jacket. The printer wrap around cover separate from the book, it contains the blurb and is very desirable as it completes the book especially with Modern First Edition when the lack of the dust wrapper can make an enormous difference. The condition is variously described

Price clipped when the price has been cut off the wrapper.

nicked, chipped , usually means there is some edge wear

Torn means a larger damage

Rear foxing to dust wrapper means there is no damage to the printed face of the dust wrapper but some spotting to the rear.

Facsimile dust wrapper. We have only a had few of these ever, we do not produce them, they are photocopied and used to make a book more appealing when lacking the original dust wrapper. They are usually easy to spot but we always declare them.

Now protected means it has a dust wrapper clear plastic cover.

Hardcover, Softcover, in original card.

A hardcover is cloth or hard paper bound and can have decoration or gilt so can be described as Very Good hardcover Decorated in gilt.

Pictorial hardcover means the Edwardian or Victorian bindings with elaborate illustration

Original laminated is the glossy pictorial modern binding

Softcover is a paperback but a lot are either trade paperbacks which are the large format

Mass paperbacks which are the small format

Large quality paperback can be a 4to in a quality form.

In original card is a pamphlet or thin card ephemeric binding, often very beautiful.


Book Sizes

The names of book sizes are based on the old system, still widely used, of considering the size of a page as a fraction of the large sheet of paper on which it was printed. This system is illustrated in Table I below. In printing books, an even number (as 4, 8, 16, 32, 64) of pages is printed on each side of a single large sheet, which is then folded so that the pages are in proper sequence and the outside edges are cut so that the book will open. Except for the largest size, the folio, the name of the size indicates the fractional part of the sheet one page occupies (as octavo “eighth”). In this system, since the fractional name alone cannot denote an exact size, the name of the sheet size precedes the fractional name. Thus royal octavo is understood to designate a page one-eighth the size of a royal sheet, medium octavo a page one-eighth the size of a medium sheet, and crown octavo a page one-eighth the size of a crown sheet. But paper is cut into many sheet sizes and even the terms crown, medium, and royal do not always designate sheets of the same dimensions. Three of the more common sheet sizes have been selected: royal 20 x 25 inches, medium 18 x 23 inches, and crown 15 x 19 inches. Actual page sizes run a little smaller than calculations, since the sheets, when folded to page size, are trimmed at top, outside and bottom, the inside edge becoming part of the binding. British sheet size sometimes differs slightly from American. Table II illustrates the size names as they are used by the American Library Association, with only the octavo sizes including the name of a sheet size. The dimensional limits given in the table remain standard for this system. Table III gives equivalent terms and symbols for the size names.

Table I.

Size Name Times Sheet Folded Leaves to Sheet Pages to Sheet Size of Page in Inches
royal folio 1 2 4 20 x 12½
royal quarto 2 4 8 12½ x 10
royal octavo 3 8 16 10 x 6¼
royal sixteenmo 4 16 32 6¼ x 5
royal thirty-twomo 5 32 64 5 x 3 1/8
royal sixty-fourmo 6 64 128 3 1/8 x 2½
medium folio 1 2 4 18 x 11½
medium quarto 2 4 8 11½ x 9
medium octavo 3 8 16 9 x 5¾
medium sixteenmo 4 16 32 5¾ x 4½
medium thirty-twomo 5 32 64 4½ x 2 7/8
medium sixty-fourmo 6 64 128 2 7/8 x 2¼
crown folio 1 2 4 15 x 10
crown quarto 2 4 8 10 x 7½
crown octavo 3 8 16 7½ x 5
crown sixteenmo 4 16 32 5 x 3¾
crown thirty-twomo 5 32 64 3¾ x 2½
crown sixty-fourmo 6 64 128 2½ x 1 7/8

Table II
Scale of the American Library Association

Size Name Symbol Outside Height* Appx Size in Inches*
folio F over 30 cm 12 x 19
quarto Q 25-30 cm 9½ x 12
octavo O 20-25 cm 6 x 9
imperial octavo O 8¼ x 11½
super octavo O 7 x 11
royal octavo O 6½ x 10
medium octavo O 6 1/8 x 9¼
crown octavo O 5 3/8 x 8
duodecimo D 17.5-20 cm 5 x 7 3/8
duodecimo (large) D 17.5-20 cm 5½ x 7½
sextodecimo S 15-17.5 cm 4 x 6¾
octodecimo T 12.5-15 cm 4 x 6½
trigesimo-segundo Tt 10-12.5 cm 3½ x 5½
quadrasegisimo-octavo Fe 7.5-10 cm 2½ x 4
sexagesimo-quarto Sf less than 7.5 cm 2 x 3

*Outside height refers to the head-to-foot dimension of the book’s cover
*Approximate Size refers to the front cover’s rectangular dimensions

Table III
Size Names and Their Equivalents

Old Modern – Preferred by Printers Abbr. Symbol
folio folio fo or f
quarto quarto 4to
sexto sixmo 6to or 6mo
octavo octavo 8vo
duodecimo twelvemo 12mo 12°
sextodecimo sixteenmo 16mo 16°
octodecimo eighteenmo 18mo 18°
twenty-fourmo 24mo 24°
trigesimo-segundo thirty-twomo 32mo 32°
quadragesimo-octavo forty-eightmo 48mo 48°
sexagesimo-quarto sixty-fourmo 64mo 64°

©Webster’s Third New International Dictionary (1966)

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