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Views, anecdotes and insights into the world of antiquarian books.

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Illustrated Glossary

What book dealers really mean. Click on thumbnails for larger images.

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The bottom of the spine, also called the foot, of either the book or jacket.


Darkening to paper and inks, often from exposure to sunlight, but sometimes resulting simply from prolonged exposure to ambient light. Books kept on a shelf for several decades will usually exhibit tanning over time, even if they are never touched. We have handled libraries where books were kept locked away in the dark for decades, and the difference in condition compared to otherwise fine and well-kept copies is pronounced. Some dealers use more pejorative terms such as darkened or browned, but we prefer the more cheery implications of the book being "tanned," as though it had spent a happy and contented summer lolling away on the beach drinking margaritas.

Tape repair

What you shouldn’t do under any circumstances, although probably others have already beaten you to it. Leave the tears alone! A mylar jacket protector will usually hold the tears in place, and no matter what you hear, unless a jacket is a total train wreck, a book isn’t going to gain value from a tape repair. We were once in the bookstore of a putative first edition dealer. While browsing we were perplexed to hear a constant “hisp – hisp – hisp” sound coming from behind the counter. Thinking that snakes were attacking the proprietor, we rushed over to rescue him. To our disappointment, we found that the sound was emanating from the dealer himself, who was engaged in repairing with tape, every tear in every jacket that he owned. We broke his fingers and stole his tape dispenser. We wish the snakes had gotten him. One is cautioned not to place one’s faith in tapes that are described as "archival." One generation's "archival" is often the next generation's nightmare. This copy of The Power House by Benjamin Apple, featured in our Catalog 88, had an internal tape repair along the crown of the dustjacket when we bought it.

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# A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z

More Reference

Want to learn more about rare books and collecting? Here are a few references to get you started...