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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.

# 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

Variant

A general term for any observed differences between copies of the same edition (such as in the text, paper, or binding), often used when no clear order of priority has been established. For example, these three first edition copies of Bernard Malamud's first book, The Natural (offered by us simultaneously in 2008), are in the three variant cloth bindings of red, grey, and blue, with no known priority.

Vellum

A type of white leather, most commonly made from calfskin that has been treated, but not tanned, and used for bindings, and in medieval days, used for handwritten documents. Changes in humidity play havoc with this material, and vellum-covered boards often warp dramatically. This is not the case with this copy of Prejudices: Sixth Series by H.L. Mencken, offered in our Catalog 119, which was still in fine condition.

Verso

The "back" side of a page in a book, that is the page that is on the left-hand side of a book when it is opened. Many people get the terms recto and verso confused, but our favorite was when we read an essay on book collecting by a bookseller that referred to the "reverso" of a page, which we felt had a certain zen-like quality to it as a descriptive term (unless he was referring to the superhero book collector able to return prices to what they were in his youth).

Very good

Better than good, but worse than fine or near fine, usually denoting a presentable and attractive, but not especially beautiful example of a book.

# 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...