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



In the antiquarian book world this stands for the Antiquarian Booksellers' Association, which is the British arm of the International League of Antiquarian Booksellers (ILAB). On the whole British booksellers are a good lot, even if they talk funny, undervalue dustjackets, and overvalue Graham Greene. Americans like Graham Greene too, but minus a few zeroes and commas. Many British dealers have been known to take a drink, and some of them have even been known to pay for them. In the non-antiquarian book world, ABA stands for the American Booksellers' Association, which is composed primarily of publishers and sellers of new books. From time to time that ABA will get headlines by suing chain bookstores (who are also ABA members) for monopolistic practices. This is fun to watch during sweeps week, but otherwise can be ignored.


The Antiquarian Booksellers' Association of America is the American organization that represents the rare book trade. It consists of approximately 475 members and their firms, and counts among their numbers most of the country's best rare booksellers. Most competent and ethical booksellers in the U.S. should probably aspire to eventual membership. Since 1949 the ABAA has a published Code of Ethics for its members, and works hard to enforce it. ABAA sponsors three annual rare book fairs, the best of their kind in America, and many would say in the world - the New York, California (which alternates between San Francisco and Los Angeles), and Boston.


A clear plastic, sometimes used by publishers as a dustjacket. Acetate can be printed on, so modern publishers sometimes incorporate designs on an acetate jacket that complement the design of the book's boards underneath. Acetate tends to yellow, shrink, and crack as it ages - vintage books with original acetate jackets can be very difficult or impossible to obtain with the acetate as fresh and clear as it was originally. On this limited edition of John Steinbeck's The Winter of Our Discontent offered in our List 28, the red lettering "LIMITED EDITION" is not on the printed dustjacket, but actually printed on a clear acetate overjacket.

Advance Reading Copy (ARC)

A pre-publication state of the book, often a wrappered issue with the artwork intended for use with the published book, so that it looks like a paperback version. Advance Reading Copies are often sent to the reviewers and managers of bookstores several months before the first editions of the book will be offered for sale. Sometimes abbreviated ARC in the book trade. When James Baldwin saw this Advance Reading Copy of his first book (this copy offered in our first Classic Book Cards set), he objected to the cover art so strongly that it was changed for the first edition that was actually sold in bookstores.

Advance Review Copy

A pre-publication state of the finished book, usually with supplemental material such as a review slip, a letter from the publisher, or a photograph of the author laid-in. Advance Review Copies, sometimes just called Review Copies, are usually taken from the first printing of the book. But whereas other copies are boxed by the publisher and distributed to go on sale at a specific later date, Review Copies are sent out in advance of this so that newspaper and magazine staff have an opportunity to review the book before it is offered for sale. Shown here is a Review Copy of Jack Kerouac's On the Road with an author photo and review slip laid-in, offered for sale in our Catalog 87.


Adhered in some way by glue, tape, or some other method of adhesion. Sometimes that which is affixed can be unfixed, but it isn't always wise to do so. Affixed to this copy of Edwin Sabin's Kit Carson Days (offered in our Catalog 89) was a letter signed by Carson, the legendary frontiersman, guide and Indian agent whose signature is rare.


A natural tanning or darkening of certain types of paper which occurs over longs periods of exposure to air or ambient light. Some books, by nature of their construction, are always seen with some amount of age-toning. Some booksellers prefer the term "mellowed," a term best perhaps reserved for the feeling one gets after a few cocktails. The original dustjacket on this 1892 first edition, first issue of Richard Harding Davis' Van Bibber and Others, offered in our Catalog 70, is lightly age-toned. Holding out for a copy that isn't age-toned would be, well, pretty damn stupid.


One of two book collecting guides written by Allen and Patricia Ahearn. The most recent editions are Book Collecting 2000 and Collected Books: The Guide to Values. The first is an excellent one-volume overview of book collecting, with price estimates for the first books by thousands of authors. The second is a straightforward price guide, with the added bonus older price data. Every major book dealer has these guides in their personal reference collection and usually right at his or her desk (yes, even in the age of the Internet), which ought to tell you something about their worth.

Alcohol, plying us with in a dark room

Yes, please (see Better)

All Edges Gilt

The binder has trimmed and gilded the three exposed sides of the text block (that is, the top edge, fore edge, and bottom edge) as was done to this first edition copy of Charles Dickens' Dombey and Son, offered in our Catalog 137.


Autograph Letter Signed, meaning (unless other qualifiers are given) that the entire letter is written out by hand by the author and signed. In this Autograph Letter Signed, offered in our Catalog 141, Mark Twain announces to his friend Bret Harte that he has just finished the manuscript of his new novel, Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. Pretty cool.

American Book Prices Current

Sometimes abbreviated as ABPC. A long-running guide, now available online, of auction prices realized (hammer prices, without the buyers' premium) for most major book auctions. Like any other price guideline, the information from the ABPC must be taken in context.

Antiquarian Book

It is natural to associate "antiquarian books" with a certain age or vintage of book because of the general meaning of the word "antiquarian" in the English language (that is, pertaining to antiquities, things of ancient times or former times). However, the antiquarian book trade of today (the buying and selling of antiquarian books) encompasses any book that is valued as a physical object above and beyond its value as a vessel of content (text and/or illustrations). A previously owned book that is valued solely for its content is merely a used book, the text of which, if old enough to be out of copyright protection, can probably be found for free on the Internet. In other words, a collector of 1750s British political volumes certainly collects antiquarian books, but so do the collectors of 1950s paperback originals, 1980s private press books, and post-2000 fine contemporary bindings. All are antiquarian books, regardless how long ago they were printed. The 1759 first edition of Candide offered in our Catalog 155 is an antiquarian book, but so is the signed, limited edition of Hunter S. Thompson's 2004 book Fire in the Nuts, offered in the same catalog.

As new

Popular term for a fine and fresh copy, but often an inadequate condition term. New books are sent to bookstores in cartons but often sustain a fair amount of rubbing in the cartons before they are unpacked, "new," from the publisher. Despite that, some books do arrive at the bookstore in "as new" condition. Although published in 1925, this copy of Liam O'Flaherty's The Informer, offered in our Catalog 101, was in virtually "as new" condition.


An inscription in a book, usually authorial, that indicates that a personal relationship exists between the inscriber and the recipient, providing insight into the book or author, and subsequently enhancing the value of the book. Of the six known inscribed first edition copies of Thomas Hardy's Tess of the d'Urbervilles, this copy offered in the first Classic Book Cards set and inscribed to Alfred Austin, the Poet Laureate of England, is the best association.