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

Carbon copy

A manuscript or letter that was created using carbon paper, i.e. the second (or later) copy in the typewriter, a device used by hard-drinking authors before the invention of the personal computer (if you need a ribbon for one, good luck). Carbon copies of manuscripts can be collectible if they exhibit hand corrections. This carbon copy of a book contract offered in our Catalog 76 had the added bonus of being signed by the notoriously private author J.D. Salinger.

Carter's ABC for Book Collectors

An excellent book collectors' glossary, by John Carter and first published in 1952. It is in fact perhaps the definitive glossary of its kind and highly recommended (despite the fact that it doesn't have pictures and doesn't make tiresome allusions to Between the Covers). Notice how worn our copy is - we never consult it but from time to time a table leg needs to be shorn up.

Catalogue of the Blockson Collection

A compilation published in 1990 which is a comprehensive listing of books in the collection of Charles Blockson, now housed at Temple University in Philadelphia. Professor Blockson has informed us that the collection is much larger now, and whereas we used to say "not in the Blockson Collection," we now say "not in the Catalogue of the Blockson Collection," because we don't really know if it is in the collection but has not yet been listed.


A case or folding tray into which a fragile or valuable book or manuscript is laid, usually used in conjunction with a case into which the chemise is slipped, and which the trade, with its infinite gift for invention, has cleverly determined to call a slipcase. Each of our own Classic Book Cards sets are housed in a too-cute-for-words chemise made to look like a miniature book, and you can still buy one if you want to see for yourself.


A piece of cloth or paper that is missing from a binding or a dustwrapper. We don't usually like these, and can often be found of a morning busily checking books or jackets with chips to see if they have grown back overnight. The little brother of the chip is the Nick. Note the chip at the top and bottom of the spine where it meets the front panel on this copy of Dashiell Hammett's second book, The Dain Curse, offered in our Catalog 104. Note also that this book sold in a heartbeat, illustrating that the smartest collectors are often those who know when to bend rigid rules of condition when the time comes.

Clamshell case

A hinged box, usually covered in cloth, used to preserve and house a book or manuscript. These two early and rare James Joyce publications, James Clarence Mangan and Ibsen's New Drama, offered in our Catalog 74, are shown standing atop the custom clamshell case a previous owner commissioned for their protection.

Closed tear

A tear in a dustjacket that fits closely together, in other words, doesn't look too much like a tear, as opposed to a ragged or jagged tear. Some dealers use the term to mean a tear that has been "closed" with tape - feel free to steal their tape dispensers. This copy of Arthur C. Clarke's 2001: A Space Odyssey offered in our Catalog 101 had a small closed tear at the crown.


A slant to the spine of the book, causing the book to be out of square, usually caused by either reading the book, or stacking cases of beer on it. Also, a slant to the spine of a bookseller or collector as the result of drinking the beer. This copy of Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird offered in our Catalog 111 was somewhat cocked, but did not smell of beer.

Contemporary binding

A binding that was placed on the book at or around the time of publication. Some books were issued in paper covers, or plain cardboard boards, and the purchaser would often have a binding commissioned for it that would suit his taste or library. This was particularly common in France, where most books were published in this manner. Contemporary can mean original, but usually indicates some doubt as to that fact in the mind of the scrupulous seller (as opposed to "original boards," where the seller is confident). Contemporary, as used here, doesn't mean "modern" or contemporary to you, unless you were around when the book was published, which probably isn't the case with this copy of De totius Africæ descriptione libri IX. by Johannes Leo Africanus, published in 1556, and offered in our Catalog 119. The work is generally considered the first work published in Europe by a person of primarily African descent.


You know, corners – the pointy things that stick out at the edges of the book. Like all things that stick out, they are the most likely to get bumped or worn. This lovely, unrestored copy of Ernest Hemingway's The Sun Also Rises offered in our Catalog 105 had tiny nicks at the corners of the crown of the rare, first issue dustwrapper. Picky picky.


A permanent bend to a page or dustjacket. In days of yore some collectors would remove the jacket from the book, fold it neatly in two, and store it somewhere safe. When these Rip Van Winkle jackets are awakened and placed back on the book, they often look amazingly fresh and command a significant premium, though they will have a resulting crease down the spine from being folded. This lovely copy of Dawn Powell's Turn, Magic Wheel, offered in our Catalog 119, is one such jacket.


The very top edge of the spine, of either the book or the jacket. Since most people tug books off shelves from the crown, this area is very prone to wear. The recommended way to remove a book from a shelf is to push in the volumes on either side of the book you want, grasp the book around the spine with your fingers and thumb on the opposite boards, and pull. If you can do this then you're welcome in our booth at the next ABAA book fair. However, we don't discriminate — even if you haven't mastered the not particularly fine art of removing a book from a shelf, you can still be welcomed into our booth. In that case all you have to do is point to one of the books under glass, like this copy of Hemingway's A Farewell to Arms offered in our Catalog 113 (with the crown pointed out for your edification), and declare "I'll buy that."


A drink-ring or circular stain left when a book is used as a coaster for a drinking glass. A handy Italian term which has no one-word English equivalent (and, from the perspective of book people, one of the most useful terms to be found in Howard Rheingold's entertaining book They Have a Word for It: A Lighthearted Lexicon of Untranslatable Words and Phrases). This paperback collection of critical essays by Jean-Paul Sartre sports two such drink-rings, which may just have been applied by the author at a Parisian sidewalk cafe. Too bad they weren't.