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


An abbreviation for a worldwide online database that gathers information about the locations and holdings of specific titles in libraries. When it was founded in 1967 it stood for the Ohio College Library Center. However, when it expanded far beyond this regional information a new title was needed to fit the acronym so it is now the Online Computer Library Center. Although the information on OCLC is constantly improving, it is far from a complete listing of all rare books in all rare book libraries. Nevertheless, the information it does contain can be very helpful in ascertaining relative scarcity and other bibliographic attributes. A dealer will never mention if OCLC locates 427 copies of a book in libraries, but if he or she can only find three copies, expect to pay a premium.


A technical term used to indicate how many times a single printed page has been folded to make a gathering in a book. However, in modern usage it indicates the size of a modern novel, that is, between 8" to 10" tall. Abbreviated as 8vo., it DOES NOT mean "eight volumes," and some purchasers of an 8vo. who are unfamiliar with the term, upon receipt of their book, are occasionally perplexed about where the other seven volumes are.

Original boards

In the original binding from the book's publisher, as opposed to in contemporary binding (from the same time period but not from the publisher) or rebound. This copy of T.R. Malthus' Principles of Political Economy Considered with a View to their Practical Application, published in 1820 and offered in our Catalog 113, was a remarkably fine copy in original papercovered boards.

Oversized wraps

The covers of a book bound in soft covers that extend beyond the edges of the text block, making them more easily susceptible to wear. The high school year book of famed aviator Amelia Earhart, offered in our Catalog 124, was bound in oversized wraps. When the edges hang over particularly far they are occasionally referred to as "yapped" edges.

Owner name

Not yours, unless you want to write in the book. In very modern books this is seen as a flaw, unless the person is notable in some way. For example, this copy of At Lady Molly's by Anthony Powell, offered in our Catalog 113, bore the ownership signature of author Peter De Vries on the front fly. What made this a particularly nice association was that the book itself had a printed blurb by De Vries. In older books owner names are less despised, and can even help to determine dates of publication or offer similar insights into the publishing process.