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



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.

Tape shadow

What will occur to your books if we don't confiscate your tape dispenser. The tape that was once on the book is gone, but a shadow on the paper remains either because of exposure to light, or from a chemical reaction with the paper. This copy of Martin M. Goldsmith's The Miraculous Fish of Domingo Gonzales, offered in our Catalog 113, had old tape shadows on the pastedowns where a previous owner had affixed the flaps. "Who was Martin M. Goldsmith?" you ask. He is best known for writing both the source book and screenplay for the classic film noir Detour. If he had made a classic film noir out of The Miraculous Fish of Domingo Gonzales, the latter might be a bit easier to sell.


Darkening of gilt lettering and decoration through oxidation over time. This copy of Dr. Harry A. March's Pro Football: Its "Ups" and "Downs", offered in our catalog 113, had some slight tarnishing to the gilt lettering on the front board.


The rectangular accumulation of paper that constitute the pages inside a book. The textblock, after being tarted out with a binding, would constitute your garden-variety book.


As in "first edition thus," usually a reissue but with some new material that we hope some collector out there will care about. Sometimes the new material is illustrations, or a new introduction, sometimes it is text that varies from the original edition, sometimes it is simply a new edition published by a different, but significant, publishing house. This copy of Pat Conroy's The Boo offered in our Catalog 119 was a first edition thus, one of 20 lettered copies with a new introduction by the author and signed by Conroy, his father (model for The Great Santini), and "The Boo." Beware of "thuses," although a committed collector may be delighted to find them to add to a collection.


A line on paper caused by its interaction with water. Increased global warming may result in more of this, especially if you live at the shore. Differs from a stain in that tidemark connotes a bookseller with a thesaurus.


Attached to, but not integral to the binding of the book. We usually use this term to indicate something that has been added: a letter from the author, a newspaper or magazine review or obituary, etc. The nature of what is tipped-in will determine whether this addition will enhance or devalue the book. This copy of the Pulitzer Prize winning novel Early Autumn, by Louis Bromfield, offered in our Catalog 124, had a note from the author and a slip from the publisher tipped in to the front fly.

Tissue guard

A leaf of light, usually translucent tissue paper bound or laid over a plate or illustration to protect it and prevent off-setting to adjoining leaves. Almost invariable the plate doesn't offset on the facing page, but the tissue guard does, thus defeating the purpose.

Title Page

The page where the full title, author, and other information appears, usually including the publisher, place of publication, and date. Information on the title page might constitute an issue point, and authors will often sign books on the title page.


Abbreviation for "Typed Letter Signed," which is a letter that has been typed, but has been hand-signed by its author, as was the case with this typed letter signed by future President John F. Kennedy, offered in our catalog 119. These are usually not as valuable as a comparable ALS (or "Autographed Letter Signed"), which is completely written in the hand of its author.

Topedge and Top Edge Gilt

The flat surface that is created at the top of the textblock by the accumulated edges of the pages of a book. Sometimes called the "top edge," the space denoting a pause, during which the bookseller struggled for the term. If the binder has trimmed and gilded the top of the text block, this is refered to as "top edge gilt" or simply "t.e.g." This copy of the first edition of Charles Dickens' Sketches by Boz, offered in our Catalog 119, was bound by Birdsall with top edge gilt.

Touch of

Some form of wear that is slight but worthy of mention, as in "fine, with a touch of rubbing" — just a tad, a trifle, a pinch, a soupcon, (whose got a Roget's?). This first edition copy of Arthur Miller's Death of a Salesman, offered in our Catalog 118, had just a touch of rubbing at the extremities of the dustjacket.

Trade edition

The edition of a book intended for the public, such as would be sold in bookstores, as opposed to a limited edition, uncorrected proof, etc., which are intended for a more limited audience. This copy of T.E. Lawrence's Seven Pillars of Wisdom, offered in our catalog 119, is the first trade edition.


As in a "trifle foxed," that is, a very little bit. But sometimes we get sick of saying "a very little bit." This first edition copy of Zane Grey's classic western, Riders of the Purple Sage, offered in our Catalog 125, was a trifle rubbed along the spine edge.

True first

The correct first edition of a book, from its original country of origin. The term is most often used when the earliest edition is not obvious, or when copies most often offered in the book trade are not the earliest edition. This copy of Het Achterhuis, offered in our Catalog 113, was the true first edition of The Diary of Anne Frank, published in Amsterdam before the book was translated and published all over the world.


A generic term meaning a manuscript that has been typed with a typewriter, as opposed to handwritten, printed, mimeographed, computer generated, etc. This apparently unpublished Sherwood Anderson typescript titled A Business Venture — Gun Running, includes both ribbon and carbon copies.