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  • Abbreviations bothering you?
  • Cryptic terms giving you a headache?
  • What do these book terms mean anyway?

Crabtree's Collection Old Books uses a number of standard terms to define the physical condition of our out-of-print books. We also identify any defects that a book may have when listing it in our inventory. We hope that these definitions of Book Condition and Book Defects may be helpful.

Book Condition

  • As New (As New Condition) - a book as bright and fresh as the day it was published. The dust jacket is without tears and in the same as-new condition. Flawless in every aspect, it is unread and unused. Sometimes called "Very Fine" or "Mint".

  • F (Fine Condition) - no defects, but yet not quite as new. The book is nearly flawless and shows only slight signs of age. A clean, crisp and very nearly new.

  • VG (Very Good Condition) - A bright, clean, tight copy that shows signs of being read more than once. May have minor defects noted, such as edge wear, signature or book plate of the previous owner, slight chipping or tears to the dust jacket.

  • G (Good Condition) - an average used book. No pages are missing, but the book shows signs of wear and aging. It is generally sound and free from major defects, although defects are noted.

  • Fair (Fair Condition) - a worn book that has complete text pages, including maps and plates, but may lack endpapers, half-title pages, etc. The binding and jacket are also usually badly worn. Defects are noted.

  • P (Poor Condition) - a badly worn book, but with a complete, legible text. Defects are noted.

    We often further discriminate the grades Good and Very Good with a "+" or "-". For example, a G+ is better than good, but less than VG-.

    Book Defects

    A defect is a blemish or fault that takes away from the book being "As New", and thus reduces its value. Nearly every out-of-print book has one or more defects, simply from being read, carried around, shelved, etc. We try to describe the principal defects of each book in our inventory using the terms below. We will often use modifiers such as "slight", "extensive", "some" or "limited" to give the reader a better sense of the overall condition of the book.

    Here are some of the more common book defects that you will see described:

  • Book Plate (bp) - a printed label generally affixed to the front pastedown or flyleaf of a book by a former owner of the book. The term "exlibris" is also used ("from the book of..."). Book plates often have the owner's name printed on them.

  • Bumped (bmpd) - bent corner(s) of the cover, usually from dropping the book. Sometimes the corners of the pages are also bent when the corners are bumped.

  • Chipped (chpd) - small flakes or tears to the edge(s) of a dust jacket, pages or spine of a book.

  • Cocked - the covers no longer line up squarely when the book is laid flat on its back cover. Usually caused by poor storage or rough handling during reading.

  • Cracked (crkd) - the front and/or rear hinge is beginning (starting) to break, or has broken, resulting in a loose cover.

  • Ex-Library (Ex-Lib) - a book that has at one time been in the inventory of a lending libary, but not a private library. These books often have library stamps, bookplates, spine labels and lending card pockets.

  • Foxing - reddish brown stains in aged paper due to the rusting or iron in the paper (explanation #1), or by microorganisms enabled by the impurities in the paper and storage conditions that are damp and warm.

  • Inscribed by Owner (owner's inscr) - words handwritten in a book by a former owner(s) of the book. Not to be confused with inscriptions written by the author and/or illustrator of the book (unless the author is also the owner!) which are not defects, but increase the value of a book.

  • Loose - The binder's glue that holds the inner edge of the paste-down leave has come undone, and the covers and entire book are no longer "tight". (see "Shaken")

  • Rebound - a book whose complete original binding has been replaced.

  • Scuffed - a leather-bound book that has been rubbed or peeled, torn, or gouged.

  • Shaken - any clothbound book that is loose in its binding.

  • Signed by Owner (owner's sig) - the handwritten name of the owner(s) of the book (not to be confused with the name of the author).

  • Started - when an outer hinge is beginning to break. Also, refers to a signature (i.e.- a section of a book) that has come loose in its threads.

  • Soiled - a dirty cover and/or dust jacket.

  • Sunned - the spine and/or covers of a book have been bleached by the sun.

    For more information on book terms, these references are highly recommended: John Carter's ABC for Book Collectors; Arthur H. Minter's Collecting Books for Fun and Profit; Robert A. Wilson's Modern Book Collecting; and Jack Matthews' Collecting Rare Books. Many of the definitions we've used above originate in these references.

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    This page was last updated March 12, 2003. Our inventory is updated regularly.