Common Book Terms

Here are some of the more common terms you will come across as you enter the book collecting world.

Boards:  Cardboard sides of a hardcover book, covered with leather, book cloth, or paper; with the spine, the boards make the cover, or case, of the book

Book block:  The pages of a book minus the covers, or case.

Book cloth:  The material used as a cover for the book's boards.  The cloth comes in a variety of weights and qualities.  An example is Buckram, a very sturdy cloth, used most often for reference books, textbooks, and library editions.

Case:  The cover of a hardcover book consisting of sides and spine.

Dust jacket or dust wrapper:  The protective paper covering of a book.  Normally its flaps have a brief description of the book's contents and a biography of the author, and on the back, various endorsements, called 'blurbs'.

Edges:  The top, side, and bottom edges of the book.  The side edge, opposite the spine, is called the Fore edge.  The top edge is sometimes covered with a dull paint or gold leaf, both for decorative purposes and to help keep dust out of the pages.  You will often see the acronym TEG, meaning 'top edge gilt'.  Some expensive private library editions apply gold leaf to all edges, thus the descriptor AEG.

First Printing:  The first appearance of a book; what most people really mean when they say first edition.  It can also be called a First Impression.  Please refer to "How to Identify First Editions".

Head and Tail:  The top and bottom of the spine and text, respectively.

Hinges or joints:  The areas where the cover boards flex.

Leaf:  A single piece of paper in a bound book.  A leaf contains two sides or pages, a recto (on the right, usually an odd-numbered page) and a verso (on the left, usually even numbered).

Pastedown and fly leaf:  The pastedown is the half of the end paper that is attached to a book's front or back cover.  The flyleaf is the first of last turnable leaf of a book, directly across from the pastedown.

Perfect bound:  Bound as a paperback with no sewing, as opposed to signatures (see directly below).

Signatures:  Also called sections.  In printing, usually 16 or 32 pages are printed together on both sides of a single large sheet.  This is then folded so that the pages line up in the correct order, forming the signature.  Groups of signatures can either be sewn together through the spine folds to make the book block, or more common nowadays, the pages are sewn and glued.

Spine:  The narrow section of the book visible on a bookshelf.