Malkin Photography


Book and Photographic Terminology

This glossary is a collection of terms that I have assembled over the years to help track commonly used words in describing photographs and books. If you find any mistakes with the definitions, please let me know .

Other resources:

    ABBA Glossary
    AIPAD, On Collecting Photography
    The Ansel Adams Gallery Glossary
    Wikipedia: Photography



4to- A book that is up to 12" tall. See Quarto.
8vo - A book that is up to 9 ¾" tall. See Octavo.
12mo - A book that is up to 7 ¾" tall. See Duodecimo.
16mo - A book that is up to 6 ¾" tall. See Sextodecimo.
24mo - A book that is up to 5 ¾" tall.
32mo - A book that is up to 5" tall.
48mo - A book that is up to 4" tall.
64mo - A book that is up to 3" tall.
Folio - A book that is up to 15" tall.
Elephant Folio - A book that is up to 23" tall.
Atlas Folio - A book that is up to 25" tall.
Double Elephant Folio - A book that is up to 50" tall.

ABA - In the US: American Booksellers Association (for independently owned bookstores with a store front location selling new books).
In the UK: Antiquarian Booksellers Association (the UK equivalent of the ABAA).

ABAA - Antiquarian Booksellers' Association of America (the US equivalent of the ABA.)

ABAC - Antiquarian Booksellers' Association of Canada (Canadian equivalent of the ABA.)

ADVANCE READING COPY - A special pre-publication issue published in wrappers. Issued for publicity purposes. Occasionally there are textual differences between an advance reading copy and a first edition. Usually in pictorial wraps similar to the dust jacket art that is to be used on the first trade edition. Preceded by an advance uncorrected proof copy which is usually in plain colored wrappers.

ALBUMEN process - In the late 1840s albumen came to be used in the preparation of both negatives and printing paper, in order to increase the definition. The term comes form 'egg whites.'

ALBUMEN PRINT - Prints made on a paper coated with an egg white and salt solution, then sensitized with silver nitrates.

ANTIQUARIAN BOOKSELLER - A term used loosely to describe a dealer in old, rare, scarce, and collectible books.

AS NEW (AN) or VERY FINE (VF) or MINT (M): Without faults or defects, unread, in the same immaculate condition in which it was published (Note: very few "new" books qualify for this grade, as many times there will be rubs/scuffs to the dustjackets from shipping, or bumped lower spine ends/corners from shelving).

ASSOCIATION COPY - Books once belonging to the author, signed or annotated by the author, or someone associated with the author of book in some way. Book inscribed by author to famous person, or owned by someone of interest, or someone connected to the book or author.

AUTHORS EDITION - Book authorized by author, usually foreign editions, around the turn of the last century when many titles were pirated or "unauthorized".

BACKSTRIP - A strip used by binder to reinforce the back of folded sheets in the binding of the spine.

BIBLIOGRAPHY - A list of works, occasionally in great detail, on a given subject or by a given author.

BIBLIOPHILE - A lover of Books.

BINDING - Material used as a protective cover for a book (e.g.: leather, cloth, buckram, paper, etc.)

BINDING COPY - A book whose text block is complete and serviceable, but the current binding is defective, incomplete, or in need of repair.

BIOPREDATION - An attack to books by living matter, which may include insects or mildew.

BLIND (Stamped or Tooled) - Impressed into paper or binding with no color, leaving an impression only.

BOARDS - The front and back covers of a hardcover book.

BOOK CLUB EDITION - Editions published by book clubs (i.e.: The Book-of-the-Month Club, Fireside Book Club, History Book Club, The Literary Guild, etc).

BOOK JACKET - Separate paper covering for the book. Also referred to as the dust jacket or dustwrapper.

BOOKLET - A small book, often only a few pages long and bound in wrappers.

BOOK PLATE - An ownership label, usually placed inside front cover. Many have become collectible due to the designer or owner; others actually lower the value of books printed in the last 50 years.

BOOKWORM - An organism, sometimes a literal worm, which harms books by feeding on their binding or leaves. Also a term for a person devoted to books.

BROADSIDE or BROADSHEET - Large sheet of paper printed on one side only.

BROMOIL - A highly involved process that can generate one print or, in a transfer variation, many copies. Its chief quality is a delicate painterly/etcherly look. Lithographic in is applied with a special brush to a gelatinized paper surface that selectively resists or attracts the ink.

BUCKRAM - A heavy weave of binding cloth.

BUMPED - Usually referring to the corners of a book that has been damaged by being carelessly banged .

CASE - The covers enclosing a book, usually made of thick cardboard, or a specially made case for a book.

CANCEL - Due to errors or defects in printing, a book may have one or more pages sliced out of the text block after it has been bound. The new printed matter pasted on to the resulting stub is referred to as a "cancel" or "cancellans".

CHAPBOOK - Small, inexpensive books produced from the 17th century until today, originally sold by "chapmen", peddlers, and hawkers.

CHAPTER BOOK - Fairly modern term referring to books for older children which are organized into chapters, as opposed to "picture books", which often are not.

CHIPPED - Small pieces broken off of a dust jacket or binding.

CIBACHROME - A process by which a photographic print is made directly from a color transparency. Noted for rich color, brilliant clarity and unprecedented archival quality for color prints. Also called Ilfochrome.

CIRCA (abbreviated: c ) - Refers to an approximate date when actual date is unknown.

CLOSED TEAR - A tear with no material missing.

COATED - Paper is smooth and polished; something has been applied to the surface to make it appear glossy.

COCKED - If, when looking down on the head of a book, the corners are not square it is said to be cocked or rolled. Also known as a spine slant.

COLLATE - To verify completeness of a book by examining it carefully (e.g.: all illustrative plates are present, no pages are missing, etc).

COLOPHON - Details of the printer's typography, often found on the last page of a book. Sometimes states the number of copies printed, and in the case of a limited edition, will cite the copy number and may contain the signature of the author, illustrator, or publisher.

CONTEMPORARY BINDING - Up until the 19th century, books were published unbound, with the understanding that the new owner would have his books bound at his leisure. This term refers to bindings done the same year or within a few years of the publication of such a book.

COPPERPLATE - Illustrations produced when the original printing plate was engraved on copper; this method was introduced before the end of the 15th century. They replaced the woodcut, which reappeared later on.

COPYRIGHT PAGE - The page that appears on verso of the title page, containing the artistic property protection.

CYANOTYPE and VANDYKE - These methods, and others, made from metals combined with their ferric salts (platinum, palladium, gold, copper, etc.) can produce infinite monochrome variations with capacity to convey special moods.

DAGUERREOTYPE - An early photographic process (invented in 1839) where the impression made on a light-sensitive silver-coated metal plate is developed by mercury vapor. Each is an original since no duplication process exists.

DAMPSTAIN - A stain left on a cover or pages that have been exposed to water. Considered a defect.

DECKLE EDGE - Uneven and uncut edges, often found on books printed on hand-made paper and not trimmed by the binder.

DENTELLE - A lace-like pattern applied to the edges of the cover of the inside border of a book bound in leather.

DESIDERATA - A listing of books desired.

DICHROMATE - A compound containing the divalent negative ion, Cr2O7, usually having a characteristic orange-red color. Also called bichromate.

DIMPLE - An indentation, such as on a golf ball, on covers or pages. Considered a defect, if not part of decorated covers.

DING - A small bump or dent leaving an impression, sometimes caused by careless handling or storage.

DOG-EARED - Worn or ragged, usually referring to the edges of pages and binding. Corners of pages turned down like a dog's ear. Considered a defect.

DUST JACKET or DUSTWRAPPER or dw - The separate paper covering for a book. While originally intended for protection, these have become an important part of modern books, often including information about a book not found elsewhere.

DUODECIMO (12mo) - A book approximately seven to eight inches tall.

DYE TRANSFER - A method of making color prints or transparencies that give the maximum control of color, balance and contrast. One of the most permanent color photographic processes.

EDGES - The three outer sides of the text block when book is closed: fore edge, top edge or head, and bottom edge or foot.

EDITION - All of the copies of a book printed at the same time from the same setting of type.

ENDPAPERS - The double leaves added to the book by the binder that become the pastedowns and free endpapers inside the front and rear covers. These pages are an integral part of the binding of a book, holding the text block and case together. The lack of them drastically shortens the value and life of a book.

EPHEMERA - Those bits of throwaway paper of every day life (e.g.: advertising, ticket stubs, programs, some booklets and pamphlets, etc.)

ERRATA - A list of errors and their corrections or additions to the printing, found after book has been printed, usually on separate sheet or slip of paper. The plural of erratum.

EX-LIBRARY - Deaccessioned from a public libraries collection.

EX-LIBRIS - Usually found on bookplate referring to "from the books" of John Doe, etc. From a private library, as opposed to a public library. Could also be a stamp.

EXTRA-ILLUSTRATED - Extra illustrations added to the book after publication.

FAIR - A book that is very worn, but all of it's important parts, and dust jacket, must be present. May be soiled with tears, endpapers missing, etc. Such defects must be noted in descriptions.

FINE (F) - A book that has no defects in book or jacket, but not as crisp as it was when new.

FIRST EDITION - The first printing of a book, done from the original setting of type. The collectibility of the first edition was established in the early days of printing, when the lead type used in the presses would quickly wear away, compromising the readability of the book being printed.

FLEXIBLE BINDING - Limp, leather/plastic covers which are flexible.

FLY-LEAVES - Plain papers at front and rear of book after endpapers.

FOLIO - 1. The book size resulting from folding a sheet one time, giving leaves half the size of the sheet. In modern practice double-size paper folded twice, or quad-size paper folded three times would be used, thus producing the requisite folio size but in sections convenient for binding. Abbreviated Fo. or fo. 2. A leaf of parchment or paper numbered only on the recto side. 3. Loosely, the number of a page. 4. An individual leaf of a book.

FOLIO - Refernce to size: 13 inches or larger

FOOT - The bottom edge of the text block.

FORE EDGE - The right edge opposite the spine.

FORE EDGE PAINTING - A painting on gilded fore edge, which can only be seen by fanning pages. Popular in the 15th and 16th centuries, and occasionally still being done today.

FOXING - The brown age spots thought to be caused by impurities in paper(e.g.: acid, exposure to humidity, etc.)

FREE ENDPAPER - Front and rear blank pages added by the binder.

FRONTISPIECE - The illustration facing title page.

GATEFOLD - An illustration, map, or other leaf larger in one dimension than the other leaves of the publication and which consequently must be folded, usually at the fore edge or head, to make it the same size as the other leaves.

GATHERINGS - The printed sheets, after folding, which are put in order and bound in sequence. Also known as a signature.

GAUFFERED EDGES - A pattern tooled on gilt edges of book.

GILT EDGES - Page edges cut smooth and gilded (covered with a thin layer of gold leaf).

GICLÉE - a technology for fine art or photograph reproduction using a high-quality inkjet printer to make individual copies.

GLASSINE - Transparent paper sometimes used as a dust jacket to protect a book.

GOOD - A book, or dust jacket in average used and worn condition - complete with all its parts. Note all defects in descriptions.

GRADING - Guidelines used to properly describe condition of books.

GRAVURE - Method of printing using metal cylinders etched with millions of tiny wells that hold ink.

GUM BICHROMATE - Introduced in in 1894, popular into the 1920's and occasionally used today. Often called "gum." A gum bichromate print was made by brushing onto a sheet of paper a smooth coating of gum arabic (a transparent plant secretion) dissolved in water and mixed with a pigment and a solution of potassium (or ammonia) bichromate.

GUMOIL - A recently discovered process which has the look and feel of some of the ancient processes. In combination with unpigmented gum, etching bleach and oil pigments, it is possible to build monochrome or polychromatic images.

GUTTER - Inner margins of two facing pages. Can also refer to the outer indentation that is created by the joining of the boards and spine.

HALF BINDING - Leather spine and corners. Leather extends about 1/3rd to 1/4th of the way to the edge.

HALF CLOTH - Cloth spine and paper covered sides.

HALF-TITLE (fly title) - The page, preceding the title page proper, listing only the title of the book and no other information. While always present in modern books, it is sometimes lacking in older publications because it was originally designed to be removed before custom binding.

HALF-TONE - A gradation of tone (between light and dark) of an image by minute, closely spaced dots. Used in photography and graphics.

HARDCOVER - A book whose case is made of stiff boards, as opposed to wrappers.

HEAD - Top edge of the text block.

HEADBAND - Band of silk or cotton affixed to signatures when bound for strength or, more often, decoration of the spine.

HINGES - Where the sides of the binding meet the spine. Can be referred to as inner hinges and outer hinges or joints.

IDEAL COPY - When a number of copies of an edition of a book are compared to each other, a bibliographer may set out what he or she considers to be the description of the standard copy of that edition, to which all other copies can be compared. Thus, when a book is said to be "missing a page", it is assumed that the ideal copy of that book always contains that particular page.

ILAB - International League of Antiquarian Booksellers. Includes 20 national associations representing 30 countries.

IMPRESSION - All the copies of a book printed during one press run. During the handpress period, when type was reset each time a press was used, this term was synonymous with edition.

INCUNABULA - The earliest printed books of a genre, often used exclusively to mean those printed before 1501. Coined from the Latin word cunae, meaning "cradle".

INSCRIBED - Signed by the author or someone associated with book, but with more wording than simply a signature.

IOBA - Independent Online Booksellers Association.

ISSUE - A change, textual or otherwise, made after the book has been published.

JOINTS - Refers to outer hinge where spine joins the sides of the book. Sometimes referred to as the "gutter".

LAID IN - Paper/photograph/print is laid in (not glued down).

LAID ON - See tipped in.

LAMINATE - The thin plastic layer covering the dust jacket of some books.

LIMITED EDITION - Small number of copies of book published. Books are usually numbered such as "100/500" meaning number 100 of an edition of 500.

LOOSE - When a book has been read carelessly or too often, and has become loose and sloppy in its binding.


MANUSCRIPT - The original pages of an author's work, written in the author's hand or typed.

MARBLING - A process of decorating paper, in which the result resembles the veins of stone marble.

MARRIED - Two related items brought together, though not initially sold as a unit, for the purpose of making the set complete as published (i.e.: a book and dust jacket, or two volumes in a set).

MULL - The cloth which reinforces the hinges and is pasted directly to the body of a book and is hidden by the spine.

NEAR FINE: Also used, although not contained in Bookman's Weekly definitions, meaning a book or dustjacket approaching FINE but with a couple of very minor defects or faults.

OBVERSE - The front or main surface of anything.

OCTAVO (8vo) - A book of about five inches wide and eight inches tall to about six by nine inches. Octavo is the most common size for current hardcover books. To make octavo books, each sheet of paper is folded to make eight leaves (16 pages).

OPEN TEAR - A tear which may have some material missing.

OUT-OF-PRINT - A book no longer available from the publisher. It is no longer being printed and no copies remain available for sale.

OROTONE - An image printed on glass then backed in gold; also called gold-tone or curt-tone. It is often found in ornate, molded or gilded frames.

OWNER'S INSCRIPTION - Words written by previous or original owner of book. Also known as previous owner's inscription.

PAGINATION - The numbering of the pages.

PANEL - Refers to borders in binding. Can also be used in connection with the main surfaces of a dust jacket.

PAPERBACK - A book bound with flexible paper covers; usually a term reserved for mass-market publications.

PAPER COVERS (also PAPER-COVERED BOARDS) - Describes a book not bound in stiff paper covers. Can refer to a temporary binding, a booklet or pamphlet, or a book in early (1800s) wrappers.

PARCHMENT - The skin of a sheep, goat, etc., prepared as a surface for writing or for use as a binding material.

PASTEDOWN ENDPAPER - The part of the endpapers that is pasted to the inside of the front and rear covers.

PICTORIALISM -photography that imitates painting: a style of photography, popular at the turn of the 20th century, using soft-focus techniques to imitate academic painting.

PICTORIALISTS - A group who became known as pictorialists sought to distinguish their artistic efforts from the snapshots taken by masses of so-called Kodakers. Pictorialists favored specialized (and difficult) darkroom techniques that gave them more control over their results. In contrast to snapshots of the time, the compositions of the pictorialists favored simplicity, with broad areas of extreme darks and lights. Most of the pictorialists favored subject matter made popular by impressionist painters: hazy landscapes, nudes, and groups of children gamboling in nature.

PINHOLE - An old, but currently popular way of taking pictures using a simple box without a lens, but with a tiny hole and a sheet of film pinned inside opposite the hole. Produces unique perspective and dreamy focus.

PLATE - A special page containing an illustration or other extra information; often printed on glossy paper.

PLATINUM/PALLADIUM - A print in which the final image is formed in platinum or palladium. Both these processes are extremely permanent and have delicate rich tones and ranges of greys that are unattainable in silver prints.

PHOTOGRAVURE - Also known as heliogravure. An intaglio process in which the image has been placed on the plate by photographic means using carbon tissues. See also gravure

POINTS - Peculiarities in a published book whose presence or absence helps to determine edition, issue, or state.

POOR or READING COPY: A book that is sufficiently worn that its only merit is the complete text, which must be legible. Any missing maps or plates should still be noted. May be soiled, scuffed, stained, or spotted, and may have loose joints, hinges, pages, etc.

PRESENTATION COPY - A book inscribed by the author to someone else of importance to the author, the book, or society in general.

PRICE CLIPPED - The price on the inner flap of a dust jacket has been cut off.

PROOF - See uncorrected proof.

PROVENANCE - Evidence of the history of the ownership of a particular book (e.g.: auctions records, booksellers' records, book plates, etc.) The book may be important because of who owned it; perhaps a president or important bookseller, collector, royalty, or someone who may be related to the book in some way. Important in establishing the ownership of especially rare items.

PSEUDONYM/PEN-NAME/NOM DE PLUME - An assumed name used to protect the anonymity of an author.

PUBLISHER'S BINDING - Binding provided by the publisher when supplying a book for a bookseller. This practice, while common today, dates from the 1800s.

QUARTER BINDING - A book with its spine bound in a different material than the boards (i.e.: a leather spine and cloth- or paper-covered boards).

QUARTO (4to) - A book between octavo and folio in size; approximately 11 to 13 inches tall. To make a quarto, a sheet of paper is folded twice, forming four leaves (eight pages).


READING CREASE - A crease down the spine of a book (usually a paperback); considered a defect.


REBACKED - A repair, where the original spine or backstrip has been removed, the spine replaced, and the original reglued on top. Can be considered a defect, but more valuable than not having any of the original spine present.

REBOUND - A repair, where the entire binding has been replaced by a new one.

RECASED - A repair, where a book is taken apart and put back together using original pages, cloth, and endpapers. Usually done to tighten the sewing or to wash the pages, etc.

RECTO - A right-hand page, when a book is open and facing the reader.

REMAINDER - A new book returned to the publisher as unsold, then re-marketed at a much lower price.

REMAINDER MARK - A mark (rubber stamp, felt marker stroke, or spray, often on a book's bottom edge) signifying that the book was returned to publisher as unsold, and then sold at a much lower price. Considered to be a defect.

REVIEW COPY - A copy of new book sent free-of-charge for purposes of review. Often includes a laid in review slip with publishing information; not necessarily a first edition.

RUBBED - Where color has been worn from portions of the binding or dust jacket.

SHAKEN - The text block is loose in its binding; no longer tight, but not detached.

SHEETS - The pages which have been printed but not yet folded, sewn, or gathered together for binding.

SHELF-BACK - The spine of a book.

SEXTODECIMO (16mo) - A small book, approximately four inches wide and six inches tall. To make it, each sheet of paper is folded four times, forming sixteen leaves (32 pages).

SIGNATURE - A printed sheet of paper, folded to size and ready for sewing (i.e.: large paper folded in half, fourths, eighths, sixteenths, or thirty-seconds).

SIGNED - Signed with a name only, and no other text included.

SILVER PRINT - A generic term referring to all photographic prints made on paper coated with silver salts. Most contemporary black-and-white photographs are silver prints.

SLIPCASE - A box built to house and protect a book, leaving the spine exposed.

SOPHISTICATED - Books that have had repairs that involve making additions to the original (e.g.: chips filled in and tinted to match the missing portion, replaced page corners, etc.)

SPINE - The backbone, or back, of the book where the title (if present) is displayed when it is standing upright on a shelf.

STARTING - Hinges or joints beginning to show signs of becoming loose, either through wear or defective binding. considered a defect.

STATE - Variations within an edition, which are made prior to publication; can include:

    • alterations due to stop-press insertions, damaged type, etc.
    • the addition of errata leaves, advertisements.
    • textual changes affecting page lay-out.
    • some special-paper copies.

This term applies only in connection with the printed pages, and not variations in bindings.

STICKER DAMAGE - A price sticker has been roughly removed resulting in surface damage to the underlying material.

STICKER GHOST - Sticker has been left on book for some time, and the glue, reacting chemically, has discolored the surface.

STIPPLED EDGE - Color sprayed on a book's external edges.

SUNNED - Browning, yellowing, or fading of paper or binding as a result of sun exposure.

TAIL - Bottom edge of the text block.

TAPE RESIDUE - Complications of cellophane tape which remains on the paper or a book's cover, resulting in brown stains or bits of tape adhering to paper. Considered a defect.

TENDER - When the binding is loosening.

TEXT BLOCK - Pages containing the content of a book (text, illustrations, etc.) bound together; does not include endpapers.

TIPPED IN - Paper, photograph, or print glued down by only a narrow strip.

TITLE PAGE - The page which gives important information about the book (i.e.: title, author, publisher, date, etc.)

TOOLING - The decoration of leather bindings.

TOP STAIN - The publisher's decorative colored stain, applied to the top page edges.

TRADE PAPERBACK - When the cloth-bound trade edition is issued by the same publisher, sometimes simultaneously, but bound in wrappers. Because the same sheets are used, such issues are often quite larger than paperbacks published for mass-market distribution.

TRADE EDITION - An edition sold through bookstores, as opposed to those meant for private or specialized distribution.

UNCORRECTED PROOF - A pre-publication printing intended for editorial use, or occasionally to be sent out for review. Usually issued in plain colored wrappers.

UNCUT - Edges which are rough-cut, rather than being neatly trimmed by the binders.

UNOPENED - When folded edges of the pages of the bound text block remain joined together and have not been sliced open. Unread.


VANITY PRESS/PUBLISHERS - Publishers and presses that publish books at the author's own expense.

VARIANT - A copy of a book that varies in some way from the ideal copy. Can refer to binding color, illustrations, etc.

VELLUM - A thin sheet of specially prepared leather used for writing, printing, or as a binding material; considered superior in quality to parchment.

VERSO - The left page of an open book, when it is open and facing the reader. The back of a leaf. Also called the reverse.

VERY GOOD - Very light wear to book, and/or jacket; no large tears, or major defects; One of the most often used terms.

VINTAGE - A photograph printed within a very few years of the date when the negative was made.

WATERMARK - A faint identifying design, usually in quality paper.

WHIPSTITCHING - To sew a book's leaves by passing the thread over and over the spine; often seen in early pamphlets.

WOODCUT - Illustrations produced when the original printing plate was engraved on a block of wood. One of the oldest methods of printing, dating back to 8th century China.

WRAPPERS or WRAPS - The printed or unprinted cover of a pamphlet or book bound in paper.



Last update: Wednesday, June 28, 2019
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