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A reference for Used and Rare Books, Periodicals, and Paper Ephemera courtesy of an International Co-Op of Independent Dealers.
Book Glossary
Terminology used by book publishers, dealers, and collectors.
Information about book conditions, the various parts of books, sizes and formats, and various terms used in the book world.
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Glossary - Book Conditions
What Is A Defect?
What counts as a defect can be somewhat subjective, but quibbling diminishes quickly once past the nitpicking stage. A defect is anything that departs from the condition of a book in Fine condition. Defects fall along a scale from very minor to very serious, from those detectable only under a magnifying glass to those totally trashing a book. Describing those at the lower end of the scale would test the patience of both parties. A buyer wants know what, if any, Significant Defects are present, i.e. defects obvious to the naked eye upon close inspection. The professional book dealer's job is to know what counts as a significant defect and report it accurately.
Equally important, just knowing the defects does not tell a buyer about the condition of the remaining portions of the book.
The condition of a book in this catalog is described by first listing significant defects (if any), then giving a general statement about the overall condition of the book if it lacked the defects listed. This is followed by the same description for the dustjacket (DJ), if present. O/w = Otherwise.
Example: "A previous owner's name in ink on the front endpaper, the top of the page edges has a small stain o/w Fine/ DJ (The front has 1/4' & 1/8' edge tears on the bottom, & the top corner is rubbed; the back cover has some light wrinkling from a faint dampstain which is seen only on the backside o/w Very Good with unclipped price)."
AS NEWA book in the same pristine condition as when it was printed. If issued with a dustjacket, it too must meet the same standard. Better than Fine due to the freshness of its appearance & feel.
FINEA book without significant defects and showing no signs of use beyond the lack of crispness or freshness present in a new book. If issued with a dustjacket, it too must meet the same standard.
VERY GOODA book which shows some minor defects, but limited to those consistent with careful previous use. The defects should be minimal & insignificant in the sense that describing them would be of interest only to the most fastidious collector. A dustjacket in this condition may have a few very minor edge tears (under 1/8 inch), some evident (but minor) edge wear, or very minor defects on the covers which are barely noticeable.
GOODA book and/or dustjacket that clearly shows it has been used, but not abused. It's your average worn, used book with many & various imperfections giving an overall appearance of a well-used book, but without having any serious defects caused by misuse, accidental or otherwise.
FAIRA book that is has serious defects, but retains the complete text & any plates or maps. It may show fairly heavy wear with some soiling & scuffing, or be missing non-essential pages such as endpapers or half-title pages. It's a serviceable copy lacking the most serious defects possible.
POORA book whose sole virtue is having retained the complete text in a readable form. It may be missing plates or maps; be heavily worn, soiled, spotted, scuffed, stained, scribbled, stabbed - whatever; may have loose joints, hinges, & pages, or repairs. Often called a Reading Copy.
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