Book collecting by post can be difficult as it is sometimes hard to judge the condition of an item by its description. This page lists the abbreviations we use to describe items, which describe all faults which might affect the value of the items for sale.
Some other booksellers do not automatically record faults which they see as minor, such as small inscriptions of the owner's name on the opening pages or price clipping to the dust wrapper, but we try to mention all faults such as these.
Descriptions of books for sale should use the following standard terms. Note that these describe the general condition of the book; any major faults (inscriptions, tears, missing pages) should be noted separately. Abbreviations are given in brackets:
MINT (M) - The item is in perfect condition, complete with dust wrapper and impossible to distinguish from a new copy. We (and many other booksellers) do not use this term, describing 'as new' books as 'FINE' (see below).
FINE (F) - The item is in excellent as new condition. The dust wrapper is as new; any faults such as rubbing or curling to edges should be mentioned but should nevertheless be very minor - in these cases we use the term NEAR FINE to describe the book.
VERY GOOD (VG) - The item is in not quite FINE condition, but there are still no major faults. The dust wrapper is clean with little fading, no tears or pieces missing.
GOOD (G) - The item is obviously secondhand, but complete unless noted otherwise. The dustwrapper may be marked, scuffed or creased and with general signs of wear.
POOR (P) - The item is in bad condition. It may be warped from poor storage, have pages missing or scribbled on and the spine may be broken. The item may have many other major faults. In classic bookspeak, it is 'suitable only for reading', i.e. of no real value to a collector.
Note also that some booksellers use the abbreviation 'F' to mean 'FAIR' not 'FINE'. Ask if you are in doubt; 'FAIR' is generally a lot worse than 'FINE'.
In addition to these general descriptions of condition, any other faults which may affect the value to a collector (tears to dustwrappers, missing pages, inscriptions, library stamps etc) should be noted separately. The following gives a list of the standard abbreviations that should be used to describe items more accurately.
1/2L - half leather bound
4to - Quarto size (double normal book size)
8to - Octavo size (normal book size)
aeg - all edges gilt
bd - board (hard cover)
bind - binding
bmp - bumped
btm - bottom
cl - cloth
col - coloured
cvr - cover d/j - dust jacket (the paper cover)
d/w - dust wrapper (the paper cover)
dec - decorative (usually illustrated)
det - detached
ed - edited by or edition
edn - edition
eps - endpapers, that is the leaves at the front either attached to the cover or between the cover and the title page (free front endpapers)
ex lib - ex library (usually including stamps)
fad - faded
ffep - free front endpapers; see eps
fox - foxed, i.e. pages are marked with brown spots caused by damp or poor storage
frontis - frontispiece
ft - foot (generally of spine)
fyd - frayed
hb or h/b - hardback
illus - illustrations or illustrated
imp - impression
insc or inscr - inscription (usually of previous owner)
mkd - marked
n/d - no date; occasionally used to mean 'no dustwrapper'
orig - original
ow or o/w - otherwise
pb or p/b - paperback
pc or p/c - price cut
pict - picture
pp - pages
rev - revised
rpt or rep - reprint
sgn - signed
sl - slightly
soil - soiled
sp - spine
stc - state total cost
stn - stained
teg - top edge gilt
tr - tear
unab - unabridged
vol - volume
wp - will pay
Booksellers may also use the following when describing their terms of business:
CWO - cash with order
COR - cash on receipt
Take a look at our articles about book collecting for more general information.