Book Collecting - descriptions of items for sale
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 used in the descriptions on our database, 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
CWO - cash with order
COR - cash on receipt
Take a look at our articles about
book collecting for more general information.
'We should not trust writers - but we should read them' - Ian McEwan
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