Glossary of Rare Book Terms

What is a rare book? What is signed versus inscribed? What is a first edition? What does 8vo stand for?
Find some of the common jargon booksellers and book collectors often use.

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International League of Antiquarian Booksellers

The International League of Antiquarian Booksellers (ILAB) federates 20 National Associations of Antiquarian Booksellers. It speaks for 20 national associations, 30 countries, and nearly 2000 leading booksellers throughout the world. Its emblem stands for integrity and professionalism in the rare book trade. The League publishes and upholds a code of ethics based on the wide experience of all its national associations.
The code is binding on all ILAB booksellers. It is a mark of the success of this code that disputes are rare. If disputes should arise, the national associations mediate in accordance with the code of ethics devised by the League. The League presides over the network that links the antiquarian booksellers of the world. Books Tell You Why has been a member of the ILAB since 2008
International League of Antiquarian Booksellers
Illuminated, Illlumination
Decorated by hand, whether in formal, floral or historiated style, in gold and/or silver and/or coloured paint. Used of initial letters, single words, first lines or opening pages of (usually very early) printed books; but much more often of manuscripts, the margins of which may be extensively illuminated and which may contain full-page miniatures.
The method by which pages were laid out, either by scribe or compositor, so that they appeared on the sheet, when folded, in the right sequence.
Incunable, Incunabula
The Latin description of early books as printed in cunabulis (in the swaddling clothes) of the new-born art of printing, for many years been further specialized to mean books printed before 1501.
A short note with personalized dedication, written by the author or a previous owner, usually in the beginning of a book, generally accompanied by a signature.
Books Tell You Why indicates all such books as "inscribed". Books "just" bearing a signature are classified as "signed".
Family of printmaking techniques in which the image is incised into a surface, known as the matrix or plate. Normally, copper or zinc plates are used as a surface, and the incisions are created by etching, engraving, drypoint, aquatint or mezzotint. Check here for more information about the process.