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Book Collecting - Part Three - Anatomy of a Book

John Hutchinson, VJ Books
Updated November 15, 2017

Anatomy of a Book.
All hobbies come with their own vernacular – definitions that assist the collector in elements of a collectible item. Whether it is coins, stamps, art, wine, or any other collectible, knowing relevant terms is critical to moving forward in building a collection.

VJ Books specializes in collector grade hardcover books. The information in this article will assist you in speaking with any seller about the attributes of any book you are considering for your personal collection.

The following is an overview of the parts of a hardcover book, or a book with cloth binding:

1) Spine - The spine of a book refers to the outside edge of the book where the pages are gathered and bound. Most spines of hard cover books are wide enough to be printed upon and will usually be embossed with the title, author and publisher. The top end of the spine is called the head, and the bottom is the tail.

2) Book Cover or Book Board - The front and back covers are sometimes called the book boards. Boards are usually covered in colored fabric that wraps from the spine to the inside of the covers.

3) End Papers - Also called “leaves” are the blank pages (sometimes printed) found at the front and back of a book. The pastedown endpapers are glued to the inside boards and the inside endpapers sometimes referred to as “front free endpaper (FFEP)” and “rear free endpaper (RFEP) float free with the text block.

4) Page Block – These are the internal pages of a book, usually made up of signatures, a large printed sheet of paper that when folded creates a section of a book, usually in multiples of four, such as 4, 8, 12, 16, and 32 page signatures (referring to the component part of a book, not an author signature). Signatures are either sewn or glued together into the page block. Smyth Sewn (also known as Section Sewn) book bindings are the highest quality available, because the pages are physically sewn into the book, reinforced with fabric backing and adhesive creating the best, most durable binding.

5) Page Edges – the exposed edge of the page block, top, bottom and rear edge.

6) Dust Jacket or Dust Wrapper - Hard bound books have protective paper or plastic wrappers that wrap around the covers of the book for protection. The dust jacket may also be called a dust wrapper and usually displays artwork as well as the title and author of the book.

7) Front Fly Leaf – the inside front edge of the dust jacket that usually provides a summary of the book.

8) Rear Fly Leaf – the inside rear edge of the dust jacket that usually provides information about the author.

9) Half Title Page - Only the book title appears on this page; the rest is blank space.

10) Other Books by the Author Page - This optional list might appear on the opposite side of the Half Title page, or on its own page following the Half Title page or elsewhere.

11) Title Page - The book title and the names of the author(s) and the publisher are found here.

12) Copyright Page - The copyright page is found on the reverse of the title page and contains the copyright notice, which consists of the year of publication and the name of the copyright owner. This page may also list the book's publishing history, permissions, acknowledgments and disclaimers. This page includes the publisher’s statement that identifies the print edition.

13) Dedication Page - This optional page includes the author’s dedication to someone or something.

14) Acknowledgements – On this page, found either in the front or rear of the book, is where the author thanks people or organizations that in some way offered assistance to the author.

15) About the Author – This optional page provides biographical information about the author.

Knowing the parts of a book will help you understand more clearly the descriptions of any book. For example: “the book has a crease on the front jacket flap”, “stain to top page block”, or “previous owner’s name on FFEP.”

Being familiar with the terms will enhance your understanding and enjoyment of the hobby.

Coming up next . . .
“How to identify a first edition.”

Good reading -
John Hutchinson
Phone: 503-750-5310
All rights reserved this article may not be reproduced without permission of the author. Copyright 1996-2017

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