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Glossary

Backstrip

The material covering the spine of the book and extending round onto, but not all the way across, the boards.

  • Bevelled Boards, Reverse Bevelled Boards

    A decorative feature where the edge of the board is angled or chamfered at 45 degrees or so, found in some early books with thick wooden boards and revived in the Victorian era for deluxe gift books. Reverse bevelled boards have the angled edges on the inside.

  • Binder's Ticket

    A small paper label inside the cover giving the binder’s name, often seen in the work of German émigré hand-binders of the Georgian era, such as Christian Kalthoeber, and later used in the Victorian era by case-binders such as Remnant & Edmonds.

  • Blind

    A decorative feature where the edge of the board is angled or chamfered at 45 degrees or so, found in some early books with thick wooden boards and revived in the Victorian era for deluxe gift books. Reverse bevelled boards have the angled edges on the inside.

  • Blindstamp

    An un-inked stamp, usually a mark of ownership, used to press a name or coat-of-arms into the paper, leaving an impression or indentation on the surface.

  • Boards

    For the greatest part of the era of the printed book, bindings have been made using boards covered with some other material. Some early books were sewn into solid wooden boards, typically beech or oak, which were then covered with leather, but from about 1570 onwards the vast majority of binders have used pasteboard of various weights and densities. Other similar materials are pulpboard (made from remoulded waste paper) and millboard (pulped rope, netting, sailcloth and hemp materials). The use of boards to give rigidity to the binding has persisted, through the introduction of publisher’s cloth in the 1820s, down into the era of the modern hardback book.

    From the 1770s to the 1820s there was a brief interregnum (apparently in reaction to steep price rises for leather) in which English books were often issued “uncut in original boards”, that is, with their page edges untrimmed, in thin pasteboard covered with blue or drab paper, with a paper backstrip in a similar or contrasting colour, sometimes with a printed paper spine label.

    In the modern era, some hardback books are issued in case bindings which only resemble cloth, being covered not with cloth but with an outer layer of textured paper: we may also refer to these as “boards” to distinguish them from “cloth”.

  • Bookblock

    The finished book excluding its binding; the totality of the paper or other material on which the text is printed.

  • Bookplate, Book Label

    Two closely-related terms for a label on the endpapers, or sometimes elsewhere in the book, used to mark ownership. A bookplate is typically larger in size, and may often be engraved either with a monogram or with a coat-of-arms (an armorial bookplate). A book label is smaller, usually simply stating the owner’s name, either engraved or letterpress.

  • Bookseller's Ticket

    A few booksellers have thought well enough of themselves to attach a small paper label inside the cover giving their own name, as if they were collectors. These are sometimes of interest if contemporary, parochial, or imply some association.

  • Browning

    Usually caused by acidification of the paper, which varies according to the paper stock used and the conditions in which the book has been stored. In some books – to take two widely disparate examples, Kant’s Critik der reinen Vernunft (Riga, 1781) or Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (London, 1997) – such browning is virtually inevitable. As used by us, “browning” implies an even discoloration to the paper. See also foxing and spotting.

  • Buckram

    A stiff binding cloth made of cotton and linen, with a characteristic wide weave.