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  • octavo

    The size of a book, or of the page of a book, produced by a standard printing sheet being folded three times to form a section of eight leaves: widely abbreviated 8vo. Hence also a book or volume of this size. Each gathering or quire has 16 pages. Octavo is the most common format of printed book. As the size of a standard printing sheet has varied greatly over the centuries, the size of an octavo varies accordingly. We give the page dimensions of all hand-bound books.

  • ODNB

    The Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, the modern successor to the DNB.

  • offsetting

    The accidental transfer of ink from a printed page or illustration to an adjacent page, either because the pages were placed together before the ink was dry, or because they were exposed to damp over an extended period. A similar effect may occur when an engraving is placed opposite a printed page, where the offsetting on the text page consists of a shadow caused by acidification of the text leaf from the inks used in the engraving.

  • onlay

    A thin piece of leather, or some other material, mounted on the cover of a book for ornamentation.

  • original boards

    A style of binding, common in English books from the latter decades of the eighteenth century, in which the book is issued with the page edges untrimmed, in thin pasteboard covered with blue or drab paper, with a paper backstrip in a similar or contrasting colour, usually with a printed paper spine label. The construction is somewhat flimsy and it has been supposed that the binding was intended to be merely temporary, until the book could be put into a more substantial leather binding. However there is plenty of evidence that many readers were satisfied with copies in boards, and continued to read them in that state without having them bound, until the advent of equally cheap but more substantial publisher’s cloth in the 1820s killed off the style. A premium has traditionally been charged in the antiquarian book trade for fine copies in original boards.

  • original cloth

    A style of binding, begun in the 1820s, in which the book is issued in a case of thin pasteboard covered with cloth, often decoratively blind-stamped, the spine of which is lettered in gold (or another colour) in which the whole of the lettering, and sometimes additional decoration, has been cut on a single block, rather than lettered individually as in hand-binding. From the 1830s onwards, publishers began adding their names to the case, usually at the foot of the spine. With some variations, this is the technique of case-binding that persists to the present day; books in this format are commonly known as “hardback”. In our descriptions “original cloth” signifies that the book is in its original publisher’s binding, as first issued.

  • original parts

    This method of publication is best known from the novels of Charles Dickens, which were mostly first published in parts at monthly intervals, each part containing one or two chapters of the book and one or more plates, bound in illustrated paper wrappers and with inserted advertisements before and after the text. But the format is neither confined to Dickens nor to the Victorian era. Any serial publication, such as magazines and newspapers, unified texts issued at intervals in independent fascicles or parts, or books in uniform series (such as Bentley’s Standard Novels), could be issued in parts. They were typically formatted so that either the purchaser or the vendor could bind them into volumes when the sequence was complete, and, where there is evidence of this having been done, copies in book-form are said to be “bound from parts”.

  • outer leaves

    The first and last few leaves of the printed matter; in distinction to the endleaves, which are not part of the printed book.