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  • sanguine

    By extension from the artistic use of the term for a crayon coloured red with iron oxide or a drawing executed with red chalks, any printing in blood-red ink.

  • sextodecimo

    The size of a book, or of the page of a book, produced by a standard printing sheet being folded four times to form a section of 16 leaves, or 32 pages: widely abbreviated 16mo. Hence also a book or volume of this size. Sextodecimo is a small format largely confined to modern children’s books such as those of Beatrix Potter.

  • sheep

    An inexpensive and rather soft leather used for trade bindings. Its natural colour is a plain mid-brown, but it can be dyed different colours in imitation of calf. Specific treatments of sheepskin designed to resemble more expensive bookbinding materials include roan and skiver.

  • side-stitched

    Rather than the usual method of sewing the inner fold of the gatherings, stitches are inserted through the leaves in the inner margin at the binding edge.

  • sides

    The outer covers of the book, excluding the spine.

  • signature

    1a. A letter or figure, a set or combination of letters or figures, etc., placed by the printer at the foot of the first page (and frequently on one or more of the succeeding pages) of every sheet in a book, for the purpose of showing the order in which these are to be placed or bound.

    1b. A specific leaf, as distinguished by its signature (usually abbreviated), e.g. sig. A2.

    2. The more common sense, though used less often by us in the context of descriptions: the name of a person written with his or her own hand, usually inside a book or at the end of a letter.

  • signed limited edition

    A small edition limited to a specific number of books, commonly in the hundreds of copies. These editions usually include a limitation leaf that the author signs, and which states the size of the limitation and the number assigned to the individual book. Signed limited editions are often produced concurrently with the trade edition of a work, often from the same setting of type but are usually constructed of higher quality materials.

  • skiver

    A thin kind of dressed leather split from the grain side of a sheep-skin and tanned in sumach. Most commonly used in the bindings of mass-produced items such as photograph albums.

  • slipcase

    A close-fitting protective case with an open end into which a book is placed for protection, while allowing the spine to remain visible.

  • solander box

    Protective box with a lid that entirely encloses the book, named after its inventor, the Swedish botanist D. C. Solander (1736–1782), usually custom-made and often with a titled and decorated spine. These boxes provide an important extra layer of protection from sunlight, moisture, dust, and insects.

  • spill-burn

    A spill is a thin slip of wood, or a folded or twisted piece of paper, used for lighting a candle, pipe, etc. A spill-burn is a small brown mark or hole in paper caused by a fallen spill or by small amounts of burning material from the candle, pipe, etc.

  • spine

    The back of a book, that is, the part bearing the title, etc., which is visible when the book is standing on a shelf; also, the corresponding part of a dust jacket, solander box, case etc.

  • sprinkled

    In binding, the leather has been treated so that it develops an attractive pattern of small dots of a darker tint than the underlying brown. On the text-block, the edges have been sprinkled with red, blue or some other colour.

  • state

    Sometimes publishers make changes that they don’t want the public to know about. For example, the printer spots a mistake halfway through printing and corrects it in some, but not all, copies. That creates a “state”. A state can be defined as “A copy or group of copies of a printed sheet or a publisher’s casing which differs from other copies within the same impression or issue”.

     States are bibliographically interesting, but not necessarily hugely significant. A famous example of a state is Boswell’s Life of Johnson. Some copies have “gve” on vol. I, S4 recto; others have the correct word, “give”. The mistake was noticed during the print run and corrected by the printer. Sheets with the mistake “gve” are self-evidently in the first state. This does not however constitute an issue point; copies with this sheet in both uncorrected and corrected state were bound up at the same time and both were available to the first purchasers on publication day, 16 May 1791.

  • subscribers list

    One method of reducing the risk to an author or publisher was subscription publishing, where future buyers committed themselves to take one or more copies of a book at an agreed price after its publication. Publication by subscription began in England in 1617 and became wide-spread during the eighteenth century, before dying out in the nineteenth century. Publishers printed lists of the subscribers (placing them usually after the preface and immediately before the text) both in order to advertise their distinguished subscribers to the less exalted reader, and also probably to ensure that subscribers did not weasel out of their original commitment.

  • supralibros

    An heraldic ownership device, usually but not always a coat-of-arms, stamped on the cover of a book.