Return to Special Collections Image of anchor Return to Navy Department LibraryImage of anchorNaval Historical Center home page
Flag banner
Navy Department Library banner
DEPARTMENT OF THE NAVY -- NAVAL HISTORICAL CENTER
805 KIDDER BREESE SE -- WASHINGTON NAVY YARD
WASHINGTON DC 20374-5060

Glossary

To help understand the descriptions of titles in this catalog, the following definitions of terms and abbreviations are provided.

Size: The sizing of books today is related generally to the physical dimension of its pages. The sizes and their definitions used in this catalog are:

Folio: pages larger than 12 inches tall

Quarto: pages up to 12 inches tall

Octavo (abbreviated 8vo): pages up to 9 ½ inches tall; the average size book

Duodecimo (abbreviated 12mo): pages up to 7 ½ inches tall

Sextodecimo (abbreviated 16mo): pages up to 6 ½ inches tall

Invariably some book dimensions defy simple description, and I have adapted accordingly. E.g., an oblong book 9 inches tall and 12 inches deep I have described as an “oblong quarto.” Further a size such as “Small 8vo” describes a book just over 7 ½ inches tall.

Other terms:

“armorial bookplate” refers to a bookplate adorned with the owner’s heraldic coat of arms

“buckram” is a coated, hardy cloth used frequently by libraries to rebind volumes whose original binding has deteriorated to an unusable state

“calf” refers to calfskin used in making bindings for hardcover books. A half-calf binding means that the spine, and occasionally cover corners, are bound in calf

“errata” refers to corrections to the text that are discovered, printed and bound in after the text block has been printed

“flyleaves” or “endpapers” are those blank leaves preceding and following the text block; they are bound in to protect the first and last printed pages

“frontispiece” or “frontis” refers to an illustration bound in ahead of the title page

“hinge” refers to the flexible attachment of the cover to the spine that permits the cover to swing open

“marbled” describes a process in which paper is decorated to resemble the swirling multi-colored appearance of a marble. Marbled boards are the front and back covers of a book when decorated with marbled paper. Occasionally endpapers are made with the same marbled paper used to cover the book’s binding

“morocco” refers to goatskin treated to bring forth its distinctive grain

“pastedown” refers to that half of flyleaf that’s pasted to the inside of the front or rear cover

“pp” is an abbreviation of “pages”

“spine” is the backbone of the book to which the text block is attached

“text block” refers to the bound leaves of a book

“verso” refers to the reverse side of a leaf

“Vol.” is an abbreviation of “Volume”


By way of example, consider the following description:

“Small folio; (54) & 800 & a 31-page index followed by two terminal Errata pages. A handsome work with two engraved frontispieces, one a portrait of the author, and many folding maps. Bound in black library buckram.”

This describes a book just over 12 inches tall, the first 54 pages of which are unpaginated, i.e., have no page numbers on them, followed by 800 pages numbered 1 through 800, an index of 31 numbered pages and one leaf (two pages) of the publisher’s advertisements. Further there are two engraved illustrations ahead of the title page, and a plethora of maps. The book has been rebound in a standard hardy black cloth.

And another example:

“8vo; two volumes. Vol. I: xvi, 446 & (2)pp; Vol. II: vi, 438 & (2)pp. Uniformly bound in half calf and marbled boards.”

This describes a two-volume set whose spines bound in calfskin and whose covers are decorated with marbled paper. The first volume commences with sixteen pages paginated in Roman numerals followed by 446 pages numbered 1 through 446 and a single final printed leaf. A similar description fits the second volume.


Return to: The George Henry Preble Collection


20 February 2007