A book dealer needs to understand not only the ways in which the contents of a book influences its price, but also how the role of a book's physical state affects its value. We must be able to accurately judge and describe the books we sell and in order to do this we must have a familiarity with the lingo regarding the parts of the book and a basic understanding how books are put together.
This is a rather large topic, so I will divide it into three parts: this first one dedicated to the surface of the book--the covers and edges. The second will focus on the internal divisions of a book and the final segment will detail how books are created.
Starting on the left-hand picture, the inside of the front cover, we see a single sheet of paper, the endsheet, often decorative and of heavier stock than the rest of the book. One half of the endsheet is glued to the cover forming the pastedown, the other half is the flyleaf, which is intentionally left blank. At this point, we can also see the book's edges. The long edge that runs down the page is called the fore edge, and the bottom is called the tail and the top is called the head. The edges are sometimes gilded or colored, a process where they are coated in a material like gold which serves not only to beautify the book but also to protect its pages.
Turning to the right-hand picture, we see the outside of the book. This leatherbound book is traditional in its structure and not all books will have the same elements. The most important parts here are the covers, which protect the front and back of the book, and the spine, which protects the book's bindings. Connecting the covers to the spine is a narrow flexible area called the hinge (or the joint) which allows the cover to open. At the top, where the binding meets the head, there is sometimes a protective piece of cloth called the headband. Along the spine there are sometimes ridges called raised bands, which used to have a function in covering the cords that bound a book together but today are decorative.
As we examine a book for purchase or sale, we need to be fluent in these terms so that we can give a good description of the text. In particular we need to see that the spine is straight and uncreased or warped, and that the edges are not worn.
Next Post: The internal parts of a book.