How to Grade and Describe Book Condition

Technical Terms and Descriptions

Internationally Accepted Definitions

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We have provided this basic guide due to numerous requests. If there is anything not covered or that you feel should be included please do get in touch.

For those moving into selling and looking to learn how to describe your books, please take care. These are important factors to collectors.

If in doubt simply describe all the faults and let your potential customer decide. This is particularly important for those selling books on sites like ebay.

If you are a buyer and unsure of how to define the terms you see used by dealers we hope this helps. Remember, any professional bookseller will be happy to help you with genuine enquiries about anything you may be unsure about. He should also be guaranteeing the book to be as described 


If you are looking to buy or sell rare books then our antiquarian booksellers section may be of some assistance.

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Identify a first edition
Glossary of book terms

Very Fine or Mint - VF or M

Using very fine or mint, they mean the same, is something to be done with care.
These terms are relatively new and not accepted by some dealers and collectors, mainly in the antiquarian area. This description is, in our humble opinion, now necessary though. There has been a huge rise in the collectability of ultra-moderns or hyper-moderns and condition is even more critical in this area than others. Collectors are VERY particular.

The book and jacket have to be absolutely pristine with no faults at all, however minor. Many brand new books in bookshops do not live up to this grade, so it is not to be confused with 'as new'

Fine - F

To qualify as a fine copy it should be free from obvious faults. That is not to say absolutely perfect. It can show minor signs of age and ownership. The book should be clean, tightly bound and square. The dust jacket should be free from loss or tears and any real faults or blemishes. This grade carries a little age related room, it does allow for some loss of freshness and commonsense in relation to the books age. It is acceptable to have a previous owners name, though this should always be noted in the description.
There is also a legitimate intermediate grade of 'near fine' this would denote a copy that does not quite meet the exacting standards but must still be a very nice copy. Sometimes used as a safety net b y cautious dealers.

Very Good - VG

Very good is a fairly broad term and more difficult to describe. Because of this many dealers employ sub-grades such as VG+ or VG-. Basically it covers a condition that one might expect to find second-hand books in. That is to say, books have been clearly read and handled, dustwrappers may show loss, tears and wear. Fault should be mentioned separately such as inscription stamps, chipping and tears to the wrapper. Despite displaying some faults the item should still qualify as a collectable copy to qualify for this grading

Good - G

Good is a somewhat misleading term and has done much to cloud the defining of book condition. Basically it means bad ! There can be some fairly major faults with both book or jacket. Once again we would recommend mentioning these individually. Unless a book is very rare, and or expensive, good only copies should be avoided by collectors

Poor - P

Poor is basically a train wreck of a copy, expectations should be very low if buying such a copy. This term allows for just about anything it seems, major faults, mark, soiling, even on the verge of being disbound

Some Other Points

Reading Copy
A copy that is flawed and is generally not suitable for a collector but is more suited to someone looking for a copy simply to read

Price Clipped-Clipping
There is no need to down grade the condition of a jacket if the price has been clipped from it. However it MUST always be mentioned

Names, Inscriptions, Stamps or Remainder Marks
These flaws should be mentioned without exception

Ex Library
Copies that have been in public libraries are very common, this should always be declared as should a description or stamps, pockets, missing endpapers or a library binding

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