One Hundred Rare Book Terms
Aquatint — Buckram
Aquatint: An intaglio illustration practice developed in 1768. Aquatint is a variation on etching, but resin is applied to the plate rather than wax. The resin develops a cracked surface, which is then etched and burnished. The effect is reminiscent of mezzotint but is achieved through etching rather than engraving.
Archive: A collection of records that all derive from a common source. Most archives are based in an author, family, or institution’s papers, i.e., the documents that were created, received, used, and kept by that author or institution. Archives tend not to be published materials, though they may be publicly accessible even before they enter the archive (as in the case of many government and institutional documents).
Bibliography: The study and description of books historically and as physical objects, literally “the writing about books.” The term can also mean a list of books and articles.
Blackletter: A style of letter, often also called “Gothic.” Blackletter handwriting was particularly popular in northern Europe and is distinguished by its heavy use of thick vertical pen strokes (called minims). The first printing was done in blackletter, though today its use is largely limited to certificates and heavy metal posters.
Boards: The core of the protective covers on a codex book, i.e., the part of the covers that makes a book “hardcover.” Initially, book boards were made of wood (especially beech and oak), but they would eventually transition to pasteboard, pulpboard, or cardboard.
Book: A collection of text that has been published or written in a portable format. Books come in numerous forms, ranging from scrolls to the codex. Most of the time, when people say “book,” they actually mean a “codex,” but books come in numerous other forms. It is worth emphasizing this point: while the codex may be the dominant book form at present, scrolls and other book forms are also books.
Bookplate: A tag or sticker placed in a book to indicate ownership, usually affixed on an endleaf or paste-down. Bookplates often featured family crests, mottos, and other phrases, typically in Latin. A nice bookplate from a famous collector adds value to the book. The phrase “Ex libris,” which was used on many bookplates, has become another name for them.
Broadside: A sheet of paper that has been printed on one or both sides. Properly speaking, a broadside is complete without other sheets of paper and can be read without any further changes (i.e., folding or combining it with other items). Broadsides were often sold with music, art, or news printed on them; the term is also sometimes used to refer to a newspaper format.
Buckram: A sturdy book cloth, commonly made of cotton and occasionally of linen, that has been impregnated with a sizing agent. Most library books found in open stacks are bound in buckram, typically black or brown.