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Book Condition and Value
Full disclosure: I started reading for pleasure in my 20s, although I had read some climbing books as a teenager. To this day paperbacks annoy me because their type is small and they don't open properly for reading. And I hate reading an old soiled hardcover book that used to belong to a public library in Leeds or Hackensack while I am in my bed with clean sheets right after I have taken a shower.
Buying and Collecting Mountaineering Books has some ''rules'' about the condition of a book and it's value. These rules can be described in a simple phrase, ''Always buy the best copy you can afford.'' However, this rule only matters if you plan to someday sell your books and you want to get out of them what you paid for them, or even more. If you don't want to get into the game of making money from your book hobby, ignore everything I say here.
If you like books on Mountaineering it is probably because reading stories of people climbing brings you pleasure. Or if you are a rock climber you may like to collect earlier guidebooks for the areas you have climbed in, or wish you had. If reading and having these books is enough, not their monetary value, skip this section and search the word ''paperback'' on this website. You will find a lot of great reading at very low prices!
Here are the rules and definitions that book collectors and booksellers use to define the condition of books. Book are like people, they start our shiny and new, and deteriorate in appearance as the years go by. If the book is a good one, like a person, the contents may actually appear to improve as it gets older.
Q. What to the words and abbreviations Fine, Very Good, Good, DJ, Ex Lib, FEP, Remainder Mark, mean?
A. Booksellers have come up with a standard set of words to described the CONDITION of used books as they suffer the indignities of ageing. As we sell both New and Used books, we usually say 'New' for new books, but if we do not say anything, and the book was published since 9/11, you can presume the book is New, not used. Also, all books on our website are hardcovers and in English unless stated otherwise (such as paperback, pamphlet, etc.) If the book has a dust jacket we always say so.
Once a book as been owned, read and then sold, it often starts showing its age, and its condition has a great effect on its value. Many books are desired by both readers and collectors, so if collectors have driven up the price of Fine copies, a lesser condition copy may be a good choice for a reader, or a recent paperback reprint may be available.
TERMS DESCRIBING BOOK CONDITION AND FEATURESNew or As New - A brand new, unused, unread book in fresh condition. As New may be an older but still new looking book. If we do not specify a condition, it is usually a New book. Half our books are New Books, half are used. We actually have new books that we bought 20 years ago and have not yet sold.
Fine - A used book with no significant flaws, but not as fresh as a New book. We actually have many books that we bought new from the 1980s to 2000s in stock, and still call them New, or Fine if they have been rubbed against other books. Near Fine means real nice but not perfect.
Very Good or VG - A nice used book with minor flaws. The cover may have spine, edge or shelf wear, the corners may be bumped, it may have a torn, chipped or price clipped dust jacket. It may have a previous owner's name or bookplate in the book. Most used books are Very Good or Fine.
Good - Good really means Not Good. A not so nice used book, with more wear or appearance problems than a VG book. It may have extensive wear, the DJ may have pieces missing, or display other flaws such as water stains.
Acceptable - This is a term that has no meaning to traditional booksellers. It appears mostly on Amazon listings. Having bought some described that way, my definition for acceptable is "Watch out.''
Poor condition books have their flaws described.
Signed or Inscribed - Since literacy became universal in England and America over 150 years ago, it became fairly common for authors to sign their books when people ask them to. Also, climbers who write books usually know and meet other climbers, so a book may have a few short words written by the author, perhaps even presenting the copy to a friend. These signatures and inscriptions may add value, and always add pleasure to owners of the book. However, book have always been useful gifts, most often wives to husbands, or parents to children, and at Christmas or birthdays. these third person signatures and inscriptions may decrease the value. People often ask me if they should ask Chris Bonington to inscribe their copy of his book to them. I reply, ''Only if you can climb as well as he can.'' The phrase ''Flat signed'' means it is signed with no inscription.
Ex Lib and RSM. Ex Lib means a book with library marks on the spine or jacket, and sometimes a pocket, labels or rubber stamp marks (RSM) inside from a library. Some library books may still be in Fine condition, while some are rebound or trashed, which are described.
FEP - REP Front (rear) end paper, the blank pages at the front and rear of a book. Often these get written on by previous owners of a used book.
TEG and AEG: Top or all edges gilded (or gilt.) This adds class to a book, and makes them easier to dust.
Dust Jacket or DJ - Most hardcover books since 1920 have dust jackets, which are paper covers designed to help sell the book. On many books they have helped preserve the condition of the book as well. Many collectors prize Fine Dust Jackets, and as it was once common to discard them, the value of the DJ can exceed that of the book. A Chipped DJ has small edge pieces missing, a torn DJ has closed tears that may be invisible under a clear book jacket cover. If we describe a book as DJ, Fine, it is understood that the book is a hardcover. Some paperbacks have DJs, usually from France, where they are also called Wrappers. Some hardcover books have pictorial covers, with a color photo on the book itself, and no DJ came with the book. Wikipedia has a good essay on Dust Jackets: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dust_jacket
Pictorial Cover: Some books have the artwork that might appear on a paper dust jacket, but instead it is actually printed on the book cover itself. This feature has been around for many decades, but in this decade (2010s) we have noticed more hardcover books published with a pictorial cover and no dust jacket.
Remainder mark - A small felt pen mark on the bottom edge of the pages. Publishers use remainder marks to prevent book returns. Some of our Sale books have remainder marks. They may be made with dark marker, or a yellow highlighter and be almost invisible.
RSM - Rubber stamp mark. This is usually a name and/or address stamp from a former owner of the book, or from a library that once owned the book. This is usually found on the FEP, or inside the covers.
Tipped In: This refers to an additional item, often called ephemera. It is usually a card with the author's signature, or a letter or newspaper clipping, that is not physically part of the book, but is included, usually by being glued onto one of the Blank Front Endpapers, or in the case of a signature possiblly on the title page. If it is not glued in it is inserted.
Quarter Leather Binding - Leather on the spine with Gold Letters and Marbled Boards (Cover)
Half Leather Binding - Leather on the spine and corners, Gold Spine Letters and Decoration, Raised Bands, Marbled Boards (Covers)
Pictorial Cover - Photo is printed on the cover, there is no dust jacket for this book.
Marbled Endpapers - With an old bookplate
Q. What do the terms Front (Rear) End Paper etc mean?
A. The first and last blank pages in a book. Here are all the terms:
Please note that, to differentiate them from soft-covers and paperbacks, modern hardbacks are still invariably described as being ‘cloth’ when they are, in fact, predominantly bound in plastic or paper-covered boards pressed to resemble cloth.