AEDICULE. A niche for a sculpture.


BESPOKE BINDING. Hand-made bindings of single copies ordered individually, each book cover a unique work of art.

BLOCK, BLOCKED. A piece of metal which has a design (the stamp) engraved on its surface. The design is applied to book covers by pressing the block against the binding, often using an arming press. A book with a cover decorated in this manner is said to be blocked.

BLACK LETTER. See Gothic Type.

BLAZON. The verbal description of a coat of arms in heraldic terminology.

BOOK PLATE or EX L1BRIS. A label of ownership, usually found on the inside of the front cover or first endpaper.

BREVIARY. A book of daily devotions prayed through the year by clergy.

CALLIGRAPHY. The art of beautiful handwriting.

CAROLINGIAN MINUSCULE. A form of lower-case letter developed by the court scribes of Charlemagne under the influence of ancient Roman letters.

CHROMOLITHOGRAPHY. A variation of the lithographic process where parts of a design are printed one on top of the other in different colored inks, with ink laid down separately.

CRIBLÉ. A dotted or stippled background appearing in miniatures and initials engraved in France in the later years of the fifteenth century.

DOUBLURE. The inside lining of a book cover when the lining is of leather.

EDITION BINDING. A group of books from one edition bound up by a hand binder in uniform style.

EMBLAZONMENT. A pictorial rendering of a coat of arms.

ENGRAILED. Ornamented with a series of curvilinear indentations.

FASCICLES. Parts of a work published in installments.

FLEURON. A printer's typographical ornament, cast in a single piece, often a flower shape.

FONT. A complete assortment of printing type of a particular design and size.

FORE-EDGE. The vertical outer edge of the pages of a book.

GOTHIC TYPE, GOTHIC LETTER. The earliest types, based on the handwriting of medieval scribes. Characterized by roundness in the capitals and angularity in the small letters, but both having an abrupt change from thick to thin strokes.

HALF HOLLAND. A bookbinder's term indicating a blue or holland paper covering on all but the spine of a binding. Holland is often combined with a linen covering on the book's spine.

HEAD. The top horizontal edge and/or margin of the pages in a book.

HINGE. The inner vertical margin of the pages of a book.

HISTORIATED. A letter decorated with human figures, often composed so as to portray a narrative or history.

ILLUMINATION. See Illuminator.

ILLUMINATOR. A handwriting artist who specializes in decorative ornamentation of written texts. In the nineteenth century, artists who created designs in the medieval style for books printed by the chromolithographic process called their works illumination. In this catalogue the term illumination is extended to all nineteenth-century printed texts done under the inspiration of medieval decorated hand-written texts.

LETTERPRESS. Printing with metal types or any other relief surface.

LINE ENDING. An ornament of geometric, floral, or animal form inserted at the conclusion of a line of text when it falls short of the length ot other lines in a text block.

LITHOGRAPHY. A printing process in which a design is drawn or written on a piece of Bavarian limestone (or, later, zinc or aluminum plate) with a greasy pigment resistant to water. The surface is then covered with water, which does not adhere to the greasy surfaces. The whole surface is then inked with a greasy ink which adheres to the dry surfaces. The stone is placed in a press and paper is pressed against it. The layer of ink is absorbed by the paper, producing a reversed transfer of the original image.

LOMBARDIC TYPE, LOMBARDIC LETTERS. A form of letter where the thick part of the letter is terminated by a crossing thin stroke which often ends in a curve.

MAJUSCULE. A capital letter.

MANDORLA/VESSICA. An almond-shaped or pointed oval panel.

MANUAL. In the medieval church, a book containing the forms to be observed by priests in administration of the sacraments. In the nineteenth century, an instruction book in general.

MARGINALIA. Ornament composed of flowers, animals, or geometric patterns decorating the borders around a text.

MINIATURE. An illustration painted in a hand-written book, often of small dimensions.

MINUSCULE. A small or lower-case letter.

MISSAL. The book containing the service for the celebration of the Mass throughout the year. In the nineteenth century the term was sometimes loosely applied to all hand-painted manuscripts.

MOROCCO. A leather made of goatskin.

PALEOGRAPHY. The study of ancient writing.

PAPIER-MÂCHÉ BINDING. A book covering made of cast papier- mâché coated with black plaster in imitation of carved ebony bindings, with decorative forms often of medieval inspiration.

PONTIFICAL. An office-book of the Roman Catholic Church containing the forms for sacraments and other rites and ceremonies to be performed by bishops.

PUBLISHER'S BINDING, TRADE BINDING. Book covers manufactured in quantity, all identical.

QUARTO. A format or indication of the size and shape of a book, derived from the number of times the sheet of paper upon which the pages are printed is folded for binding. In a quarto the sheet is folded twice producing a squarish shape. The initial sheet of paper varies in size and is indicated by the terms in decreasing order: royal, demy, crown, and foolscap.

ROUNDEL. A circular shaped panel.


RUBRIC. A section or chapter heading written or printed in red. Rubricated books have initial capital letters and/or paragraph indications painted in red.

SCRIBE. A trained handwriting artist.

SQUARE. The border around the outer edge of the inside cover of a book.

STAMPED. See blocked.

TAIL. The lower horizontal edge of the pages of a book.

TEXT BLOCK. All the printing or writing on a page when viewed as a single unit.

VELLUM. The skin of a calf, not tanned, but degreased and treated to be used for writing, printing, or as a binding.

WOOD ENGRAVING. A design cut into the cross-section of a piece of boxwood with a graver or burin. After the 1860s longer-lasting electrotype metal blocks made from the original wood blocks were used.

Works consulted in preparing this glossary

Douglas Ball, Victorian Publishers' Bindings. Williamsburg: The Book Press Ltd., 1985.

John Carter, ABC for Book Collectors. 6th edition, revised by Nicholas Barker. London: Granada, 1980.

Joan M. Friedman, Color Printing in England 1486-1870. New Haven: Yale Center for British Art, 1978.

Ruari McLean, Victorian Book Design and Color Printing. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1972.

Edward Johnston. Writing and Illuminating and Lettering. London: John Hogg, 1917.

Hugh Williamson, Methods of Book Design. London: Oxford University Press, 1956.


Beckwith, Alice H. R. H. Victorian Bibliomania: The Illuminated Book in Nineteenth-Century Britain. Exhibition catalogue. Providence. Rhode Island: Museum of Art, Rhode Island School of Design, 1987.

Last modified 18 December 2013