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Selections from Special Collections: The Weird, Wonderful, and One of a Kind


Antiphon:  A verse or song to be chanted or sung in response.

Armorial:  Of or relating to heraldry or heraldic devices.

Artist's book:  Works of art utilizing the form of the book, often one-of-a-kind or published in limited editions.

Bibliophile:  A person who loves reading and/or collecting books.

Blind stamping:  A colorless impression that is embossed on paper or on a cloth or leather binding. When it is found on a page, it typically signifies the owner's name or the words "Review Copy." When it is found on the binding, it is typically for decorative purposes. 

Broadside:  A single, large sheet of paper printed (not hand-written) on one side, typically used for announcements, proclamations, or advertisements.

Buckram:  An inexpensive stiff cotton fabric that is used to bind books. It is often used in library editions because of its strength.

Fine Press:  Private and commercial presses that publish books and other printed matter of exceptional quality and artistic taste.  Their publications are often limited editions.

Frontispiece:  An illustration placed before the first pages of a book that usually faces the title page. 

Head piece:  A type of ornament or decoration appearing at the start of a section or chapter of a book.

Herbal:  A book containing names and descriptions of plants (often accompanied by illustrations), with information on their medicinal uses.  Popular during the 15th and 17th centuries.

Illuminated manuscript:  A manuscript or book embellished with decorative elements that are typically hand-painted in rich colors and are sometimes gilded. The elements may include initial letters, designs, and/or pictorial scenes.

Incunabulum:  A book or pamphlet printed, with moveable type, during the earliest period of printing. Commonly refers to books published before the year 1501 in Europe.

Leaf:  A single sheet of paper in a book. A page is one side of a leaf.

Marginalia:  Writing or marks made in the margins of a book or other document.  Marginalia may be notes or comments, scribbles, doodles, or illuminations.

Recto:  The front of the leaf; the page that lies to the right in an open book. Rectos are the odd-numbered pages. 

Rubrication:  The addition of elaborate (typically red) capital letters or other decorations to a manuscript.

Stab binding:  Technique in which books are bound by stabbing holes in the margin and sewing the pages together.

Tail piece:  A small decorative design at the foot of a page or the end of a chapter or book.

Title vignettes:  A running ornament (as of vine leaves, tendrils, and grapes) put on or just before a title page or at the beginning or end of a chapter.

Typography:  The style, arrangement, or appearance of printed matter.

Vellum:  A fine parchment made from calfskin, lambskin, or kidskin, not tanned but treated with chemicals to make it suitable for writing and printing on and for binding. Can also refer to heavy off-white fine-quality paper resembling this parchment.

Verso:  The back of the leaf; the page that lies to the left in an open book. Versos are the even-numbered pages. 

Woodcut:  A relief printing technique in printmaking.  An artist carves an image into the surface of a block of wood—typically with gouges—leaving the printing parts level with the surface while removing the non-printing parts.