A Glossary of Collector Terminology

A Collector Information Web Page Provided by
Phil Barber, Cambridge, Mass. 02139 Telephone (617) 492-4653

Here are some of the standard terms used to describe newspapers, magazines, books, and paper items and aspects of their collection and conservation.

Advertising. The lifeblood of any newspaper is the income derived from its advertising. This fact is reflected in the prominent Page One positioning of ads, usually to the exclusion of late-breaking news stories, a practice which was continued well into this century. The evolution of advertising is a popular specialty field, which clearly reflects the economic transition to the techniques of modern mass marketing, which so often stress image over product quality.

Archival Quality. The term refers to conservation materials and techniques that are accepted by libraries for the preservation and permanent housing of their old and rare materials. Archival grade materials must be absolutely inert, with no chemical interaction with the objects, and the techniques must be reversible , that is, removable without leaving any traces on the objects. They can be obtained from supply houses sepcializing in this type of item.

Association Issue. An paper or magazine that can be positively shown to have been owned by a person of historic importance, for example an American President or author. A reliable provenance accounting for the object's whereabouts over the years, along with physical evidence such as a subscription address or an ownership signature or bookplate should accompany all such claims.

Atmosphere Newspaper. An "atmosphere" newspaper is one that was printed on one of the 99 in100 days that nothing of ay great historical consequence took place. Dealers commonly offer such issues, randomly selecetd for date, at very inexpensive prices, as the most valuable papers are those with the most significant historical reporting. Nevertheless each issue is a wonderful time capsule from the past, filled with news of all kinds, and politics, opinion, human interest items, and more. The advertisments also reflect the interests and dreams of bygone generations. Collecting such issues can be a fine and especially affordable specialty, with the goal of, say, obtaining a paper from every state, or from each year of the 19th century, or from a particular region or city. I offer a wide selection of such papers in my Introductory Catalogs and throughout my specialized catalogs.

Banner Headline. The familiar bold Page One headline set in large type and occupying the full width of the page. Such headlines become the norm only after the turn of the century; earlier headlines are rarely wider than a single column. The limitations of technology made matter wider than a single column impossible to position on the giant Hoe rotary presses until well into the stereotyping era. Most early headlines appear on the inside pages, as noted above, because priority was given to the placement of ads, and eye-catching front pages layouts were unncessary when virtually all issues were distributed by subscription. Occasionally you will find small posting holes in the heads of very early newspapers, evidence of where they were hung by a nail on the printer's doorframe to interest passers by.

Copy. In common book trade usage, "copy" simply means "example" or "specimen," as in "a fine copy of a scarce book"; however the overcautious novice can often confuse the word with "reproduction," so I do not employ the term here.

Deacidification. The process by which harmful acids are neutralized in paper, chiefly by the application of a calcium carbonate solution. The process is recommended for items on woodpulp newsprint (q.v.), in which sulfur residue from the manufacturing process can combine over the years with atmospheric oxygen to produce sulfur dioxide. This caustic agent can cause damage by breaking down the long cellulose molecules of wood-based pulp. The process is hastened by heat, humidty, and fluctuations of both in the storage environment.

Deckled Edge. The rough uneven edges naturally present in early handmade papers, generally observed in newspapers and magazines printed before about 1830. The great majority of these original edges were lost to trimming when the papers were bound into volumes. Uncut newspapers and magazines retain these original, irregular edges, and are preferred by the most demanding specialist collectors.

Disbound. Removed from a bound volume. Most old newspapers are disbound, as those not protected from the ravages of time in volumes tend to be found in poor condition. Such papers should exhibit no disfiguring damage or significant paper loss at the spine. Gluing of separation at the spine is a universally accepted practice, as long as it is carried out with an archival quality (q.v.) adhesive. Where the spine or a newspaper has completely separated, re-hinging with archival quality transparent tape is an acceptable solution to this unsightly condition.

Ephemera . This term is from the Greek word meaning that which lasts but for a day. It refers to printed items that were produced with the intent of conveying some content of topical importance. When they became "old news" they were expected to be discarded or recycled. This highly collectible class of items includes newspapers, magazines, broadsides (early posters), handbills, circulars, and so on including even cigar wrappers and fruit crate labels. Everything passes through what I call a garbage phase, in which its initial purpose is fulfilled and it then becomes fair game for the trash can. Those few that somehow were overlooked or filed away today form the basis of a most enjoyable collecting specialty, and it's really amazing that any have survived at all.

Folio . This term refers to the largest size of newspapers. In England in 1713 a tax was imposed on newspapers; assessed on the number of sheets rather than the size of the sheets, the law became the incentive for creating large format newspapers, as a means of minimizing the tax. The tradition continues, and is the direct reason why your morning newspaper is still a large folio, instead of the more convenient magazine size. During the eighteenth century, the largest folio measured about 12" x 18"; by the mid-1800's the norm had increased to about 17" x 21", which is still standard to this day. Many oversized folios, nicknamed "horse blankets," were printed over the years, in sizes ranging up to three feet by five feet. Such larger folios were formerly further described as "atlas," "imperial," "elephant" folios, etc. As almost no one uses these terms properly today, such terminology appears generally only in the most pretentious book dealers' catalogs.

Foxing. Brown spots in paper due to chemical reactions of impurities naturally present in the paper with atmospheric oxygen, or due to fungal attack. Light foxing is quite characteristic of old imprints, and is not considered a defect unless it detracts from eye appeal or legibility. Foxing is especially common in old newspapers, which were almost invariably printed on the cheapest obtainable grades of paper

Halftone . The process by which photographs are made into printable images. The first halftone photograph in a newspaper appeared in The New York Daily Graphic in December 1873. This first process proved impractical and was not perfected until the early years of this century, when photographs finally appeared on a regular basis in newspapers and magazines.

Imprint. Any printed object, from a single sheet broadside to a set of books. The term is also used to define the source of the item, as, for example, a "Benjamin Franklin imprint" is an item printed by him, and synonymously with nameplate (q.v.).

Masthead. The top of Page One, where the title and vital information of the newspaper are printed. Occasionally embellished with attractive calligraphy or graphics, the more ornate mastheads are avidly sought as a popular collecting specialty. Strictly speaking, what is colloquially referred to as a Masthead is actually a Nameplate, but the former term has now become accepted in general usage.

Nameplate. That part of the newspaper in which the title, editor, date, and city of origin are stated. Nameplates appear generally on the editorial page today. The first column of Page Two was the traditional earlier location. In some eighteenth century newspapers these vital statistics were printed at the bottom of the last page, resembling the colophon of the earliest books, and that term is sometimes used.

Newsprint . The paper upon which the newspaper is printed. The term is used chiefly to refer to the woodpulp paper which was first used in 1867 and which became standard by the 1890's. Unfortunately this paper is highly acidic, bearing excessive amounts of residue from the manufacturing process. This has caused the loss of the great majority of saved specimens over the years; ironically, well preserved modern woodpulp papers are much scarcer than earlier rag based papers in collectible condition. It may be that our era, with its emphasis on information, may be a blank in future history books, as all our records are written on such perishable substances as woodpulp paper, film, and magnetic media

Octavo. Refers to the smallest size of newspapers and the usual size of magazines, about 6" x 9", abbreviated 8vo . It was the usual size of the earliest newsbooks and their forerunners of the 1500's and 1600's, and the format persisted for many years in several notable later publications.

Original State. The state in which the newspaper or magazine was originally produced, never bound, trimmed, or modified in any way. Perfectly preserved items in the original state are quite uncommon and can command substantial premiums from advanced specialist collectors.

Plates. Illustrations, cut on copper or steel plates, which were then inked and printed on sheets of heavier paper separately from the rest of the work in which they appear. Such illustrations were often provided in early magazines as bonuses to subscribers. Almost all were taken out and framed, as the publishers intended, so it is rare today to find old magazines "with all plates, as issued." Paul Revere and William Hogarth are two of many celebrated eighteenth century plate engravers.

Quarto. A mid-sized newspaper, about 9" x 12". Most earlier eight page newspapers are in quarto format, which is simply a folio sheet folded twice instead of once, to make eight rather than four pages. Large quarto is the size of the popular nineteenth century illustrated weeklies and more recent "tabloid" newspapers, and measures about 12" x 17."

Rag paper. Paper made of cotton or linen rags was in general use everywhere until gradually supplanted by cheaper woodpulp newsprint in the last quarter of the last century. This paper is highly durable and when properly cared for is capable of surviving the passage of time in remarkably handsome condition.

Rubbing. Careless handling when the papers were new can cause light wear at a fold, called rubbing. It occurred when the papers were folded and carried home by the original owner or sent through the mail unwrapped. It may slightly separate the paper at the fold and should not obscure more than a few letters of text.

Spine. The left hand edge of the newspaper or magazine, where the fold occurs. A small amount of separation at the spine is characteristic of disbound newspapers and is not considered a detraction; some may be re-glued or re-hinmged, universally accepted practices in the hobby.

Singlesheet. The earliest newspapers consisted of one sheet of paper, printed on the front and back ( recto and verso , in correct book trade parlance). The slow travel of news and the limited demand by the tiny literate minority restricted most newspapers to this format until the mid- 1700's.

Spinecut . A newspaper which has been mechanically disbound prior to being microfilmed is said to have been spinecut. The process takes small strip of about an eighth of an inch from the spine area, affecting no text. Although the effect can be distracting, newspapers in this state are acceptable collectors' items, especially when it is likely that few or no other specimens may have survived. And the amateur historian realizes that it is critical that the content of literally one-of-a-kind newspapers has been preserved on microfilm and will thus be available for future historians and researchers. The original appearance can easily be approximated by re-gluing the spine, or applying a hinge of archival quality tape or tissue.

Unopened. Newspapers of eight pages were printed on one huge sheet which was folded twice, by hand or machine. They were then delivered, with the tops of the pages still joined where folded, to patrons who cut, or opened , them with knives. often elaborately designed for the purpose. Occasionally papers turn up which have not been cut along the tops of the pages, and are still "unopened" as printed. The term does not mean that no one has ever looked inside the paper, as some incredulous novices seem to think.

Untrimmed . When newspapers were bound their deckled edges were often trimmed to facilitate handling. Untrimmed papers are those which did not experience this step in the binding process, either by omission of for esthetics. Papers in this state are also occasionally described as uncut , which term is sometimes confused in meaning with unopened (q.v.).

Woodcut. An engraving cut by a skilled artisan into a block of wood, which was then inked and printed, the earliest and most common early form of book and periodical illustration, which antedates priniting by movable type. Woodcuts were not fully replaced in newspapers by photographs until this century. Many are superb works of art in miniature, highly prized by collectors. Winslow Homer and Frederick Remington are two famous and highly collectible artists whose work appeared in woodcut format in contemporary newspapers and magazines.

Wraps, or Wrappers. The covers of a magazine, often printed on colored paper. The great majority of covers of the earliest magazines have been lost as the dyes used in them were often quite acidic, causing their disintegration, and wraps were rarely saved in the bound volumes in which most surviving issues were once preserved.

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