Adirondack Retro Glossary of Terms

Vintage Ad & Antique Print Terminology

Throughout our website we use various terms that are commonly used within the Antique & Vintage Print industry that you may be unfamiliar with, so we have decided to create a glossary of terms for our customers to refer to if needed.

Common Print Sizes

Octavo: Typically denoted by the symbol "8vo."  As with all antique book terminology, it is a relative term, with at least four different sizes of books called octavo:

Foolscap Octavo:  6 3/4 x 4 1/4 in  |  17.0 x 10.8 cm
Crown Octavo:  7 1/2 x 5 in  |  19.0 x 12.6 cm
Demi Octavo:  8 3/4 x 5 5/8 in  |  22.1 x 14.0 cm
Royal Octavo:  10 x 6 1/4 in  |  25.3 x 15.8 cm

Quarto: Typically denoted by symbol "4to." The simplest definition of this term is that it is the size of a modern-day magazine, roughly 9" by 12" (230mm x 300mm) Again, there are variations so you might see a description saying "small quarto" or "large quarto."

Folio: Typically denoted by the full term "folio" or by the symbol "fo." It is the largest size of book and is approximately the size of a modern large coffee-table book, generally 15" or more in height. As with the other book sizes, this is also a relative term and can vary either way, as in "small folio" or "large folio." Larger folio sizes are not as common, but certainly do exist. An elephant folio being up to 23 inches tall, an atlas folio 25 inches, and a double elephant folio 50 inches tall.

Condition Notes

The antique prints in the Adirondack Retro catalog date from the early 1700's thru the 1950's. Most of our prints are 100-150 years old, and as with any paper that age, there are typically, but not always some condition issues that we point out if they can not be hidden by a mat. It is of my opinion that any slight age toning adds to the beauty and charm of an antique print, but that is subjective, and beauty is in the eyes of the beholder. It is for that reason that we are sharing the following terms and definitions with you, so you can decide for yourself if you would like to own a particular antique print or not.

Condition Terminology

Foxing: This is an age-related process of deterioration that causes rust colored spots and browning on old paper. Although unsightly, foxing is quite common on antique prints but does not affect the actual integrity of the paper. It is perfectly fine to purchase antique prints with a minimal amount of foxing. especially on the outer edges of the prints which would be covered by a mat.

Ink Spots:  Sometimes you may notice a tiny, errant spot or two of ink left on the color plate from the printing of the book. This is somewhat common in prints that were produced by the lithography and chromolithography printing methods. It is generally not a problem because the ink spots tend to be quite small and rarely negatively impact the image.

Smudges:  Every once in awhile you will find a fingerprint smudge on the outer margins of a print caused by perspiration an/or dirty hands from previous owners. Generally, smudges are not a problem due to the fact that they typically are covered over by the mat.

Offsetting:  Some books contain protective tissue guards that protect the colored plates. They are lightweight, tissue-like paper that is bound-in preceding the colored plate, which protects the plates from the ink of the printed words on the opposite page from transferring to the colored plates. It is when books are bound without tissue guards, that "offsetting," or the transfer of the images of the printed word can occur. When this happens, it is generally light, but can vary in intensity so that the description of this condition can be listed from "light offsetting", which is the least severe, on up through the condition of "heavy offsetting", which is the most severe.

Paper Toning: This term describes the condition of old paper when it has changed color, most often having darkened. It sometimes acquires a slightly yellow or brown tone and can be the result of different factors, including age, temperature, humidity, dryness, improper storage, paper chemistry or a smoky environment. Most often, this is described on a scale from "light" up through "heavy' but in many cases it is light and not an area of concern. In fact, we feel that it adds to the vintage charm of the print.

Tears or Rips:  This happens to book leaves when the pages are turned but are not serious unless they extend over an inch or so and can not be hidden by the mat..

Corner Fold:  These are areas where the paper has been folded from page turns. These are generally very small and disappear when the print is matted so small folds are typically not a problem.

Scuffs: Sometimes a print will have a small abrasion or indent on the paper, perhaps from a fingernail, piece of sand or dirt or any other sharp object. Many times they are very small and are easily covered by the mat so it is not a serious problem.

Cockling:  This term describes the condition of waviness in old paper that is the result of the book having been subjected to humidity or water.

"Will Mat Out": We use this term to denote that the condition(s) listed about a particular print will be hidden when the print is mounted in the mat. In other words, the mat will cover the conditions and they will not be visible when the matted print is framed. Many antique prints will have one or more small conditional items that will "Mat Out" and will never be seen when admiring the final product.

Other Terms

Tipped-In:  In the book trade, a tipped-in page or, if it is an illustration, tipped-in plate or simply plate, is a page that is printed separately from the main text of the book, but attached to the book.

Book Plate:  A full-page book illustration that is separate from the text pages. Technically, illustrations that are printed on text pages are called cuts. However, the term "plate" is often used to describe both types of book illustrations.

Verso:  The back of a book plate or illustration. It can either be blank or have text, and illustration or a combination of the two.

Lithograph: Lithography is the art of writing and drawing on stone - depends on the natural antipathy which grease and water have for each other. Basically the process is simple although it is capable of a large number of developments and refinements. The stone used is limestone, originally from Bavaria but later from Bath in England.

The surface of the stone is smoothed, washed and dried, a drawing in lithographic chalk or ink is made directly onto the stone. Both the chalk and the ink are greasy. The stone is washed all over and the printing ink is applied with a roller. This ink affixes to the greased image but is repelled by the remainder of the wet stone. The image can then be taken off on a sheet of damp paper. The image can also be transferred to the prepared stone by means of transfer paper.

Chromolithograph:  The first true multi-color printing method, previously color had been applied by hand. The process was based on lithography (printing from stone slabs), but extended so that a stone was used for each color and each separate color was laid on top of the previous one, thus the paper sheet was printed on several times before the print was finished. This required both a number of stones (adding to the expense) and a very precise method for laying the stones, if each stone is not positioned identically to the one before, then the colors appear out of register - similar to the ghosting effect on a television that is out of tune.