The T's of Ex Libris Universum

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December 21, 2020

The T's of Ex Libris Universum

Or How to Sound Like a Rare Book Expert, Part 8

Welcome to the next chapter of our ABC blog series! All quoted definitions used in this series come from John Carter and Nicholas Barker’s book ABC for Book Collectors. Today, we discuss some book terms that begin with the letter "T." You are welcome to access our entire ABC series here.

Text Block

AccademiadelCimento_SaggidiNaturali_1691_008 Edit.jpg

A prime example of a text block in one of NBLA's Wenner Collection books: Accademia del Cimento Saggidi Naturali, 1691.

A prime example of a text block in one of NBLA's Wenner Collection books: Accademia del Cimento Saggidi Naturali, 1691.


“An ugly but useful term, the product of the increasing mechanisation of edition-binding. It means the text part of a book, sewn and trimmed, perhaps, but without endpapers, before casing-in; now used by hand-binders with the same meaning.”

In other words, the text block is simply the part of the book consisting of the sewn and gathered printed sheets of paper before the paper is bound, or attached, to the book’s cover, or casing. For a visual demonstration of the term “text block” and some other terms we’ve discussed in previous ABC posts, watch this three-minute video below. In fact, Richard from AbeBooks utilizes Carter and Barker’s ABC for Book Collectors in his presentation. How fun!

Tipped In

“Lightly attached, by gum or paste, usually at the inner edge. Plates, errata slips or a single inserted leaf will sometimes be described as being tipped in, as distinct from being sewn in. But the term is much more frequently used of something originally alien to the book, which has been put with it by an earlier owner; e.g. an autograph letter from the author, or some similar associated document.”

TipinA_4 Edit.jpg

Example of a tip-in from one of our library books: Paul Peter Ewald, Die Erforschung des Aufbaues der Materie mit Röntgenstrahlen, 1933.

Example of a tip-in from one of our library books: Paul Peter Ewald, Die Erforschung des Aufbaues der Materie mit Röntgenstrahlen, 1933.

Tip-ins are likely more familiar to you than you might realize. For example, you’ve probably noticed magazine inserts or author autographed pages in books. These are common modern examples of tip-ins. The tip-ins found in rare books are essentially the same thing: a sheet of paper or small grouping of sheets that was not originally part of the book. Tip-ins were and still are often attached by applying a line of glue along the edge of the paper where it comes in contact with the book’s spine.

The example to the right shows an index that was tipped into the back cover of the book. The tip-in depicted here is smaller than the text block and uses a different font that was likely typed on a typewriter. You can also tell that this index was printed on a different quality of paper from the rest of the book. For more about tip-ins, check out this Crash Course on Tip-Ins.


“The amount of leather visible on the inside of the boards, uncovered by the paste-downs. In the 19th century, turn-ins were often left wide and elaborately gilt.”

As illustrated in the photo below of one of our Wenner Collection books, the “turn-in” is the visible portion of the outer covering material that is folded over the cover boards to the inside. You can see the yellow colored “paste-downs” glued on top of it.

Gauss_TheoriaMotusCorporumCoelestium_1809_013 Edit.jpg

A wonderful example highlighting the turn-ins from one of NBLA's Wenner Collection books: Gauss, Theoria Motus Corporum Coelestium, 1809.

A wonderful example highlighting the turn-ins from one of NBLA's Wenner Collection books: Gauss, Theoria Motus Corporum Coelestium, 1809.

And there you have it! "Text block," "tipped in," and "turn-ins." We hope you have enjoyed our breakdown of these terms, and please stay tuned for the next installment in our ABC series. We wish you a wonderful holiday season and a jolly 2021!

Related Resources You May Find Interesting

A Crash Course in Tip-Ins 

Book Anatomy (Parts of a Book) & Definitions

AbeBooks' Glossary of Book Terms 

Glossary of Binding Terms

Medieval & Early Modern Manuscripts: Bookbinding Terms, Materials, Methods, and Models

Endpapers | Rare Books & Manuscripts

About the Author: 

Caitlin Shaffer

Caitlin Shaffer is the Library Project Assistant. She holds a B.A. in English and Creative Writing from George Washington University, and she studied History as her minor. She helps assess the condition of the library’s rare book collection as she prepares the books for a collection move. One of her favorite books from the Niels Bohr Library is Water Wonders by Jean Thompson. In her spare time, Caitlin enjoys recommending Young Adult books and creating content for her Bookstagram feed. She also likes to support Storiarts, a small bookish business that donates a portion of each purchase to fund literacy for children.

Caption: Photo by Caitlin Shaffer as @spinesthatshine: Caitlin’s Nancy Drew book collection and Storiarts Nancy Drew writing gloves

See all articles by Caitlin Shaffer

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