Collectible Book Terminology Part 5 – Illustrations
Dealer catalogs often contain confusing words or phrases to describe the books that are offered for sale. The terms may be understandable to professionals and bibliophiles, but new collectors and casual owners can sometimes find the jargon puzzling.
There are many different terms to describe the various illustrations that may be contained in a book. The type of illustrations in a book can help determine the book’s age. And, many types of illustrations do increase the value of a book.
Plate – A page printed separately from the rest of the book. Usually this is an illustration or a diagram.
Dancing with the devil. A tipped in color plate by Arthur Rackham for The Ingoldsby Legends, 1920. The illustration is lightly affixed to the background cardstock at the very top edge. The cardstock itself is glued into the book along its inner left edge. This book also contains tissue guards that protect each illustration.
Tipped In – An illustration that is lightly attached to the book by a narrow strip of gum or glue. This happens after the book has been bound, so the illustration is not sewn in with the rest of the pages. Usually, a stand-alone illustration is expertly “tipped in” along the inner edge, between two pages of the book. The illustration will align perfectly with the rest of the pages and will not be numbered. Sometimes, the illustration is attached by one edge to a heavier cardstock (which itself has been tipped in to the book).
Because “tipping in” was a laborious, manual process, it increases the value of a vintage book. But as the book (and adhesive) age, the tipped in plates can become loose. Therefore, older books are often missing some of their illustrative plates, particularly the frontispiece (because it received more handling and wear as the book was opened).
Tissues or Tissue Guards – Tissue paper or other lightweight paper tipped in to a book directly opposite an illustration. These were originally designed to absorb any transfer of ink from the illustration to the page. Later they were used to protect the illustration from scratching. The presence of original tissue guards also adds value to an old book, because they were often lost or torn out. They are rarely used today except in more expensive, limited editions.
Black and white woodcut of Little Red Riding Hood by Gustave Doré for “Perrault’s Fairy Tales,” 1883.
Color woodcut by Randolph Caldecott for “Elegy on a Mad Dog,” 1879. Color woodcut illustrations were made by using a different block of wood for each color. The color alignment had to be perfect since multiple passes were made through the presses for each illustration. Therefore, the detail in the illustrations had to be much simpler.
Woodcut – Illustrations made by engraving a block of wood and then inking the block for transferring the image to paper. This is the oldest form of printing illustrations and its use dates to 600 AD.
Chromolithograph illustration from Aunt Louisa’s Golden Gift, 1879.
Chromolithograph – An illustration made by using grease crayons, paints, gums and acids on flat stones or zinc plates for transferring the image to paper. The illustrations were distinguished by bright and vibrant colors but chromolithography was a time-consuming process. It became obsolete in the early 1900s when faster printing techniques were perfected.
Photogravure of Victor Hugo, 1883.
Photogravure – High-grade illustrations made from metal plates into which a photograph has been etched.
Halftone – Graduations in light and dark shades created by using tiny, closely spaced dots.
Illuminated – Illustrations and manuscripts decorated by hand using gold or silver leaf or metallic paints.
Glossy – An illustration printed on smooth, coated paper. Because glossy illustrations had to be tipped in, they were sometimes replaced in later editions with line drawings that could be included as part of the print run. An edition of a juvenile series book with a glossy illustration, for example, would be older than the same title with a plain illustration.
Internal – A term sometimes used to describe a glossy illustration inside a book. It is most often used when describing juvenile series books, which can be dated by the number of “internals” they contain. Over time, the printing of juvenile series books was made less expensive by reducing the number and quality of the illustrations.
Liz Holderman is a Worthologist who specializes in collectible books.
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