My Sammelband has Frisket-Bite: A Short Glossary of Delightful Library Terms

Nov 10, 2017 · 3 min read
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Image for post
Von Frieling Sammelband, Accession #MS-65, Historical Collections, Claude Moore Health Sciences Library, University of Virginia.

Two weeks ago I asked Twitter if anyone had favourite obscure and/or delightful library or archival words. Here are some of the best replies:

Tête-bêche: From philately, meaning printed upside down or sideways relative to another. (Tara Robertson)

Respect des fonds: A principle in archival theory that proposes to group collections of archival records according to their fonds — that is to say, according to the administration, organization, individual, or entity by which they were created or from which they were received. (Ed Summers)

Realia: Objects and material from everyday life. (Deb Chachra)

Incunabula: Early printed books, especially ones printed before 1501. (Jessamyn West)

Wimmelbilderbuch: A kind of large-format picture book, characterized by full-spread drawings depicting scenes richly detailed with numerous humans, animals, and objects. (Jessamyn West)

Grimoire: A textbook of magic. (Jessamyn West)

Sammelband: A book comprising a number of separately printed or manuscript works that are subsequently bound together (John Overholt)

Volvelle: a type of slide chart, a paper construction with rotating parts (John Overholt)

Verso / Recto: Refering to the text written on the “front” and “back” sides of a leaf of paper in a bound item such as a codex, book, broadsheet, or pamphlet. (@glitters_not)

Caoutchouc bindings: A particular (and probably first) form of adhesive binding, invented by William Hancock, and patented in 1836, in which the single sheets were secured with a rubber solution obtained from the latex of certain tropical plants, especially of the genera Hevea and Ficus. (@CourtneyEJacobs)

Bitrot: A deterioration of software performance over time or its diminishing responsiveness because of the changing environment in which it resides. (Ben Fino-Radin)

Fixity: The state of being unchanging or permanent (Trevor Owens)

Xylotheque: A wood library — a special form of herbarium that consists of a collection of authenticated wood specimens. (Shannon Mattern)

Sticky-shed Syndrome: A condition created by the deterioration of the binders in a magnetic tape (Shannon Mattern)

Temoin: “A little bit of paper left on the edge of the page by the binder to show they didn’t over-crop when binding” (@book_historia)

Archivy: The discipline of archives. (Trevor Owens)

Inherent Vice: The tendency in physical objects to deteriorate because of the fundamental instability of the components of which they are made (Trevor Owens)

Festschrift: A collection of writings published in honor of a scholar. (Jason W. Dean)

Sine loco / Sine nomine: Without a place or name, in the case where the place of publication or the author is unknown. (Jason W. Dean)

☞ Manicule: The ‘little hand’ — a punctuation mark created by or for readers to assist in marking noteworthy passages. (@HannahJane85)

Frisket-bite: A missing part of printed matter, caused by the frisket moving, stretching, or otherwise intervening between inked type and the paper. (Anne Goldgar)

Blind tooling: A method of decorating a book in which impressions are made in the covering material (@livyaugusta)

Catchword: A word placed at the foot of a handwritten or printed page that is meant to be bound along with other pages in a book. The word anticipates the first word of the following page. (@mia_clarkson)

Gloss: a brief marginal notation of the meaning of a word or wording in a text. (@SarDSta)

Hapax legomenon: A term of which only one instance of use is recorded. (@MaxCMarmor)

Deaccession: To officially remove an item from the listed holdings of a library, museum, or art gallery, typically in order to sell it to raise funds. (Leslie Johnston)

Palimpsest: A manuscript or piece of writing material on which the original writing has been effaced to make room for later writing but of which traces remain. (Cameron Brown)

Octavo: A size of book page that results from the folding of each printed sheet into eight leaves (sixteen pages). (Rachel Ropeik)

What are your favourite archival or library words that we may have missed?


Written by


Jer Thorp is an artist, writer & teacher. He is Innovator-in-Residence at the Library of Congress. His book Living in Data will be published in 2020 by MCDxFSG.


Written by


Jer Thorp is an artist, writer & teacher. He is Innovator-in-Residence at the Library of Congress. His book Living in Data will be published in 2020 by MCDxFSG.

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