Bargain books on the Middle Ages and all related subjects


The small print
How the book descriptions work


You may find it helpful to print this page out, so that you can refer to it alongside email listings or the book lists on this web site.

medievalbookshop's policy on book descriptions aims to provide honest descriptions and avoid confusion. However, much of any description is subjective, so if at any time you are unsure about what is meant , please email your queries and comments using the links above - further details can nearly always be supplied. You can reserve items while you are making enquiries, and cancel the reservation without obligation. The aim is that you should be happy about an item before you confirm your order and despatch your payment (see the refunds policy page).


Each item on the medievalbookshop web site is described as accurately as possible and, because many customers are not collectors, jargon and abbreviations are mostly avoided.

Every description follows the same sequence, as follows:

    Catalogue number. This is a seven-character ID found in the title bar of the page. Each number refers to the book shown on that page, so if you wish, you can use this number when making a reservation.

    Cover image. Some pages on the site now carry a scan of the item being described. This is usually a scan of the actual item, though if several copies are in stock in a similar condition it will show a representative copy (this particularly applies to items listed as "unused bargain"). Other parts of a book may be shown where relevant, for instance a page carrying an author's signature, or a case of significant damage that is otherwise difficult to describe. In most cases, the images are smaller than life size. If click on the thumbnail next to the book description it will link to a larger image showing more detail.

    Please note, although some minimal image correction is applied, it is medievalbookshop policy that images should not be distorted to give a misleading impression of a book's condition; however, due to the limitations of scanning technology, images are not entirely true to life. In particular, red, orange and yellow tones are likely to look unnaturally bright, detail with dark patterns or colours will be difficult to distinguish, and metallic blocking (usually gilt or silver) will tend to look dark or black, and may disappear against a dark background.

    Author(s) or editor(s).
    As named on the title page; other names may be listed here, such those of translators or illustrators. The form and spelling used on the book's title page will be reproduced, though occasionally other spellings may be added in square brackets if they are more widely known.

    Title. The book's title as given on the title page: this may be amalgated with the title given on the cover, spine, half-title page, or elsewhere, if these are different. Titles are usually reproduced in full, though very long titles might be abbreviated.

    Place of publication. Where two or more locations are given, this will usually note only the first. It is not mentioned separately where it is given as part of the Publisher's name (as is the case with many university presses, for example).

    Publisher. As named on the title page (except that variations of  "University Press" will nearly always be abbreviated to "U.P."). It is now possible to browse books by a given publisher using medievalbookshop's browse by publisher facility: this is in progress but it is regularly updated and added to. There is also a page giving links to many publishers' own websites.

    Date of publication. This is as stated on the copyright page or title page. If the book is a reprint, reissue, or new edition, this will be the date listed, usually with the original date of publication following in brackets. More recent books often only list the number of the reprint without a date, in which case this number may be given with the original publication date in brackets. Some books do not give a date at all, in which case they are described as "n.d." (=no date), but if an approximate date can be inferred from the content of the book itself, this will be noted in square brackets. Likewise, some reprints don't add the date of the reprint, so that the book may appear to be an earlier printing than it really is (others give different dates on the title and copyright pages) - this is increasingly true of digital reprints, for which some publishers make no attempt to distinguish the reprint from its original copy; the upshot is that no guarantee is offered as to the edition of any book, other than that the dates as given will be presented as accurately as possible. Where possible, if an item is known to be a reissue or reprint, a note will be made in brackets about the original publication.

    First editions (and others): usually no mention is made of whether a book is a first edition for several reasons. An obvious one is that in an academic book, the later impressions or editions will often incorporate corrections and so are likely to be more valuable to the user; there is also the fact that certainty is difficult in some cases, and only a few publishers make it easy by stating "first edition" on their copyright page; and finally, the nature of many of the titles listed by medievalbookshop is such that they never get past the first printing of the first edition anyway. In general you can assume that if no indication is given to the contrary, the book is probably a first edition, but that no guarantee is offered; conversely, no guarantee is offered about whether a revised edition might be available elsewhere. If a title is thought to be collectable, I might mention its first edition status, but as always, if any of this is important to you, please use the email link at the top of this page to enquire about any item you are interested in before confirming your order.

    Series. Where other books in the same series are regularly in stock, this line will provide a link to the relevant "Books in series" page.

    ISBN/ISSN. The International Standard Book Number has come into increasingly common use since the mid-1960s, so that now few books are issued without one. ISSN (International Standard Serial Number) is the equivalent for journals and other publications that are issued on an ongoing basis. Most large book sites such as Amazon and ABE now support searches on these numbers, so medievalbookshop items catalogued since March 2004 also include them where available, formatted without dashes or spaces; they will gradually be added to older back catalogue descriptions. Numbers will be copied from each book individually, so may differ from those appearing on any edition currently in print (and are occasionally erroneous on the book itself).

    A new 13-digit system is being introduced, so newer titles may indicate both the old 10-digit and the new 13-digit versions. The new system is being made universal for new books as of January 2007, and it is anticipated that 10-digit numbers will cease being issued at some point during 2007. In some older books an SBN number is given - these appeared before the standard became more widely used, and may be converted to the current ISBN format by adding "0" as the first digit. NB: searching on an ISBN number will not locate book club and privately published editions, as these are usually issued without them.

    Format. This indicates whether the book is hardback or paperback. It also notes features such as illustrated boards or a slipcase, and if a hardback is known to have been issued without a dustjacket this will be noted here; the phrase "no dustjacket" indicates uncertainty as to whether this particular print or issue of the book was originally issued with a dustjacket. There is usually also a note here as to whether the book is stitched or perfect bound, though this is absent on some of the older back catalogue items.

    Printer. Indicates where the book was printed, and (if details are available) who printed it. No particularly good reason for including this, it's just the kind of thing some people like to know. This feature was introduced in mid-2008, so it will be some time before it appears on any large number of this site's pages.

    Size. This is stated in millimetres and gives the measurements of the front cover or board, top edge first, then side edge (so if the first measurement given is larger, then the book is landscape format); these are larger than the page area in most hardbacks and some paperbacks. Most descriptions also indicate the width of the spine, though this has not yet been implemented in some older pages of the back catalogue. All measurements given are approximate. Each item is measured individually, so similar items may sometimes be listed with slightly different measurements. Please bear in mind that postal packaging will add to the measurements given.

    Millimetres are chosen as the default with some reluctance: many non-collectors don't like having to work out how big "folio" or "quarto" etc. might be in real life; and web pages still have trouble displaying fractions accurately, which makes inches unsuitable. Given that an arbitrary choice had to be made, millimetres won on the grounds that they allow slightly more precision.

    [L] after the size indicates that if ordered on its own and wrapped in standard packaging, the item should be small enough to fit through a standard size letterbox or mail slot. This feature has been withdrawn from book descriptions in favour of the three dimensional measurements described above, but may still turn up on one or two of the older ones.

    Page count. Given as printed, usually any pages with roman numerals followed by  the main run of pages. Pages with Roman numerals will not be mentioned if they are part of the main page count of the book. Occasionally the first few pages (title page, copyright page, contents, etc.) aren't numbered at all, and so may not be mentioned if they include no significant matter. More recent catalogue pages now make a separate mention of any plates that are not included in the main text page count, though please note, different publishers' opinions of what constitutes a "plate" can vary considerably: in many cases they will be plain black and white illustrations, and not printed on gloss paper. Publisher's matter at the front or end of the book ("forthcoming titles", etc.) is not usually included in the page count.

    Illustrations. On older descriptions (those created before June 2009), any illustrations are mentioned after the page count. Typically, figures, charts and basic illustrations are included in the page run, while plates are usually numbered separately, but there are plenty of variations on this theme. Illustrations may be referred to as "plates" even when they are printed on the same grade of paper as the rest of the book: descriptions generally follow each book's individual usage. Minor text decorations are usually not mentioned. As of June 2009, mention of any illustrations and maps has been moved to the foot of the page with the rest of the book's apparatus.

    Language. The main language(s) in which the book is written. Usually, no mention is made of quotations or short passages in other languages, unless they are a significant part of the book's main text.

    Condition. This is the most subjective category (and the most important).

    Descriptions attempt to draw attention to any major defects that fall outside the following broad categories, especially those that will affect a book's practical usefulness. You should assume that even books labelled "very good" will have the kind of small defects common to used books, such as minor wear and tear, small creases and bumps, grubby page edges, library plates or markings inside the endpapers indicating previous ownership or pricing, and so on. Unless specifically described as "unused", all books may contain some ink or pencil marking, but this will be mentioned if it is extensive or intrusive. The aim is that any major defect will be described.

    In the medievalbookshop listings a book is almost never described as "mint" or "fine", partly because most medievalbookshop customers want usable books rather than display items, but also because these two terms don't always apply even to brand-new shop-bought items. With this in mind, descriptions of a book's condition fall into one of five broad categories as follows

      Very good. In this instance, "very good" means that, taking account of age and production quality, the book is as good as a secondhand copy can be: it will probably have minor blemishes or show slight evidence of storage or previous ownership, especially if it's an older title; in older titles the paper may also show evidence of age, though not obtrusively so; more recent titles sometimes look nearly as good as new. Regardless of condition, a book will only be stated as "unused" where this is known to be definitely the case, and any obvious defects will be mentioned. Despite what it says above, the terms "mint" or "fine" may occasionally be added in brackets, though usually only to give further guidance to collectors ("mint" indicating that the book is known to be unused, "fine" indicating that it may have minor blemishes but shows no obvious signs of use).

      Good. About average for a secondhand book. The book may have been stored badly (faded spines, saggy stitching, mild damp staining, etc) and may show signs of having been used, or read more than once (unobtrusive pencil or minor ink marking, folded page corners, lightly worn edges to pages and covers, some curving of spines in paperbacks, and so on). Except in very recent books, the paper will probably show signs of age. In paperbacks the corners of the cover and pages may be starting to curl.

      Fair. Better than poor, but not actually falling apart, and not good enough to be honestly described as "good". Many older paperbacks come into this category (creased spines, yellowed paper, curling to page edges or covers, but pencil, ink or highlighter markings not usually too heavy - the extent of any markings will be mentioned if they are heavy or intrusive). Usually indicates a good working copy.

      Poor. Likely to have loose or detached pages, covers, or other bits. Probably scribbled all over. Quite likely to have faded covers, yellowed paper, foxing or staining, and all manner of unpleasant personal habits. Might smell funny. But all of the pages should be present, unless stated otherwise. Should be usable as a working copy, but not a collector's item unless you collect very shabby books.

      Unused bargain. Exactly what it says: a brand-new book of which medievalbookshop has a limited number of copies for sale at less than the publisher's recommended price. Despite what it says above, they are in a condition that would usually be described as "mint" or "fine" (subject to the kind of ordinary minor blemishes which you would find in any shop-bought copy), so further mention of their condition is only given if this is not the case.

    Any of these categories may merge into each other, and they will often be modified by words such as "generally" (for instance, "generally good" means that the book is better than "fair", but overall fails to make the grade to "good"; likewise "generally very good" means you couldn't reasonably describe it "as new"). A common mix is where an otherwise new book has been dropped; in this case the damage will be described, followed by "otherwise very good". In all cases, you are encouraged to satisfy yourself about a book's condition before confirming your order and despatching your payment: you can email your questions about any item to the email address at the top of this page.

    It should be noted that dustjackets in particular will usually show some fraying and small rips. A dustjacket may be described separately if its condition differs greatly from the book it encloses. NB: "no dustjacket" indicates that it is not known whether one was present to begin with; "dustjacket missing" indicates that the book was originally issued with one and it is not present on this copy.

    Some books have a rubber stamp mark reading "damaged" or some similar phrase: these are usually unused books that have been returned to the distributor or publisher for various reasons; sometimes the damage is obvious, in which case it will be described; in many cases they are shop exchanges such as unwanted gifts or unwanted book club selections, which means they will probably be unused and there will be little wrong with them other than minor shop-soiling or bumping. Purchase of these titles is fully protected by medievalbookshop's returns policy, subject to the usual conditions (i.e., they must be returned within 30 days of order date in the same condition as they were despatched; the cost of the book is refundable in full, and postage & other additional costs are also refundable if the book is not as described) - see the returns and refunds policy for full details.

    If a book is ex-library, this will be described as "ex-lib."; if known, the identity of the library will usually be given. These books are described using the same criteria as other secondhand books, according to the four categories "very good" down to "poor" listed above. There will usually be ownership marks at random intervals throughout the book. You should note that libraries often do not cancel their ownership marks if they sell their books in job lots (with a stamp reading "withdrawn" or otherwise), but library books are not offered for sale by medievalbookshop if there is reason believe they have been stolen.

    Price. The second most subjective category, which may be adjusted from time to time to reflect current retail prices or other market indicators. The editor's decision is final.

    NB: Prices are set in sterling, but other currencies can be quoted on request subject to the customer meeting any extra banking or other charges that might arise.

    Postage cost Some item descriptions now also state a postage price. This may be given either as an additional sum to the price of the book, or as an inclusive price. In both cases, these prices apply to UK delivery only, and delivery to addresses outside the UK will be charged extra at current post office rates: please enquire. Please note: postage is charged on all books that do not specifically state "P&P inc."

    Publisher's price. Where shown, this is given for purposes of comparison only. This is the publisher's recommended price for a brand-new copy at the time the catalogue listing was prepared, so it may have changed since, and you may find significant variations by shopping around; usually it will not include any associated postage or shipping costs. Where possible any such price indicates an equivalent edition to the one being offered ("equivalent" in this context generally meaning same format and publisher), and may refer to a print-on-demand edition. Other editions may also be available in other formats, at other prices and from other publishers, so if no equivalent edition appears to be available, another edition that can be found in print may be mentioned.

    Any "publisher's price" is quoted purely for purposes of comparison; it usually won't have been checked since the item was catalogued and indicates only that a version of the same title was available elsewhere when the item was catalogued. Its absence should not be taken to imply that the title is out of print. As with all old books, a lower retail price may be printed on the copy being offered, which may also differ in details of presentation (size, cover design, etc.)

    If a book is described as "out of print", this usually means that when the item was catalogued it was listed as such by the publisher of the edition being offered, but it may since have been reissued by them or by another publisher. You can use the publishers' links page to check for current information.

    Weight. Quoted in grammes (g) or kilogrammes (kg). Where given this is purely for use as a rough guide when consulting the price lists provided by the Royal Mail; it should not be taken as an accurate measure. It does not include the weight of any packaging, which may be quite significant for larger items. This was added to the cataloguing procedure in late 2004, and is gradually being added to older items in the back catalogue.

    Additional notes. This category is not always present in a description. When it is, it's often an observation on the book's content; for example, the book might be a general survey that doesn't contain any specifically medieval material; anything noteworthy that doesn't fit into one of the other categories might be mentioned here, such as themes or content that are not made obvious by the book's title. Unless a source is given, any matter within quote marks is taken from the book itself.

    Books decribed as "unused bargain" will usually have a blurb from the book's cover or the publisher's web site reproduced - this material is written by the publisher and should not be taken as an independent opinion.

    Contents and apparatus. Many of the book descriptions now carry a contents list, and a note of any apparatus included within the book. The extent of these will always be variable - for example, there's usually no need to include them at all for a novel, but a book of essays will require a quite extensive listing of the book's contents. Where a book's title is sufficiently indicative of its content, or the chapter titles are uninformative, a list of contents will generally not be given. The list of apparatus is also variable, again partly depending on what any given book actually includes, and partly on a guess as to what readers might expect to see in that book.

Any of the categories described above may be absent in a catalogue listing. This would usually mean that the book itself doesn't provide them; but it might just be that I dozed off while I was typing and so counts as errors and omissions.


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