Rare Book Condition Ratings

Each of our catalogue notes includes a detailed condition report in which we describe a book’s individual flaws and also give it an overall rating such as "fine" or "very good". Different booksellers may use these rating terms in slightly different ways, so here’s a breakdown of what each one means when you see it in our cataloguing.

Fine: The highest rating we give a book. For late-19th and 20th-century books, fine means that the copy is in essentially the same condition as it was when first printed, including the dust jacket if it was published with one. (If a book is missing its jacket but otherwise perfect we describe it as excellent rather than fine.) This rating is rarely applied to books published prior to the 19th century, and is then used more leniently a copy can have certain minor flaws and still be considered fine, but it does need to be a superb example. Fine can also be used to describe rebound books when the contents are still in great condition and the binding is of high quality in materials and craftsmanship.

Excellent: A copy with only one or two minor flaws, such as light rubbing at the extremities of the covers, ownership signature, faded spine panel, or slight toning of the leaves. A copy that is in perfect condition but missing the jacket can also be rated as excellent.

Very Good: Very good copies will tend to look more “read” than excellent copies. They might have one or two significant flaws (such as a torn leaf, dampstain over a small area, or spotting), or several minor flaws. A book that has significant restoration may also be described as very good.

Good: A good copy may be acceptable as a reading copy, but is in a condition that makes it unsuitable for collecting unless the work is particularly rare or features an uncommon inscription. We almost never offer copies in good condition.

Poor: The lowest rating applied to books, for copies that may not even be in a suitable condition for reading. We would only offer a book in poor condition if it was both extremely important and of the utmost rarity.


We do our best to describe each book's condition as accurately as possible, and provide high-resolution photographs to assist in making purchasing decisions. Please feel free to contact us if you have additional questions about a book's condition or would like to see more photos. For more information on the way we catalogue rare books see Understanding our Rare Book Descriptions.