We like these books…
Momenticon - Andrew Caldecott
Momenticon - Andrew Caldecott
Signed edition£16.99

Ruth & Pen - Emilie Pine
Ruth & Pen - Emilie Pine
Signed exclusive edition£14.99

The Whalebone Theatre - Joanna Quinn
The Whalebone Theatre - Joanna Quinn
Signed indie exclusive£14.99

Book Condition Grades…

a guide for collectors of signed first editions

Clearly, when buying a signed book, the better its condition the more it’s likely to appreciate over time.  This is why it’s important to know the state of a book before you buy it.  To help you make informed buying choices, here’s a guide to how we grade our stock.

When listing a book’s features, we may show its condition as Fine / Fine, for instance.  The first grade always refers to the book, the second to the condition of its dust jacket.  Therefore, it’s possible to have a rating of Fine / Very Fine.  That is, a book with a grade of Fine while the rating for its jacket is Very Fine.

A point to note is that some books, for one reason or another, don’t have a dust jacket when published.  As a result, if we list a book with only one grade in its condition, it didn’t have a dust jacket on publication.  On the other hand, if we list a book with three grades, there’s also a slipcase, i.e. book / dust jacket / slipcase.

While there are reasonably uniform global standards for describing a book’s condition, they mainly apply to pre-owned and read books.  As we only sell new and unread modern signed first editions though, we’ve had to adapt grades to suit our stock.  These are as follows:

Very Fine

This describes a book that’s in perfect condition.  In other words, it has no defects or marks at all.  The same applies to the dust jacket and slipcase (if it has one): perfect and without any tears or damage.

We know from experience that even with new books, very few will make this grade (see below for why).


Most of the books we sell are in this grade.  In other words, while they are new and unread they will have a slight flaw, or flaws, that will exclude them from the Very Fine grade.  These blemishes are usually due to:

  • The bookbinders / printers: boards with small glue spots and / or discrete glue spot abrasions, tipped-in limitation pages that are cockled, pushed spine ends or a binding with patchy colour, for instance.  As these examples show, even brand new books can have one or more small faults as they leave the bindery.
  • Shipping: damage caused by poor packing or rough handling when books are in the supply chain (printer – distributor – bookseller).  This type of damage leads to dings or dimples in boards or bumped spine ends.
  • The bookseller: books can become shelf worn or discoloured due to poor handling or storage.  Equally, when mailing to the buyer, poor packing can lead to damaged spine ends.

Note that some booksellers will use the term ‘As New’ for a book that we would grade as Fine or even Near Fine for one or more of the above reasons.  So be aware that while the description ‘As New’ is without doubt correct, it’s not usually a good guide to a book’s true condition.  Similarly, the term ‘Mint’ applies to coins, not books!

Please bear in mind that our Fine grade is, as a rule, almost faultless and it will definitely not have any major flaws.

Near Fine

In our particular case, this grade of book is one that has an obvious flaw.  A flaw we regard as strange in a new and unread book.  For instance, there may be an unusually long or deep gouge to one of the boards.  In every case, we will describe the full nature of the fault.

Any fault with a book of this grade (except when talking about a hard to come by book) will be reflected in the price.


If you buy a book from us and feel our grade or description is incorrect, don’t worry.  Just let us know you want to return it within seven days of delivery, and we’ll refund the purchase price and any original delivery charge in full.  Please see our Delivery and Returns Policy for full details.

Further Reading

It seems safe to assume that if there were no faults or flaws, there wouldn’t be the need to grade a book’s condition.  As there is a need though, you may find it helpful to look through our primer on the more common book faults and flaws.


Modern Signed Editions Ltd