Skip to Main Content
It looks like you're using Internet Explorer 11 or older. This website works best with modern browsers such as the latest versions of Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Edge. If you continue with this browser, you may see unexpected results.
The Sizes of Art Books
You may have come across these terms in the catalog, or maybe you tried to get a book at Marquand only to be told it was "Oversize" because it had a little "q" or "f" or "e" at the end of its call number. What do those letters mean? [NOTE: Firestone also has oversized collections interspersed with regular-sized collections (quarto) + a separate XL collection, 40 cm. and up, on the C Floor.]
A quarto describes the size of a book that's average or slightly larger than average. "Quarto" simply means that the pages in the book were created by folding one sheet of paper TWICE to create four leaves.
An octavo is a book in which the pages have been created by folding one sheet of paper THREE times to make 8 leaves. Usually average-sized or a little small.
A folio is a book in which the pages have been created by folding one sheet of paper ONLY ONCE. Usually pretty large. Ever heard of Shakespeare's Folios? That's what they are.
An elephant is the term Marquand uses to describe the giant books created when the pages are created by folding a piece of paper NO times--one piece of paper equals one leaf.
Sextodecimo or Sixteenmo
These are the (usually tiny) books created by folding a piece of paper FOUR times, creating 16 leaves. Marquand's "smalls" are mostly out at ReCAP, with some exceptions.
Art Library Vocabulary for Beginners
Art libraries have different kinds of material than other libraries, and they have different kinds of terms to describe those materials as well. Here are some terms to help you get started--if you click on the links, you will be taken to the Grove Art Online encyclopedias or to Wikipedia for more information.
A book containing every single work that a specific artist ever created. These are great for researching artists for a paper or biography.
A collection of essays celebrating a certain person. It's not specific to art, but there are festschriften created for artists and art historians--BHA catalogs festschriften specifically.
A copy of an existing manuscript or book that tries to be as faithful to the original as possible.
Refers to the content or subject matter of a work of art, not the form or technique of the work. For instance, a work of art may be Baroque in style, but its iconography would involve the fact that it depicts a Madonna and Child.
Special kind of book in which an artist created the illustrations directly onto the pages.
Surprisingly, not the same as a livre d'artiste. An artist's book is a work of art expressed in book format. It could be made of any materials--cloth, metal, glass, etc.--and could be shaped like a traditional book, or not.
A listing of what was on display in a specific exhibition or show. May include images. These also sometimes include essays by the curator or others that describe the show.
Sounds fancy, but it's just another name for a book, as opposed to a journal or magazine or some other continuing resource.