Page Edges

Fore edge:  the edge of the book directly opposite the spine, and may refer to either the boards or the pages. Top edge specifies the top of the book, and tail edge, of course, describes the bottom.

Fore edges may appear rough, or deckled, which used to indicate that the paper had been hand-made, and was, in fact, characteristic of quality books into the late 19th, and early 20th centuries. Today, limited edition books, or private press releases may still be constructed of hand-made paper, but machine-made deckled fore edges are now common, too, in large print runs of popular authors.

Deckled-edge pages

With the Industrial Revolution, book publishing became mechanized and page edges were, finally, able to be cleanly and evenly trimmed. Machine-trimmed pages are considered cut, and described as smooth, or clean edged.

Uncut pages are exactly what you might think – pages that have not been cut, or trimmed, in any way, during manufacturing i.e. deckled pages, or unopened pages cut before reading.

Unopened pages

Photo credit: By London School of Economics and Political Science’s Library

Unopened pages may occur during the binding process when pages have not been properly trimmed. Years ago, long, long before I was ever aware of book collecting, I received a biography of Edgar Allan Poe, whose stories I was avidly reading at the time. When I sat down with the book, I discovered the pages were ‘stuck’ together at the top at regular intervals. I think part of me knew that I might have been holding something old and valuable but, on the other hand, part of me said, “to heck with it, read the book.” So I did.

And, in case anyone is wondering – no, I didn’t take much care cutting the pages. I used my fingernail, not a paper knife or a playing card. Unfortunately.

Photo credit (top): diannehope via

Half-Title Page

Half-Title Page:  In publishing’s early days, books were sold unbound. This custom allowed the purchaser to select their own binding material in a colour of their own choosing when they could afford it. Unfortunately, this also meant that the loose piles of paper were subjected to extra handling, and were at risk of being damaged. In order to protect the manuscript’s, often decorative, Title Page during transport, booksellers topped the pile with a single sheet of paper holding only the title.

Half Title & Title Page

Half-Title Page (left) and Title Page (right)

Originally called the Bastard-Title Page, this practice has become tradition and, even though we buy our books bound, today, with the title on the cover, the half-title page is still a part of every book.

Photo credit (top): ttronslien via

Guess What I Found?

A few months ago, our local library held a book sale; it was their semi-annual fundraiser of library discards, and patron donations. I was joined by a couple of dozen others, and ever so carefully, each of us made our way through all the tables, and inside all the boxes underneath them. I think most of us were a bit excited, but then again, searching for buried treasure is like that.

One of the books I picked up was called Icebound: A Doctor’s Incredible Battle For Survival At the South Pole by Dr. Jerri Nielson with Maryanne Vollers. The blurb on the back described a doctor who, while wintering over at the South Pole, discovers she has breast cancer and is forced to treat herself until help can arrive in the spring. It had a familiar ring to it. I was sure I’d caught the tail end of a made-for-TV movie, a few years back, based on this very same account.

When I flipped open the front cover, I found a label there. Not just any label, though, it identified this book as a Bookcrossing release. (More on Bookcrossing here.) Aha, I thought, a treasure – and into my box of books it went.

I was anxious to get Icebound home; open up the website and trace its journey to North Battleford, SK. Online, I discovered it had been purchased at a Saskatoon Symphony sponsored garage sale, read, then passed on to the purchaser’s sister. That’s where the record stopped but it didn’t take long for me to log on, and to record its new location as Cut Knife, SK.

I’ve since read the book. It’s an amazing tale of courage in a truly inhospitable environment, described by Dr. Jerri Nielson with honesty and candour. She tells her story with such affection for that icebound continent that I’ve been inspired to read more on arctic exploration.

Anyway, a couple of weeks ago, I passed Icebound on to a friend in a controlled release. And, now, because my curiosity will force me to, I’ll have to check in occasionally to follow the rest of its journey!

Photo credit (top): Plume via

Readers Rule!

Flipping through the April 25th edition of People magazine, I came across a blurb about “The Hunger Games” entitled “Nerds Rule.” The movie had just hit the theatres a couple of weeks earlier; their PR was everywhere and here was, yet, again, more commentary. This had an interesting twist, though. Read on:

“Rejoice bookworms, for we are the most powerful people in Hollywood. Mega-hit series like “The Hunger Games,” “Harry Potter” and “Twilight” make studios ever more reliant on readers to know what will sell, which means they have to listen to fans. In the end, Hollywood has a simple choice, really: Surrender or die.”

Point taken. These movies were made because of the popularity of the books upon which they were based, and they’ve generated billions of dollars in profits. So, think about that. The shear number of copies sold had to have been enough to inform Hollywood producers, and their financial backers that a blockbuster production would almost certainly be successful. But . . . are there really that many bookworms out there?

In 2009, an American agency, The National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), published the results of their most recent survey of the reading habits of Americans: Reading on the Rise. For the first time in 25 years, they had figures to show that the amount of literature read in the United States had increased; the actual number of people reading literature had increased, and the fastest growing segment of readers was young adults, aged 18 – 24. And, that demographic, co-incidentally, is the same demographic responsible for the bulk of movie ticket purchases (stats here).

In Canada, in 2003, the Association for Canadian Studies was commissioned to poll Canadians on their reading habits in the six months prior to the survey. Only 15% of respondents had not read any books at all in the previous six months. Among 18 – 29 year-olds, only 14% had not read a book in that time period but a whopping 44% had read from 1 – 5 books. For the full story, click here.

It’s great to see that literacy initiatives are succeeding; that engaging novels are being written, and that a love of reading is being nurtured.  As the NEA concluded in their report: “Cultural decline is not inevitable.”

Photo credit (top): Music, Movies, Thoughts.

Social Media for Book Lovers

In April, 2001, Ron Hornbaker and friends launched a website, BookCrossing, designed as a social media platform for book lovers. Not only was it intended to facilitate endless discussions about books, it was also expected to serve as a lending library. Now, almost 11 years later, with over one million current members and about nine million registered books in 132 countries, BookCrossing can only be considered a success.

How does it work?

Label.  Become a member (for free). Register your book to receive a unique BookCrossing I.D. number. Then, download a label to print out or purchase labels online to attach to the inside of your book.

Share.  Give your book away in a controlled release i.e. either to a friend or at an Official BookCrossing Zone (OBCZ) or release it into the wild by leaving it in a public place i.e. a bus stop bench, a coffee shop table, etc.

Follow.  When your book is caught, the label will encourage the catcher to report the book’s capture by entering the BCID on the website. This allows you to track your book’s journey from reader to reader and, in some cases, from country to country.

The website is filled with ‘how to’ information, member lists, book lists, discussion forums, newsletters, stats, convention info (on five continents, no less) and bios and photos of the people behind it all.

Canada is in the top ten of participating countries around the world with over 47,000 registered BookCrossers. Saskatchewan, my home province, surprised me with 1400 members and, although Saskatoon and Regina host the majority of them, small rural communities everywhere are represented, too.

As I write this, my curiosity is beginning to get the better of me. I just may have to join, if only to release a book into the wild and track its travels. How about you? Tempted?

Photo credit (top):  via


Murder in the BookshopWhile clicking around the internet for last week’s post, Bibliophiles vs. Bookworms, I learned a new word. It seems books written about books (and libraries and writing, publishing and collecting and bookselling, etc.) are called Biblios. There’s an infinite variety of them, fiction and non-fiction alike, and they’ve been filling the space on our bookshelves for a long, long time.

Diane Plumley is a writer for The Bookshop Blog and is crazy for mystery novels. She’s written a series of posts describing dozens of biblios within the mystery genre. She’s also included a couple of links, one to a list of biblios at Mystery Readers International and, a second, to Bibliomysteries, a whole website devoted completely to them. So, if murder and mystery within the book-world are of interest to you, these lists should keep you in reading material for years to come.

Of course, books about books also exist beyond the world of mysteries. Good Reads features an 354 item list (and counting) of biblios with each entry containing the book jacket blurb, the publishing info, a star rating and reader reviews. They’ve listed children’s books, and adult fiction as well as selections from almost every non-fiction category, which makes for a whole bunch of different reading choices. The Fine Books Magazine blog has a 2010 holiday gift list featuring 50 non-fiction books for bibliophiles, and finishes it up with the 10 best fiction biblios published that year.

Needless to say, these lists are not exhaustive, and with new biblios being published all the time, bibliophiles needn’t worry about having an endless supply!

Photo credit (top): jeanniet6 via