Page Edges

Photo by diannehope via

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 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.

Half-Title Page

Photo by ttronslien via

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.

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?