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How do publishers make rough-cut pages?
July 26, 2006 7:55 AM   Subscribe

BookFilter: I have a book ("The Essential Confucius" by Thomas Cleary) that has rough-cut pages. Instead of the pages being perfectly square, the outer edge looks raw and uneven. It's a really neat effect, and makes the book feel older and more weathered than it really is. Does anyone know how publishers produce these rough-cut pages?
posted by kaufmajm to Education (11 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
 
Book-club edition. It's actually cheaper to cut the that way; I gather: They trim the *unfolded* signatures, then fold and stitch.
posted by baylink at 7:58 AM on July 26, 2006


It's called a "deckle edge."
"The feather edge or edges of a sheet of paper formed where the stock flows against the deckle, or, in handmade papers, by the stock flowing between the frame and the deckle of the mold."
posted by Floydd at 7:59 AM on July 26, 2006


It's not always the "book-club edition"...that seems a little harsh. Although if by that, you mean that it's often done for special edition sorts of things, that is true. I know the centennial Steinbeck reissues and the Penguin Classics Deluxe edition both have that sort of edge.
posted by redsparkler at 8:05 AM on July 26, 2006


Those are uncut pages, you see that a lot in older books, but I guess it has maybe become the trendy thing to do in modern publishing.
posted by fire&wings at 8:10 AM on July 26, 2006


I know this is what you meant, but it's the printer that makes the rough-cut pages (not the publisher). The publisher might specify that look, but technically (ha ha), it's the printer that does the job.
posted by Alt F4 at 8:20 AM on July 26, 2006


I'm not an expert. I took one class.

But when they sew a "proper" (i.e. not perfect-bound) book together, they'll take (or at least they used to take) a very large sheet of paper, and print 2n pages on it (usually 2, 4, 8, or 16). Then, they fold the pages together so that the size of the rectangle is the size of your book. This is a signature.

If you follow along at home, you'll note that once the paper is folded a few times, the edges of the little bundle you've got are now enclosed. In order to open the book, you'd have to make a long cut down as many as three sides.

And since a book will have many different signatures, you'll have to make multiple cuts. Since you're making multple different cuts, and your pages aren't aligned perfectly anyway, you end up with rough edges.

If you wanted to get rid of them, you plane the edges flush, but you don't have to, and if you don't you get the effect you're describing.
posted by Hildago at 8:28 AM on July 26, 2006 [1 favorite]


Adding to Hildago's comment: In ye olden days (and perhaps still currently), the publisher wouldn't cut the pages along the outer edge at all, and you'd have to do it yourself, meaning that you'd need a knife to be able to read a book, as described in "if upon a winter's night a traveller..." by Italo Calvino.
posted by LionIndex at 8:37 AM on July 26, 2006 [2 favorites]


[T]he publisher wouldn't cut the pages along the outer edge at all, and you'd have to do it yourself, meaning that you'd need a knife to be able to read a book, as described in "if upon a winter's night a traveller..." by Italo Calvino.

Or in Madame Bovary:
On the other side of the passage was Charles's consulting room, a little room about six paces wide, with a table, three chairs, and an office chair. Volumes of the "Dictionary of Medical Science," uncut, but the binding rather the worse for the successive sales through which they had gone, occupied almost along the six shelves of a deal bookcase.
posted by Johnny Assay at 8:57 AM on July 26, 2006


Hidalgo's comments are accurate when describing a hand-made book, but a commercial book printer has a three knife trimmer to trim the edges of the collated signatures, leaving a nice, smooth edge. If they want a fore edge deckle, they put a deckle knife in the trimmer to get the look they want.
posted by Floydd at 9:24 AM on July 26, 2006 [2 favorites]


Wasn't even thinking about that.

If the edges of the pages are rough *as you look at a page*, that's deckle.

If the *stack of the pages* is rough -- specifically, scalloped -- *as you look at the edge of the closed book*, then *that's* what I call "book club", and some other people called "flat-trimmed".
posted by baylink at 11:56 AM on July 26, 2006


See, I did not know they did that. Thanks Floydd.
posted by Hildago at 7:40 PM on July 26, 2006


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