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"Scars of Independence. America's Violent Birth" Topic

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572 hits since 11 Mar 2018
©1994-2018 Bill Armintrout
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Fatuus Natural11 Mar 2018 11:10 a.m. PST

I recently purchased a hardback copy of Holger Hoock's Scars of Independence: Americas' Violent Birth. It arrived in the post yesterday. I was surprised to find that the right edges of every single page have been cut to a different breadth, giving the book a distinctly ragged appearance and making it quite difficult to leaf through it. I have only previously seen books in this state which were printed a century ago and sold with the sheets still folded, so that they had to be hand cut by the purchaser.

Does anyone else own a copy of Scars of Independence? Is yours also like this, or is my copy a defective one? The book is published by an American subsidiary of Penguin Random House, and its general layout is rather American. Is this ragged page edge a common thing in American books perhaps to confer some kind of faux antiquity?

DisasterWargamer Supporting Member of TMP11 Mar 2018 12:14 p.m. PST

Looking on Amazon – the book is listed as a Hardcover with a Deckle Edge


Not common in my collection of hardcovers

raylev311 Mar 2018 12:40 p.m. PST

It's not common, but some publishers do it once in a while.

Fatuus Natural11 Mar 2018 12:45 p.m. PST

Thank you! I had never heard of Deckle Edge before, it's completely unknown in British publishing, but google produces the explanation that it is "a type of industrially produced paper with rough cut edges used in the book trade" and

"Often called uncut or untrimmed edges, deckle edges are a topic of some confusion and debate in the book world. Once largely unavoidable and probably annoying, the pages are now a conscious design choice, and while some are for it, and some are against it, a lot of people are just confused by it. Here at AbeBooks we've seen some customers receive a deckle edge book and feel unhappy, as though the binder or publisher had done a sloppy, unfinished job with the book. The deckle edge was unavoidable until the 19th century, a byproduct of the papermaking process. Since it became unnecessary, the rough edge gradually turned into a status symbol."

So absolutely an attempt to create a faux antiquity. I can't imagine why the publishers thought it was appropriate for this book, which is an excellent piece of modern academic research.

Cerdic Supporting Member of TMP11 Mar 2018 2:17 p.m. PST

Maybe it's a physical manifestation of a scar of independence….

Supercilius Maximus Supporting Member of TMP Inactive Member12 Mar 2018 1:21 a.m. PST

It's not uncommon to find this kind of edge in UK books published up to the 1950s, and was particularly common in the late Victorian era. My copy of Fortescue's "History of the British Army" has all uncut pages (except the map vols which are fold-outs).

Fatuus Natural12 Mar 2018 3:53 a.m. PST

My copy of Fortescue's "History of the British Army" has all uncut pages (except the map vols which are fold-outs).

How do you read it? Or have the pages all now been cut? :)

42flanker12 Mar 2018 4:21 a.m. PST

Every now and then at the British Library, a book turns up from the stacks with a binding section uncut. It happened to me with a copy of General Pichegru's 'memoirs' from 1796. Once I was standing next to a guy who was reporting that he had received a volume entirely uncut.

At this point the book ceases to be an information delivery device. Just for fun, in my case, I asked how quickly I should be able to get access to the pages currently unavailable. I received a long hard look and was advised that it had become a "curatorial matter."

Supercilius Maximus Supporting Member of TMP Inactive Member12 Mar 2018 8:12 a.m. PST

FN – The AWI and Napoleonic sections are pretty well all now cut; outside of those two periods, very little.

rmaker12 Mar 2018 7:25 p.m. PST

Thank you! I had never heard of Deckle Edge before, it's completely unknown in British publishing

Not so. It is far from unknown in British books of the 18th, 19th, and early 20th Century.

Fatuus Natural12 Mar 2018 11:09 p.m. PST

Actually, no. Books with uncut pages were common back then (as I said in my original post), but Deckle Edge is a modern phenomenon, a deliberate archaism to reproduce the appearance of the old uncut books after they had been cut.

Supercilius Maximus Supporting Member of TMP Inactive Member13 Mar 2018 2:19 a.m. PST

Agreed – I'd never heard of the term "deckle edge" before.

Fatuus Natural13 Mar 2018 2:36 a.m. PST

I wrote that in a bit of a hurry – the dreaded closure for maintenance (which always seems to strike just when I am about to start the day's work) was seconds away.

Thinking about it more, and doing a bit more googling, I realise I'm confusing two things, books which were bound and sold with the pages folded and uncut (technically called 'unopened' I believe) and those which were printed and bound using sheets of ragged edged or deckle edge paper (technically called 'uncut', because the ragged edges had not been trimmed to a clean even edge).

Both were found in Britain until the middle of the last century. It is the modern phenomenon of faux 'deckle edging', which replicates the appearance of both unopened and uncut books, which is unknown in modern British mainstream publishing.

Well, unknown to me, anyway, though no doubt some special interest publisher somewhere is occasionally producing de luxe editions with deckle edges for the discerning connoisseur.

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