share

Define Your Terms

February 24, 2009

090224TermsFullGS

Above: A sketch of book parts and the terms relating to them. See the post for more details. Click on the image for an enlargment. The sketch is on Quatro 8 x 8 grid paper that comes padded from Hand Book Journal Company (I just know someone is going to wonder).

A short while ago one of my blog readers wrote in and asked if I would write about the terms I use when talking about "the book." She had been confused about my use of "Verso" and "Recto" when referring to pages. In context she'd ultimately worked it out, but she wanted more definitions. (These are simply the Latin terms for left and right applied at a time when Latin was the "universal language.")

Initially I put off the task. I thought I could handle it by pulling diagrams and discussion from my class handouts, or just writing a new post. Each time I thought about it however, the sheer magnitude of the task made me elect to write on other topics first. And so it went, until this morning when I decided that with a few quick sketches and some handwritten notes I could cover a lot of what I constantly refer to.

That's the purpose of today's image. The terms here are not comprehensive—different binding traditions have different names for different elements such as signatures (also called sections). Also any good book on binding will have an introductory section that will label all this stuff and define it for the context of the author's discussion within the book.

Additionally because of my background in print publication design I may be the only visual journaler on the planet who will talk about the active area on the page as the "live area." Since the journal is trimmed before anyone adds stuff to the page that term doesn't have the importance it has when working with large presses printing entire signatures on one sheet to be folded and trimmed. There what you don't get in the "live area" of the page is going to get trimmed off.

But there you have it, any discussion of bookbinding with me will involve some cross use of printing vocabulary, just as any in-person discussion with me will involve slang and vocabulary from more than one continent, artifacts of my upbringing.

For in-depth, traditional discussions of bookbinding terms I refer you to any good bookbinding book (many of which I've listed before). My page "The Essential Bookshelf for Bookbinders" is a good place to find some books to begin this learning. I used to have a book that was a sort of dictionary of bookmaking terms. Sadly I can't find the book or remember the author(s). I recall being very frustrated with some of the definitions and that may explain its absence from my own bookbinding bookshelf.

With any discussion the definition of one term leads to the need to define another term, and another, and so on. When I sketched books in the above diagram, I focused only on hardcover or casebound books. These differ from soft-cover, pamphlet style books in that these soft-cover books are typically not multi-signature structures (example exceptions: Japanese Double Pamphlet, Japanese 4-needle or Butterfly Stitch books; but even these can be made as hard cover books!). Some hard cover books do not have cases but only hard covers and exposed spines (e.g., coptic stitch). (This sentence has just defined the term exposed spine for you: a structure where the sewing or other binding method of a book is exposed without spine covering.)

Remember too that language changes. Just as Latin was once the universal language of trade, education, etc. that gave way to other tongues. And usage is constantly being changed by the users. Young designers growing up with the digital world most often work in inches rather than picas (a measuring system, superior in my mind, that relates to earlier printing modes and methods, for a host of interesting reasons). Few people understand how the phrase "mind your ps and qs" came into existence unless they understand the workings of letterpress, handset type, and the glories of the California Case (or strictly the California Job Case). (Mark Twain buffs might know all this and then some not only because of their interest in a great American writer, but also an interest in his life and his occupational skills.) You get my point. Every profession and craft has its own vocabulary which has a historical context and a working context; the latter changes. It's all fascinating.

At least now you'll have a general idea of where I'm coming from and have some books to turn to for additional information. If something isn't clear, you can always ask me.

    • ChrisF
    • February 24, 2009
    Reply

    Thanks so much for this. Many of the terms I recognized. The “headband” has always mystified me. Having done some very minimal bookbinding, I didn’t understand its use.
    This is all much clearer.

    • Nita
    • February 24, 2009
    Reply

    As a reference librarian, I’m always curious about finding books someone mentions that they have used. I found this listing of a bookmaking dictionary, by W.W. Pasko, first published in 1894, republished in 1967: American dictionary of printing and bookmaking;
    containing a history of these arts in Europe and America, with definitions of technical terms and biographical sketches.

    Forgive my librarian obsession 🙂 Might that be the one you remember?

    • Velma
    • February 24, 2009
    Reply

    Roz–are you thinking above of The ABC of Bookbinding by Jane Greenfield (Oak Knoll)? This book has often helped me with the vocabulary since I study binding mostly on my own with the occasional foray to a workshop. I like the page you did, perhaps you could edition it as a broadside for the new binder.

    • Roz
    • February 25, 2009
    Reply

    Chris, I’m glad that helped a bit!

    Roz

    • Roz
    • February 25, 2009
    Reply

    Nita, no need to ask forgiveness for such a great obsession. I’m putting you on my Rolodex!!! Sadly that isn’t the book I was thinking. It was a new book in the 1990s I think and not a revision or second edition, or anything like that. I have totally blanked on the title and authors (but it was a frustrating book).

    Thanks for writing in with a book that we can go look at!

    • Roz
    • February 25, 2009
    Reply

    Velma, I don’t think it was a female author. (And this book you mention you said was helpful!!)

    I will try to keep an eye out for the “bad” book. To warm people, but since you liked this one you mentioned people can have a look at it!

    • Velma
    • February 25, 2009
    Reply

    This is what happens when one reads blogs and then tries to write coherently after a day with the teen hooligans. I do recommend the ABCs book. It looks simple and sort of unassuming, but it is loaded with info, drawings and definitions. It was recommended on the book arts list serv once upon a time.

  1. Reply

    I see that Boris Johnson, the new London Mayor wants Latin and Greek to be taught in all London schools. However I would prefer Esperanto on the basis that it helps all language learning.

    Five British schools have introduced Esperanto in order to test its propaedeutic values. The pilot project is being monitored by the University of Manchester and the initial encouraging results can be seen at http://www.springboard2languages.org/Summary%20of%20evaluation,%20S2L%20Phase%201.pdf
    You might also like to see http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-8837438938991452670

    Pope Benedict also used this language this year in his Urbi et Orbi address from the Vatican, at Christmas.

    If you have time can I ask you to visit http://uk.youtube.com/watch?v=_YHALnLV9XU or http://www.lernu.net Professor Piron was a translator for the United Nations in Geneva.

    • Roz
    • March 1, 2009
    Reply

    I have to say I’m a fan of Latin and Greek because those languages form such a base of English, and for those reasons I think I would side with Johnson on the teaching of it in all schools.

    But I know only a smidge about Esperanto so I will use these links you’ve provided to see some of the results you speak of.

    Thanks.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

RozWoundUp
Close Cookmode

Pin It on Pinterest