Ahead of World Book Day tomorrow, I have a confession . . .
I have a deckle fetish.
Don’t panic, it’s nothing rude! Deckle edges are a book thing – you know those edges that don’t look like they’ve been properly cut and are uneven, giving the book a mysterious and spell-binding appearance (see, told you I loved them!)
That uneven cutting is called a deckle edge. Still don’t know what I mean? Take a look then at these beauties on our shelves in Warwickshire Libraries:
The deckle edge was originally the result of the frame in which paper was handmade – pulp would seep through the frame and, when dry, would leave the uneven edge. It cost more to trim this down, making already expensive books cost more so the edges were often left.
When larger scale paper making emerged with the Industrial Revolution, edges could be more easily trimmed, though this did not spell the end for the deckle edge. Most mass produced books now have straight, trimmed edges, though you will find the odd book with deckled pages. Nowadays, however, these are cut into the straight edge of the book after it has been bound (still looks pretty though!)
Not all book lovers agree that these edges are pleasing – and when I was a bookseller, many a customer commented that a book with these edges was faulty and should be sent back to the publisher. Collecting examples can sometimes be met with scorn – the entry in John Carter and Nicholas Barker’s 2004 edition of ‘ABC for Book Collectors is particularly scathing (see photo) – but for me, they give a book a little something extra special.
Happy deckle hunting!