Who Wants “Deckle Edge” Paper?

“Deckle edge” (with quotes) are paper that, once bound, present a jagged fore edge, making the experience of running one’s fingers along the edge of the book a purgatory of paper cuts.

"Deckle edge" paper in a book

The explanation Amazon gives for why some books have “deckle edge” paper is as follows

The first (paper) cuts are the deepest.

So, “deckle edge” paper are a modern, machine-produced paper that’s made to resemble old/hand-made paper . Of course, we all know that when we buy a glossy jacketed book — the kind most likely to feature “deckle edge” — that it’s neither old nor handmade. Nobody will think that it’s either. Anybody who values old books or handmade papers surely knows what these products look like, and “deckle edge” is not going to fool them for a second. Why do we want to pretend that it’s old? Let’s not forget that old papers are deckled because of inferior technology that made it impossible for them to achieve the straight fore edge. “Decked edge” books are not old; they don’t look old; they look odd. Why do commercial publishers insist on producing them?

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5 Responses to Who Wants “Deckle Edge” Paper?

  1. teasandbooks says:

    This post seems to get an inexplicable number of visits. While I’m very happy that you came to my blog, if you see this comment, would you please let me know why you happened on this post? I’m dying to know!

  2. Adrienne says:

    hmmnnn. I have a massive book collection and am currently selling a first edition copy of To Have And Have Not, by Hemingway. The for-edge is deckled. So are the large majority of my 20-50’s copies. I don’t know why.

    • Pray tell, how massive is massive?

      • Adrienne says:

        Eek. That could be misleading if you have a, well, bookstore? Ive got several thousand. A tiny bookstore. I started collecting when I was 16. My first was an itty two inch leather bound copy of Romeo & Juliet that I found at the family antique store when I was working. And the rest is….umm…in my garage. Agghhhh. I know that is incredibly terrible. I have been agonizing over it for years. But, between moves from CA to Ohio to a wedding and two children and multiple apartments in between, book who, book what? My husband, who has read 7 books in his lifetime and much prefers sporting, didnt understand what i was stressing about. Until i began to exhume titles from my mothers basement (which, fyi, is a terrible storage location-but if you have read this far, you probably know that). I said, “Honey, here is one of the first editions I was talking about. If it was “fine” (which it wasn’t, thanks to the poor and drunken decision making of my 20 something’s) we could get $4k” Well, that caught his attention. And they have since been exhumed from the depths of book basement despair, some nestled safely in their sealed boxes, others having been crushed and exposed to the “damp” side of the basement. I almost cried when I pulled out some of the boxes titled, “fav’s 1800’s” only to have the bottoms fall out; and the once-victorian-goodness fall out in soiled pieces. However, I cant really complain. Because tons of it is still great, and as I browse some of the ruined albeit unique titles, most are not valuable. As I jetted off to Spain at an entitled 26, requesting my mom move the entire collection to her new house, I should have been greeted with a crazy “no”. But she did it! A good momma. So that garage-full is a thankful one.

        Wait, you asked me one question, right? Sigh.

        • Book collecting is such an awesome activity! I don’t collect myself, but I the voyeuristic insights from those who do. So thanks for sharing. By the way, I really like the books on the subject book collecting that Lawrence and Nancy Goldstone wrote together (particularly Used and Rare: Travels in the Book World’). Have you run into these writers? Don’t they just make you wish that you, too, can move to a New England farm and start traipsing around for rare books every weekend?

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