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- To: BOOK_ARTS-L@LISTSERV.SYR.EDU
- Subject: Spine Titles
- From: Richard Minsky <minsky@MINSKY.COM>
- Date: Mon, 3 Nov 1997 12:51:24 -0500
- Message-Id: <199711031749.JAA15464@SUL-Server-2.Stanford.EDU>
- Sender: "The Book Arts: binding, typography, collecting" <BOOK_ARTS-L@LISTSERV.SYR.EDU>
>Why is it that American bookmakers orient the text on book spines
>from the head of the volume to its tail, while German and French
>titles are turned in the opposite direction?
America was invented later. My belief is that early codices were stored
closed and horizontal, resting on their front covers. This belief comes from
having had many incunabula pass through my hands, the titles of which were
handwritten in ink on the foredge or tail edge, and many were oriented so
they read properly with the back cover on top. This includes chain bindings
as well as unattached volumes.
Spine titling was a later development, and gold titled spines seem to have
sprung up in the 16th c. Title labels were added to earlier books. I'd be
surprised if there weren't exceptions.
European (English included) titles do tend to continue the "right
reading-book closed" tradition. In general, European bookbinding has tended
to stick more with tradition than American. Perhaps the Americans, having
entered the field later on, noticed that the books which were not shelved
vertically, but were on the coffee table (:>) had to be read standding on
one's head. Father William would have approved of that.