Front edge

Where is a book’s spine? And its signatures?  And if you browse Amazon’s used book descriptions, and see that a book has some foxing, do you want that book?

On the right is a marbled fore-edge on a Koran that was given to me. [the Abdullah Yusuf Ali translation, published in 1991 by Sh. Muhammad Ashraf, Publishers in Lahore, Pakistan]

While trying to find out what part of a book is the fore-edge, I discovered Joan M. Reitz’s Online Dictionary for Library and Information Science, an online dictionary of library terms, with lots of cross links for easy and addictive browsing.  As of 2004, the dictionary had some 4200 terms. Here is what it says about fore-edge:

The outer edge of a leaf in a bound publication, or of the sections or cover of a book, opposite the spine or binding edge, the other two edges being the head and tail. The fore-edges of medieval manuscripts were sometimes decorated or labeled in ink, often with the title, because prior to the 16th century books were shelved flat with the fore-edge facing out. Click here to see examples of edge decoration, courtesy of the Princeton University Library. Synonymous with front edge.

Thanks to the format of the online entries, it’s also possible to see the neighboring entry for “fore-edge shelving”, and find the esoteric information that it’s possible to add at least two shelves to a standard 90-inch-high library bookshelf section by storing the books on their spines. Since this hides the titles, it makes browsing difficult, so it’s only done with little used collections, like volumes of a law library. Historically, books have also been stored with spines to the rear, with a similar damping effect on browsing; for some intriguing images of titles and volume numbers printed on spines, see the links to the 16th century books in the Princeton University Library collection  in the above entry.

As a bonus, following her links to the German language library yielded the Beta for a new English/German (and German with 9 other languages) online dictionary that I have now added to the language resources in my list of links/downloads. As a twist in crowd-sourcing, the dictionary solicits information from its readers.

Image below: two dilapidated Bibles with gilded fore-edges rescued from second-hand shops.   The top Bible with the leather cover and red bookmark ribbon is a RSV published in 1953 by Thomas Nelson & Sons.  The bottom Bible is a KJV with a concordance and beautiful pastel maps of the Holy Land in the back; it has no publication date listed and was published by Peerless Bible Co. in Chicago. Some googling turns up an “Antique 1903 Illustrated Family Bible Peerless Bible Co” from a bookseller who no longer has the listing on line. The Bible’s maps are certainly reminiscent of Daniel Burnham’s maps for the 1903 Plan of Chicago.

(via Appositions, Whitney Trettien: “Reading Digital Elisions”)

Some maps:

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