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Re: Spine Titles

For modern European language books, the most obvious logical  position of the
title is facing upward when the book is laying flat, title page on top.  This
way you can read both the titled spine and cover. However, logic has less to
do with it today than habit. I have seen modern books from the same English
publisher, similar in every way, titled in opposing ways. Same with
Continental books. The long series of ' Archaeologias' from the Society of
Antiquaries in England is an example of Academia contrariness.

Conjecture:  Early printed books were often published in serial form,
distributed unbound in parts, and stored unbound in the 'stacks', [still
called 'stacks' in a modern public library] so it would make sense to lay them
with the first part on the bottom, and then place each new part face down on
the 'stack'. This kept the parts in the right order as each new section was
received. The title was printed on a label and laid, tied or pinned onto the
spine so that it was face up while the book was face down. When the completed
book went to a bindery, barring instructions to the contrary, the title would
have been transcribed as laid on.

Art Rubino
Numismatic & Philatelic Arts of Santa Fe
Antiquarian Book Sellers
P.O. Box 9712
Santa Fe, NM 87504  USA
Phone  505 982 8792
Fax      505 982 0291
Email  Art_Rubino@xxxxxxx

We are always interested in buying fine Numismatic & Philatelic books.

Subject:        Spine Titles

>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.


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