Letter #16: Assorted Book Facts and Resources
Much like a box of chocolates, you never know what you're gonna get
Today’s letter will be a bit of hodgepodge of some neat bookish things I’ve been slowly cobbling together over recent months. As a book nerd who gets all kinds of book-related newsletters and emails every day, I stumble upon a LOT of book-related tidbits that don’t really tie in together.
So, please have some neat tidbits and a whole bunch of links for further reading!
World Book Day
According to this handy-dandy chart from Lovecrafts, World Book Day is March 4th! So happy belated World Book Day!
Photo credit: Lovecrafts.com
Side Note: Lovecrafts has some really fun crafting ideas for all kinds of makers! (The name is also pun-y, which is literally why I went to their site, sooo…)
I like popping by their “How To & Ideas” tab to see what’s new. They tend to have free patterns as well!
Curious about the origins of sci-fi? Start with Mary Shelley, none other than the creator of Frankenstein!
Okay, so there’s a site to find and support small independent bookstores? Yes, and it’s adorable great for discovering books!
I stopped by the page today and learned that Tolkien Reading Day is March 25th, so LOTR fans can mark their calendars!
Photo credit: Bookshop.org
Their page is so colorful and full of curated (sometimes quite specific) lists of books to scroll through. It also even lists how much the community has raised for local bookshops. The page just made me smile when I found this linked over on r/books!
Also, r/books is a thing. (It’s a Reddit community by, for, and about booklovers and books.)
ISBN 10 vs. ISBN 13
So your girl likes to read the supplementary pages for books, along with the back cover details like the price comparisons (U.S. vs. Canada, for example), cover designer, cover artist, genre (if listed), and ISBN. You never know when that stuff will come in handy!
While cataloging our tiny home library* (part of a longer project to discuss another day), I noticed some books had ISBNs labeled as ISBN-13 or ISBN-10. I immediately wondered why there was a difference and what purpose it served.
ISBN (short for “International Standard Book Number”) first came about in 1967 in with 10 digits. ISBN’s predecessor, “Standard Book Number”, originated in 1966 with a 9-digit system but became a fully 10-digit system in 1970. Since 2007, ISBNs have been 13 digits.
So the main identifier between the two is if it’s 10 digits, the book was published before 2007, and if it’s 13 digits, the book was published after 2007.
Curious what the numbers mean? So was I!
Here’s the Anatomy of an ISBN
Prefix element* used only for ISBN-13 (usually the number 978)
Registration group element that identifies the country or geographic area
Registrant element that identifies a publisher in that group
Publication element that identifies the title o edition of a title)
Check digit is the last digit that authenticates the ISBN
These elements are usually separated by hyphens or spaces, but not always.
*Prefix elements are only used for ISBN-13, which is comprised of five parts. Both ISBN-10 and ISBN-13 share the other four elements.
Photo credit: International Standard for Standardization
(ISO) accessed through the Wayback Machine
The numbers essentially add up to give publishers, librarians, and computers a way to register, process, and identify the book.
A Note: *When I say ‘home library,’ I get visions of sweeping, grandiose halls of books; when in reality, ours is a tiny bookshelf with books scattered throughout the rest of the house. But really, a library is a collection of books.
It doesn’t intrinsically matter how many books there are or how ornately they’re displayed. When two or more books are gathered in the name of literature, it’s a library. Technically.
Book Edges and Fore Edge Painting
Not surprisingly, I fell down another rabbit hole when I searched “speckled edge pages” because I wasn’t sure if that was the correct phrasing for the page edges of books that look well… speckled.
In doing so, I managed to stumble upon this delightful video about book edges and fore edge painting. I had heard of fore edge painting from Ava Love Hanna’s wonderful “The Short Story” newsletter a few months ago, but this just solidified my love for hidden book decoration!
Like, I can make these! I can take my books and make them even prettier? Possibly. Hopefully. I tend to be decent-ish at painting, so I might give this a go at some point!
Also, I have now learned about Holly Dunn’s gorgeous work! Check out her book cover artwork here.
It’s Paratext Time!
I recently learned this term after reading this gloriously informative article all about paratext. Paratext is all that meta stuff that goes into making a book. How it was published, what the cover design looks like, the social context and time period it was published in, any awards it received, how it was marketed to the public, all of that stuff. The provenance, if you will.
Also, the author pulls up JSTOR and Oxford Reference, so way to go for the scholarly sources! I used a whole lot of scholarly articles and reviews from the JSTOR database for my English degree, so I have a bit of a soft spot for it.
The Anatomy of a Book
This article offers a comprehensive A-Z guide to book anatomy.
From here, I learned that colophon is a page in the back of a book with additional publisher information, like the publishing date and font type. Oftentimes, this information gets lumped in with the copyright page at the front of the book. I actually don’t remember ever having seen publishing information at the back of a book, but I do tend to look for the font type in the front.
For example, the copyright page of my 2007 First Hyperion Paperbacks edition of Percy Jackson and the Sea of Monsters tells me the book is set in 13-point Centaur MT. So if you’re curious about that classic PJO style font, it’s Centaur MT.
Also, never missing a chance to shoutout The Newest Olympian podcast! I have this particular book next to me on my desk because I’m currently rereading it for the third (maybe fourth?) time as Mike Schubert, the host of my favorite pod, reads it for the first time. Much like our host references Hades the video game every chance he gets, so do I reference the pod every chance I get :)
There’s a plethora of terms in this list that just kept me nodding like, “Ohhh, that’s what that’s called? Makes a lot of sense.” Like endpapers (those extra pages in the front and back between the cover and the rest of the book), raised band (those raised line bits on the spines of old books), and print number (numbers listed on the copyright page that show how many printings there have been of that edition).
It seems fairly poetic that two book pages (or one single sheet) end up being called leaves, or a leaf, when books are made of trees.
I was curious if the term “leaflet” had similar origin and yes, it does seem to relate!
According to the Online Etymology Dictionary, leaf comes from the “Old English leaf ‘leaf of a plant, foliage; page of a book, sheet of paper’ [emphasis added]…To turn over a (new) leaf (1590s; 1570s as turn the leaf) "begin a new and better course of life" is a reference to the book sense [emphasis added].”
Leaflet is also associated with the term folio, which makes sense, given that folios were folded sheets of paper that were then written on. The Wordsworth Dictionary of Phrase & Fable’s entry for folio states that the word comes from the Latin word for “leaf,” folium.
In terms of book printing, the entry states that:
A book in folio, in [one] sheet, is a book, the sheets of which have been folded once only, so that each sheet makes two leaves… It is also applied to a book of any size. Until the mid-16th century, when printed pagination became common, books were foliated, i.e. numbered on the recto or front of the leaf only and not on the verso. (425)
So it’s very in-line with printing techniques and etymology to call book pages leaves! Also, fun fact: the front side of a page is called the recto and the back is called the verso. The A-Z guide also addresses this, if you’re curious!
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Alright, after all that, I’ll leave you with a neat quote:
“Read, every day, something no one else is reading. Think, every day, something no one else is thinking. Do, every day, something no one else would be silly enough to do. It is bad for the mind to be always part of unanimity.” -Christopher Morley
Thanks so much for reading! If you enjoyed, please feel free to leave a comment or share with someone who may enjoy!
Best wishes for the week ahead!
Works Cited (MLA 9th Edition)
“About the ISBN Standard.” ISBN.org, International ISBN Agency, https://www.isbn.org/about_isbn_standard#:~:text=For%20more%20than%20thirty%20years,converter%20found%20at%20this%20website.
Brewer, Ebenezer Cobham. The Wordsworth Dictionary of Phrase and Fable. Wordsworth Editions Ltd, 1994.
“FAQs: General Questions.” ISBN.org, International ISBN Agency, https://www.isbn.org/faqs_general_questions.
“International Standard Book Number.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 22 Feb. 2022, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/International_Standard_Book_Number.
“ISBN History.” ISBN.org, R. R. Bowker LLC, http://www.isbn.org/ISBN_history.
ISO/TC46/SC9/WG4. “Frequently Asked Questions about the New ISBN Standard.” FAQs about the ISBN (International Standard Book Number) Revision Project, ISO, 31 May 2005, https://web.archive.org/web/20070610160919/http://www.lac-bac.gc.ca/iso/tc46sc9/isbn.htm#How.
Jensen, Kelly. “An A–Z Guide to the Parts of a Book.” BOOK RIOT, Riot New Media Group, 26 Jan. 2021, https://bookriot.com/the-parts-of-a-book/.
“Leaflet (n.).” Online Etymology Etymology, Douglas Harper, https://www.etymonline.com/word/leaflet#:~:text=Old%20English%20leaf%20%22leaf%20of,another%20PIE%20root%20see%20folio.
Nassor, R. “How We Sell Stories: A Brief History of Paratext.” BOOK RIOT, Riot New Media Group, 16 July 2021, https://bookriot.com/history-of-paratext/.
I handout loose documents all the time! I had no idea the front was called the recto and the back was called the verso! So cool to know they have names! : )
Love this Post! When I see that you have listed a new one, I "book" it to your site to check it out!!! Great work on this one and thanks for the education~~~