Wednesday, June 23, 2010

A Rare Occurance in These Modern Times - Uncut or Unopened Books

Have you ever been reading a book and find that you can't read the next page because it has never been cut?  But this surprisingly happened to me just the other day while I was reading my copy of Lark Rise to Candleford. Of course this used to be a common occurrence with older books, and it was de riguer in Austen's lifetime. Ever wondered why Mr. Bennet in the BBC miniseries has a knife whilst sitting in his study avoiding the shrill cries of his wife? And no, not just plotting on his behalf. People actually kept knives ("paperknives") nearby in order to open said pages... they weren't there to keep away book pilferers as you might have thought. So out of interest I wandered to the lovely web and looked up uncut pages only to find I have been using a misnomer for years, I should have been saying unopened pages! Also it turns out I should have used a parring knife not a regular old knife... but it turned out better than the time I tried to do it with my finger to the first volume of Pride and Prejudice that was my grandmother's when I was a teenager and it now has a very "badly opened" page indeed (ie torn and raggedy).

As the book collector's glossary explains unopened pages: "A state where the book's pages at the fore edge and/or top are still joined from the folding. This cannot occur if the book has been properly cut. At one time many books were issued unopened, and it is not uncommon to find older books still in this pristine state."

It further goes on to say: "A rare book that is unopened may be considerably more valuable than that same book opened. Therefore, one should consider carefully before opening a book. Of course, you cannot read a book that is unopened, at least not in its entirety."

Hmmm, I understand book collecting...but I think you'd want to be able to read it!?!

A final note: "If you wish to "Open" a book in order to read it, DO NOT USE A VERY SHARP BLADE TO OPEN IT. Use something like a letter opener, and gently TEAR the fold, DO NOT CUT THE FOLD. You may find it useful to sharpen the crease at the fold before you attempt to open it. Don't use your finger to open a book, either. (See I knew it was wrong!) That is guaranteed to result in a book that is "Badly Opened", with rough, ragged tears that extend into the page. "

Sigh, to live in a world where I could meet a gentleman who carried around a paperknife just so that his reading wouldn't be interrupted! But at least we have Bortoletti, who specialize in reading accouterments...including paperknives!


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