Monday, 16 July 2012

Deckled edges

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n. deckle: "a contrivance in a paper-making machine to confine the pulp within the desired limits, and determine the size or width of the sheet" (OED).

adj. deckled edge: "the rough uncut edge of a sheet of paper, formed by the deckle" (OED).

Interesting article demonstrating how the culture of the book is becoming increasingly strange and inscrutable to those born-digital: "Deckle Detecting" in The Economist, 15July 2012.
The deckle edge was unavoidable until the 19th century, a byproduct of the papermaking process. Since it became unnecessary, the rough edge gradually turned into a status symbol. Advertisements for books in the late 1800s are rife with mentions of a "deckle edge" alongside the fine paper on which a title was printed. But even that aspect has begun to fade as modern book buyers do not know what to make of it.
If the deckled edge is an index of the diminishing symbolic power of the print, is there a corresponding feature of the digital artefact that bespeaks its social prestige, perhaps also a vestige of a bygone era?

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