(Originally published on the Windscape Book Company blog.)
Fore edge: the edge of the book directly opposite the spine, and may refer to either the boards or the pages. Top edge specifies the top of the book, and tail edge, of course, describes the bottom.
Fore edges may appear rough, or deckled, which used to indicate that the paper had been hand-made, and was, in fact, characteristic of quality books into the late 19th, and early 20th centuries. Today, limited edition books, or private press releases may still be constructed of hand-made paper, but machine-made deckled fore edges are now common, too, in large print runs of popular authors.
With the Industrial Revolution, book publishing became mechanized and page edges were, finally, able to be cleanly and evenly trimmed. Machine-trimmed pages are considered cut, and described as smooth, or clean edged.
Uncut pages are exactly what you might think – pages that have not been cut, or trimmed, in any way, during manufacturing i.e. deckled pages, or unopened pages cut before reading.
Photo credit: By London School of Economics and Political Science’s Library
Unopened pages may occur during the binding process when pages have not been properly trimmed. Years ago, long, long before I was ever aware of book collecting, I received a biography of Edgar Allan Poe, whose stories I was avidly reading at the time. When I sat down with the book, I discovered the pages were ‘stuck’ together at the top at regular intervals. I think part of me knew that I might have been holding something old and valuable but, on the other hand, part of me said, “to heck with it, read the book.” So I did.
And, in case anyone is wondering – no, I didn’t take much care cutting the pages. I used my fingernail, not a paper knife or a playing card. Unfortunately.