Deckled Edges

The deckle edge dates back to a time when you used to need a knife to read a book, The word appears to be related to the German word “decke” which means cover. Those rough edges simulate the look of pages that have been sliced open by the reader. The printing happened on large sheets of paper which were then folded into rectangles the size of the finished pages and bound. The reader then sliced open the folds. Often the deckled edge is part of the publisher’s “house style” along with certain other flourishes and fonts. It is typically used for more literary-oriented books and they see it as “something that harkens back to an older way.”

If you look closely at a deckle edge, even if you are looking at two copies of the same book, you’ll see slight variations in the edges from title to title and publisher to publisher, the quality and pattern of the edges varies more extensively, from a tight saw-tooth, when looking from the top of the book down the edge of the pages, to a more free-form ragged look.

Prized by collectors. “Deckle is not merely “untrimmed.” It is sort of “untrimmed” on steroids. The French have also been known to produce books with an edge that they call “Gilt on the Rough,” which means that gilt, or gold-leaf has been applied to the deckle edges as well as the close cut top and bottom edges.

In manual paper making, a deckle is a belt used along with a mold to gather up wood pulp from a vat for pressing and drying into sheets. It helps to control the size of the paper produced. Paper with a feathered or soft edge is often said to have a “deckled” edge for this reason as opposed to a cut edge.

Paper can have two types of deckled edge: natural deckles or tear deckles. Natural deckles are the result of the deckle used in mold-made paper, whereas tear deckles are the result of tearing the paper. Often mold-made paper will have a combination of deckled and cut edges depending on the specific size of paper required.


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