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10 Terms to Describe the Anatomy of a Book

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ThinkStock

What we think of as a book—a cover supporting a block of pages, backed up by a spine—is one the most successful technological innovations in the history of the world. After all, it was humankind's primary means of information storage and retrieval for over a thousand years.

Books have a lot of admirers. Many people love books not only because of what is written in them, but because they're works of art. And people who love things like to name them. Very thoroughly.

That's why books like John Carter's classic 1952 volume, ABC for Book Collectors, exist. It's a glossary of terms used to describe books. It's far from complete, but it's as delightful for book nerds as Strunk and White’s Elements of Style is for grammar nerds.

Let's look at some of the best terms in the book.

1. Leaves

No, no, they're not green. This is another name for the pages of a book.

2. Endpapers

The papers glued to the inside cover of a hardback book are called endpapers. The side of the page that is glued to the cover is a paste-down and the other side is a free endpaper.

3. Edges

This means the edges of the leaves. It's not a very exciting term in and of itself, but it opens the door for amazing things, like gilt edges and painted fore-edges. If you've never seen a book with a tiny painting on the edges of the pages, you're missing out.

4. Wire lines and chain lines

It used to be common practice in papermaking to lay the wet paper pulp in a frame criss-crossed with wire and shake the water out of it. Nowadays only fancy paper is made this way. The wide-spaced lines are called wire lines. The closer-together lines perpendicular to the wire lines are called chain lines. If you have an old book or a piece of high-end stationery handy, try holding one of the pages up to the light to see if you can see the wire lines and chain lines.

5. Signatures

Much could be said about the way books are assembled. Usually groups of sixteen pages, called signatures, are sewn together. Carter says this term comes from a small notation in the corner of each group of pages that was meant to help the bookbinder put them in the correct order.

6. Manuscript

A manuscript, in book-collecting circles, means a book that was written by hand, not printed.

7. Head-piece

This is an ornament (sometimes called a vignette) printed at the beginning of a chapter or to mark a new section of the book.

8. Half-title

Also called the bastard title, this is the name for the leaf in front of the title page. You probably didn't know there was a name for that.

9. Foxing

This is the word for the yellowish-brown discolorations you sometimes see on the pages of old books. The pages would be described as "foxed."

10. Diaper

Not that kind of diaper. This refers to a diamond or lozenge pattern on some bindings.

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Sagar.jadhav01, Wikimedia Commons // ;CC BY-SA 4.0
New 'Eye Language' Lets Paralyzed People Communicate More Easily
Sagar.jadhav01, Wikimedia Commons // ;CC BY-SA 4.0
Sagar.jadhav01, Wikimedia Commons // ;CC BY-SA 4.0

The invention of sign language proved you don't need to vocalize to use complex language face to face. Now, a group of designers has shown that you don't even need control of your hands: Their new type of language for paralyzed people relies entirely on the eyes.

As AdAge reports, "Blink to Speak" was created by the design agency TBWA/India for the NeuroGen Brain & Spine Institute and the Asha Ek Hope Foundation. The language takes advantage of one of the few motor functions many paralyzed people have at their disposal: eye movement. Designers had a limited number of moves to work with—looking up, down, left, or right; closing one or both eyes—but they figured out how to use these building blocks to create a sophisticated way to get information across. The final product consists of eight alphabets and messages like "get doctor" and "entertainment" meant to facilitate communication between patients and caregivers.

Inside of a language book.
Sagar.jadhav01, Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 4.0

This isn't the only tool that allows paralyzed people to "speak" through facial movements, but unlike most other options currently available, Blink to Speak doesn't require any expensive technology. The project's potential impact on the lives of people with paralysis earned it the Health Grand Prix for Good at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity earlier in June.

The groups behind Blink to Speak have produced thousands of print copies of the language guide and have made it available online as an ebook. To learn the language yourself or share it with someone you know, you can download it for free here.

[h/t AdAge]

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How Bats Protect Rare Books at This Portuguese Library
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Visit the Joanina Library at the University of Coimbra in Portugal at night and you might think the building has a bat problem. It's true that common pipistrelle bats live there, occupying the space behind the bookshelves by day and swooping beneath the arched ceilings and in and out of windows once the sun goes down, but they're not a problem. As Smithsonian reports, the bats play a vital role in preserving the institution's manuscripts, so librarians are in no hurry to get rid of them.

The bats that live in the library don't damage the books and, because they're nocturnal, they usually don't bother the human guests. The much bigger danger to the collection is the insect population. Many bug species are known to gnaw on paper, which could be disastrous for the library's rare items that date from before the 19th century. The bats act as a natural form of pest control: At night, they feast on the insects that would otherwise feast on library books.

The Joanina Library is famous for being one of the most architecturally stunning libraries on earth. It was constructed before 1725, but when exactly the bats arrived is unknown. Librarians can say for sure they've been flapping around the halls since at least the 1800s.

Though bats have no reason to go after the materials, there is one threat they pose to the interior: falling feces. Librarians protect against this by covering their 18th-century tables with fabric made from animal skin at night and cleaning the floors of guano every morning.

[h/t Smithsonian]

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