NERD YOUR ENTHUSIASM (16)
November 21, 2021
One in a series of 25 enthusiastic posts, contributed by 25 HILOBROW friends and regulars, on the topic of (one of) their nerdy obsessions.
Used booksellers are experts on the outsides of books. I often find myself—absurdly, embarrassingly—claiming that I’m familiar with a book because I know where it used to sit on a shelf. Lately I find myself thrilled by the edges of books, the normally blank spots. Like white space on a page, they can be fascinating and fertile. I’m always wanting to peek at the edges of books, those liminal spaces, forgotten because they are so meaningless and insubstantial that it takes hundreds of pages together to even earn our notice.
What you will find in scrutinizing the edges of books is various: and can include remainder marks: the colored spray of the industrialized remainder mills along the bottom edge, ownership marks: names, doodles, scrawls, random disfigurations, and gilt or sprayed color to protect the (usually) top edge from dust damage.
All of these are relatively common but occasionally you find treasures on the edges. It’s like running into a carefully decorated curb, public art on a road median, or an explosion of careful graffiti on a cement overpass.
Fore-edge paintings: Made by fanning the pages at an angle, carefully painting the edges, and then gilding the edges so that that painting is obscured unless you fan the edges at an angle again, fore-edge paintings are undeniably delightful. However, as far as I can tell, 90% of all fore-edge paintings made (until very recently) are British landscapes on random leather bound books from the mid 19th century. A view of Oxford on a seventh edition of the works of Oliver Goldsmith or a stream with fishermen on a Waverly novel. However, there are, lurking out there, dirty fore-edge paintings, random amateur fore-edge paintings, and other weird wonders that keep me fanning page edges and hoping.
Gauffered (or goffered) edges: The edges are decorated elaborately, usually by applying gold leaf and then using an implement (pointillé tools) to dent the designs into the edge. They can range from a sine curve of dots to extremely detailed geometric designs. Some designs involve scraping all the way through the gold and then staining the revealed page edges with color.
Marca de fuego: The rarest of these, they are literally “fire marks” or brands that were applied at monastery libraries in colonial New Spain. A hot metal instrument would burn the marks into the top or bottom edge of the book as an ownership mark. It was common practice from the 16th into the 19th century and a database exists of the different marks used. Because Mexican binding practices and the types (usually religious) books that were thus marked, they almost always appear on books bound in parchment.
Interest in fore-edge paintings seems to have been rekindled recently. Gauffering is sort of expensive given the price of gold, but I’m surprised that we haven’t seen any bespoke marca de fuego companies springing up. If you could find the right blacksmith, I think you could really do well.
NERD YOUR ENTHUSIASM: INTRODUCTION by Peggy Nelson | Andrew Sempere on NERDING | Blanca Rego on RAIN | Lucy Sante on PSEUDO-AMERICAN PSEUDONYMS OF FRENCH PULP WRITERS DURING WWII | Heather Cole on AMERICAN GIRL | Nicholas Rombes on OLD GEOLOGY SURVEY BOOKS WITH MAP INSERTS | Susan Roe on TIME | Mark Kingwell on SCALE MODELS | Jessamyn West on THE POST OFFICE | Josh Glenn on ARDUIN | Vanessa Berry on NEWSAGENCY AESTHETICS | Toby Ferris on BRITISH/EALING WW2 FILMS | Annie Nocenti on MOSS | Adam McGovern on JOAN SEMMEL | Gabriela Pedranti on ILLUSTRATED BOOKS | Miranda Mellis on DOUBT | Tom Nealon on PAGE EDGES | Mandy Keifetz on KLINGON CONFIDENTIAL (NOVEL EXCERPT) | Eric Weisbard on SUMMATIONS | Kio Stark on LIBRARY OF CONGRESS CLASSIFICATION CODES | Charlie Mitchell on REPO MAN | James Parker on SEINFELD | Heather Kapplow on NOTHING | Russell Bennetts on VIDEO GAMES: MODE 7 | Vijay Parthasarathy on VIRTUAL TRAVEL | Marc Weidenbaum on NERD PROXIMITY.
KICK YOUR ENTHUSIASM (1Q2022): KUILL | CATO | RAWHIDE | VOLSTAGG | THE APOSTLE PETER & 20 other sidekicks. NERD YOUR ENTHUSIASM (4Q2021): TIME | THE POST OFFICE | ARDUIN | DOUBT | SUMMATIONS | & 20 other nerdy passions. SWERVE YOUR ENTHUSIASM (3Q2021): WARHOL’S WALT WHITMAN | 70, GIRLS, 70 | TYRAEL’S MIGHT | SHIRATO SANPEI | THE LEON SUITES | & 20 other never-realized cultural productions. FIVE-O YOUR ENTHUSIASM (2Q2021): DARK SHADOWS | MANNIX | GET SMART | THE ADDAMS FAMILY | I DREAM OF JEANNIE | & 20 other Sixties (1964–1973) TV shows. FERB YOUR ENTHUSIASM (1Q2021): STEVEN UNIVERSE | TOP CAT | REN & STIMPY | SHE-RA AND THE PRINCESSES OF POWER | DRAGON BALL Z | & 20 other animated series. CARBONA YOUR ENTHUSIASM (2020): “Sex Bomb” | “Going Underground” | “Soft South Africans” | “Typical Girls” | “Human Fly” | & 20 other Seventies (1974–1983) punk singles. KLAATU YOU (2020 weekly): ZARDOZ | METROPOLIS | DARK STAR | SINS OF THE FLESHAPOIDS | SOLARIS | & dozens of other pre-STAR WARS sci-fi movies. CONVOY YOUR ENTHUSIASM (2019): THE TAKING OF PELHAM ONE TWO THREE | ROLLERBALL | BLACK SUNDAY | SORCERER | STRAIGHT TIME | & 20 other Seventies (1974–1983) action movies. SERIOCOMIC (2019 weekly): LITTLE LULU | VIZ | MARSUPILAMI | ERNIE POOK’S COMEEK | HELLBOY | & dozens of other comics. TUBE YOUR ENTHUSIASM (2018): LOONEY TUNES | THREE STOOGES | THE AVENGERS | ROCKY & BULLWINKLE | THE TWILIGHT ZONE | & 20 other Fifties (1954–1963) TV shows. WOWEE ZOWEE (2018 weekly): UNISEX | UNDER THE PINK | DUMMY | AMOR PROHIBIDO | HIPS AND MAKERS | & dozens of other Nineties (1994–2003) albums. KLUTE YOUR ENTHUSIASM (2017): THE KILLERS | BANDE À PART (BAND OF OUTSIDERS) | ALPHAVILLE | HARPER | BLOW-UP | & 20 other Sixties (1964–1973) neo-noir movies. #SQUADGOALS (2017 weekly): THE WILD BUNCH | BOWIE’S BAND | THE BLOOMSBURY GROUP | THE HONG KONG CAVALIERS | VI ÄR BÄST! & dozens of other squads. GROK MY ENTHUSIASM (2016 weekly): THE THEORY AND PRACTICE OF LUNCH | WEEKEND | MILLION YEAR PICNIC | LA BARONNE EMILE D’ERLANGER | THE SURVIVAL SAMPLER | & dozens more one-off enthusiasms. QUIRK YOUR ENTHUSIASM (2016): “Tainted Love” | “Metal” | “Frankie Teardrop” | “Savoir Faire” | “Broken English” | & 20 other Seventies (1974–1983) new wave singles. CROM YOUR ENTHUSIASM (2015): DARKER THAN YOU THINK | THE SWORD IN THE STONE | OUT OF THE SILENT PLANET | THIEVES’ HOUSE | QUEEN OF THE BLACK COAST | & 20 other Thirties (1934–1943) fantasy novels. KERN YOUR ENTHUSIASM (2014): ALDINE ITALIC | DATA 70 | TORONTO SUBWAY | JOHNSTON’S “HAMLET” | TODD KLONE | & 20 other typefaces. HERC YOUR ENTHUSIASM (2013): “Spoonin’ Rap” | “Rapper’s Delight” | “Rappin’ Blow” | “The Incredible Fulk” | “The Adventures of Super Rhyme” | & 20 other Seventies (1974–1983) hip-hop songs. KIRK YOUR ENTHUSIASM (2012): Justice or vengeance? | Kirk teaches his drill thrall to kiss | “KHAAAAAN!” | “No kill I” | Kirk browbeats NOMAD | & 20 other Captain Kirk scenes. KIRB YOUR ENTHUSIASM (2011): THE ETERNALS | BLACK MAGIC | DEMON | OMAC | CAPTAIN AMERICA | & 20 other Jack Kirby panels.