Saturday, July 24, 2010

Saturday 24 July

~  For a few minutes on the road I'm stuck behind a small tractor with an open trailer on which is a pile of garden rubbish bound for the tip.  Though brown dead matter, it is speckled and patterned with textures of stems and seedheads, and not a few still blue and pink cornflowers, and looks rather like pot pourri.

~  Books of poetry, in French, by Heather Dohollau, a new discovery and a new project, quite a long story already, of which more perhaps later.  But why the knife, you may ask?  Because these books are exquisite artefacts in themselves - even if the lettering on the spine does go the wrong way, never can get used to that - they are handmade with uncut pages.  Should one cut them all at once, or as one goes along? That is the question.

~  It's more chilly than it has been, and rather nice to put on warmer clothes and close the French windows for the evening.


Dale said...

I always think it would be more seemly and respectful to cut pages as I go along, but after the first few I get impatient and cut them all :-)

Julia said...

I uncut all at once as I have the vague suspicion that they cut cleaner if I don't crack the binding first.

Crafty Green Poet said...

oh the joy of a book with pages to cut! Wonderful!

Unknown said...

It's not often that you have the chance to cut pages. I rather relish it as part of the reading and book experience. Also paper cutters are pretty things shaped by utility and pleasingly simple.

20th Century Woman said...

I grew up in a big old house with lots of old books. Many had never been read and had uncut pages. I always cut the pages as I read. I guess I thought that the unread pages should stay in their virgin state, otherwise it would be like pretending to read what I hadn't really read.

Lucy said...


Interesting how many of you have experience of cutting book pages. I don't remember it since I was a kid, except for a very venerable C19th copy of Emerson's essays my brother-in-law bought in an antiquarian bookshop, which was largely uncut, which seemed to me to say something about most people's experience of trying to read Emerson, reassuring that it was the same back in the day.

However, I don't have much experience of buying very old books, nor of the kind of very crafty, limited edition handmade poetry and similar books such as these.

I rather take C20Woman's line that it feels like cheating to cut them all in advance. On the other hand, with poems, it can be good to dot about. Though I'm revising that now I'm reading more single, not selected or anthologised, volumes, which I begin to see should be read through as whole things then dipped into afterwards.

As it is I'm compromising and cutting them in small batches, which removes the slight sense of constraint of having a still joined page immediately up ahead.

Is there a proper tool for the job? I was a little nervous of using the kind of craft cutter I've got around, for fear of damaging the paper, but picked the finest kitchen knife I had and sharpened it, which seems to work well.

Unknown said...

You used to be able to buy paper knives. (I think they were called, specially made for the job. They had almost blunt blades and were pointed at the end of the blade like a proper knife. Often they were ornate and quite attractive. I have a modern one made of wood with a painted bird carved on the top. Of course they were also used for slitting open envelopes. I used to have one carved into a lace like fretwork, made of ivory, Victorian probably. Sad to say, I sat on it and broke it irreperably

Lucy said...

Oh those kind of paper knives. We have one of those, made of some African wood with a carved head on the end. I have a mild aversion to envelopes torn open raggedly with fingers, so we keep it around. But I would fear to try to cut these pages with that, as they are quite thick and soft, so the kitchen knife seems best!

zephyr said...

not sure what it says about me (other than the obvious one: i don't read enough poetry) but i've never had the pleasure of having to cut the pages of a book....however, i did take a book binding course, and we cut all of our papers with a bone folder, which is quite thick...but does the trick with a good crease that follows the grain.