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Old 03-05-2005, 11:13 AM   #1
Michael Rowley
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Default Always recto, or as it comes?

I'm a little puzzled by the habit, frequently met with nowadays, of starting chapters only on recto pages. It used to be customary to place chapter headings right or left as they happened to fall, apart from the opening chapter, which was always on a righthand page. When did having every chapter heading on a righthand page become almost the rule? I'm talking about books, of course.

   
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Old 03-07-2005, 01:35 AM   #2
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Well, Judith Butcher seems fairly neutral on whether chapters should start on a recto or follow on. She says 'The main text (introduction or chapter 1) always starts on a right-hand page. Later chapters may start on a fresh page, or may run on, separated from the preceding chapter only by a space. If there are to be offprints of individual chapters (in the case of a contributory volume, for example), the chapters will usually start on a right-hand page.'

Starting chapters on a recto does make it easier in situations where authors are likely to make significant changes at proofreading stage as edits causing regagination are more likley to be contained within the affected chapter. It has been my experience with text books that authors frequently make quite major changes at a late date -- frequenly after the extent has been agreed and catalogue entries have been written and the cover designed.

   
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Old 03-07-2005, 07:02 AM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Michael Rowley
When did having every chapter heading on a righthand page become almost the rule? I'm talking about books, of course.
Good question. It often makes for awkward transitions, as well as wasted paper, and I think it interferes with reading.

Hugh Williamson (in Methods of Book Design) doesn’t think much of the idea either:
Even when the text needs to be extended rather than compressed, starting new chapters on recto pages does not tend to work well. Some chapters end recto and others verso, so the new chapter heading will sometimes face a blank verso and sometimes a full one, a variation which may puzzle the reader.
He then points out that beginning chapters on recto pages may be necessary for collections of articles (in a technical journal, say) that may also be reprinted as separate papers.

Going the other way, books from early in the 20th century sometimes had chapters just running on, with the new title after a bit of blank space. I never liked that. Messy looking, and you lose a useful aid to finding new chapters (or just remembering where you were reading). And the publisher looks cheap, unwilling to waste any part of a page.

Anyway, I don’t know where that recto-only chapter opening came from. I only ever heard of this “rule” from editors. Maybe it is in The Chicago Manual and the like — that is where editors learn lots of terrible typographic tricks as well!

   
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Old 03-07-2005, 09:06 AM   #4
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KT:

'I think it interferes with reading'

It cerainly irritates this reader! As I read a lot of paperback novels (borrowed from the library), many of them American in origin, though almost invariably published and printed in the Britain, I did wonder if 'always recto' was an American thing; but it occurs in British books, some of them cased, not softback.

Since my memory is not reliable, I went back to Simon's Introduction to Typography, first published in 1945, but there the chapter on chapter headings dismissed the matter by saying that they occurred 'left or right'. (Incidentally, that chapter reminded me why roman numerals were used in things like, 'CHAPTER XXIV': many of the fonts at that time did not contain lining arabic numerals.)

It occurred to me that starting chapters on a verso page might be advantageous in text books that included many diagrams, but otherwise text books were printed conventially, i.e. with chapter heading starting left or right, as they fall, at least until the fifties; at that time I bought many books, including books printed in the USA (and beautifully produced), since I was an undergraduate then.

I think books with unexplained vacant pages are irritating and ugly.

   
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Old 03-07-2005, 09:19 AM   #5
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Mike:

'where authors are likely to make significant changes at proofreading stage'

How interesting! I thought authors were not allowed to make changes after the copy-editing stage was finished. Changes used to be tolerated until the page proofs were ready; the author generally saw only the galley proofs.

'the cover designed'

When have dust-cover designs ever had much to do with designers' impressions of the books' contents?

   
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Old 03-07-2005, 08:13 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ktinkel
Good question. It often makes for awkward transitions, as well as wasted paper, and I think it interferes with reading.

Hugh Williamson (in Methods of Book Design) doesn’t think much of the idea either:
Even when the text needs to be extended rather than compressed, starting new chapters on recto pages does not tend to work well. Some chapters end recto and others verso, so the new chapter heading will sometimes face a blank verso and sometimes a full one, a variation which may puzzle the reader.
He then points out that beginning chapters on recto pages may be necessary for collections of articles (in a technical journal, say) that may also be reprinted as separate papers.

Going the other way, books from early in the 20th century sometimes had chapters just running on, with the new title after a bit of blank space. I never liked that. Messy looking, and you lose a useful aid to finding new chapters (or just remembering where you were reading). And the publisher looks cheap, unwilling to waste any part of a page.

Anyway, I don’t know where that recto-only chapter opening came from. I only ever heard of this “rule” from editors. Maybe it is in The Chicago Manual and the like — that is where editors learn lots of terrible typographic tricks as well!
The current Chicago Manual of Style (15th Edition) does not call for chapters to begin on recto pages, and their example Table of Contents shows a mix of recto and verso start pages.

In my directory work, I generally start a "chapter" or section on a right-hand page. This is partly due to the presence of bleed tabs at the outer edge of the page, which move down by a step for each successive section. But in ordinary books, it may make sense to start each chapter on the next page. On the rare occasions when I've produced "regular" books, I did start the chapters on recto pages, though--it just looks "right" to me that way.
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Old 03-07-2005, 08:40 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Michael Rowley
I'm a little puzzled by the habit, frequently met with nowadays, of starting chapters only on recto pages. It used to be customary to place chapter headings right or left as they happened to fall, apart from the opening chapter, which was always on a righthand page. When did having every chapter heading on a righthand page become almost the rule? I'm talking about books, of course.
I was also a bit puzzled when a printer's production manager called me up a few weeks ago to ask if I intended to have some chapters open on verso pages, or if that was an oversight. This was after I had given them a PDF formatted for output, and a numbered dummy, including the blank pages I wanted at the beginning, end, and following the TOC.

In fact, the author and I had made a choice to open certain chapters with a verso, in order to present certain pages in spreads. Starting every chapter on a recto would have made this impossible, in this case.

So I told them, "Yes, I intended it that way, and please print it the way it came to you!"

So I agree with you.

That being said, a large percentage of the books I have designed and produced have utilized a two-page chapter opener, which must by necessity fall on a spread. Often these have only decorative elements on the verso, so in the TOC they're shown as starting on the recto.

   
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Old 03-08-2005, 12:32 AM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Michael Rowley
Mike:

'where authors are likely to make significant changes at proofreading stage'
Maybe I've just been unlucky but I've done quite a lot of books for one major publisher who never seemed to say no to author changes after the stuff was set. Sometimes they'd even get me to start setting a book before the author had finished writing it.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Michael Rowley
'the cover designed'

When have dust-cover designs ever had much to do with designers' impressions of the books' contents?
I was thinking of paperbacks where adding or subtracting a signature can make sufficient difference to the spine that the artwork has to be changed.

   
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Old 03-08-2005, 06:05 AM   #9
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So I told them, "Yes, I intended it that way, and please print it the way it came to you!"
Hopefully said in an appreciative tone, rather than one that complains about having questions asked about the job. Having a production manager query about something he/she is uncertain about is a good thing, and should be encouraged, not put down. One day you may make a mistake that is caught in this manner, so long as the PM continues to ask for clarifications.

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Old 03-08-2005, 07:15 AM   #10
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Hopefully said in an appreciative tone, rather than one that complains about having questions asked about the job. Having a production manager query about something he/she is uncertain about is a good thing, and should be encouraged, not put down. One day you may make a mistake that is caught in this manner, so long as the PM continues to ask for clarifications.
Well put. I learned long ago not to antagonize those that I rely on to produce a quality product, and I've learned some valuable tidbits from my interactions with production staff.

If fact, I always make an effort right at the beginning of a job to make contact with such folks to introduce myself and ask if they have any guidelines they can share with me. And if it's a job of sufficient size, I'll request that they preflight a test file for me, make some proofs to examine, and if it's a new supplier to me or the publisher run a press test.

Regretfully, I will never have to consider my tone when dealing with that particular firm again. They're a local supplier, and although most of the work I do is printed on web presses in the midwestern US (I'm in California), this was a small job that could be produced on a sheetfed press. I try to deal with local suppliers whenever I can, so I thought I'd give these folks an opportunity to print this job, and hopefully develop a good working relationship.

The first printed book I examined had a blank spread between pages 11 and 12, and many of the first twenty I checked had so little adhesive in the binding that the pages fell out in a shower as soon as they were opened. It took more than two weeks to have these problems corrected.

I won't go back to these folks.

   
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