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Edges can be described in two ways: by the trimming (or lack of it) done to the paper itself, and by any treatment applied to the paper, such as gilding or a stain. This pages shows examples of edge trimming (or the lack of it).
Unopened pages. Unopened pages occur when the edges of folded signatures are not cut during the manufacturing process. The standard recommendation is to use the edge of a playing card, rather than a paper knife, to carefully open such pages.
Unopened pages are not the same as uncut pages. Uncut pages are those which have not been given smooth edges or trimmed as part of book manufacturing process. (See deckle edges, trimmed pages, and cut pages below.)
Deckle edges. A deckle edge is a rough, untrimmed edge./p>
When paper is made by hand, the mold includes a removable frame, the deckle, that looks much like a picture frame. The mold is dipped vertically into the paper stock, which consists of fibers suspended in water. The mold is then turned horizontally and raised. The deckle serves to keep the paper fibers from washing off the sides of the mold while most of the water escapes through the porous bottom.
The original deckle edge, then, was "...the feathery, untrimmed edge of a sheet of paper formed by the flow of the stock against the deckle strap..." (The Story of Papermaking, Edwin Sutermeister)
The term now includes deliberately manufactured "deckle edges."
Cut pages. Cut pages have smooth edges, although according to John Carter in ABC For Book Collectors, there is some cross-over with the term trimmed, which may mean more roughly leveled.
Trimmed pages, example. Trimmed, or "rough trimmed" pages fall somewhere on the continuum between deckle edged and cut. The example at left is closer to a deckle edge. Most individual pages have a slightly irregular edge, although some are smooth. In fact, this is the same book as the one shown for unopened pages above, and the irregularity of the page edges is probably caused by their manner of being opened.
Trimmed pages, example. In the book in this example, a kind of artificial deckle edge is obtained by roughly trimming the signatures before folding them. (The page edges are almost, but not entirely, smooth.) The effect is enhanced by the folding process, which has pushed the center pages of each signature farther out than the outer pages, giving the foredge a rough appearance.