Above: A sketch of book parts and the terms relating to them. See the post for more details. Click on the image for an enlargment. The sketch is on Quatro 8 x 8 grid paper that comes padded from Hand Book Journal Company (I just know someone is going to wonder).
A short while ago one of my blog readers wrote in and asked if I would write about the terms I use when talking about "the book." She had been confused about my use of "Verso" and "Recto" when referring to pages. In context she'd ultimately worked it out, but she wanted more definitions. (These are simply the Latin terms for left and right applied at a time when Latin was the "universal language.")
Initially I put off the task. I thought I could handle it by pulling diagrams and discussion from my class handouts, or just writing a new post. Each time I thought about it however, the sheer magnitude of the task made me elect to write on other topics first. And so it went, until this morning when I decided that with a few quick sketches and some handwritten notes I could cover a lot of what I constantly refer to.
That's the purpose of today's image. The terms here are not comprehensive—different binding traditions have different names for different elements such as signatures (also called sections). Also any good book on binding will have an introductory section that will label all this stuff and define it for the context of the author's discussion within the book.
Additionally because of my background in print publication design I may be the only visual journaler on the planet who will talk about the active area on the page as the "live area." Since the journal is trimmed before anyone adds stuff to the page that term doesn't have the importance it has when working with large presses printing entire signatures on one sheet to be folded and trimmed. There what you don't get in the "live area" of the page is going to get trimmed off.
But there you have it, any discussion of bookbinding with me will involve some cross use of printing vocabulary, just as any in-person discussion with me will involve slang and vocabulary from more than one continent, artifacts of my upbringing.
For in-depth, traditional discussions of bookbinding terms I refer you to any good bookbinding book (many of which I've listed before). My page "The Essential Bookshelf for Bookbinders" is a good place to find some books to begin this learning. I used to have a book that was a sort of dictionary of bookmaking terms. Sadly I can't find the book or remember the author(s). I recall being very frustrated with some of the definitions and that may explain its absence from my own bookbinding bookshelf.
With any discussion the definition of one term leads to the need to define another term, and another, and so on. When I sketched books in the above diagram, I focused only on hardcover or casebound books. These differ from soft-cover, pamphlet style books in that these soft-cover books are typically not multi-signature structures (example exceptions: Japanese Double Pamphlet, Japanese 4-needle or Butterfly Stitch books; but even these can be made as hard cover books!). Some hard cover books do not have cases but only hard covers and exposed spines (e.g., coptic stitch). (This sentence has just defined the term exposed spine for you: a structure where the sewing or other binding method of a book is exposed without spine covering.)
Remember too that language changes. Just as Latin was once the universal language of trade, education, etc. that gave way to other tongues. And usage is constantly being changed by the users. Young designers growing up with the digital world most often work in inches rather than picas (a measuring system, superior in my mind, that relates to earlier printing modes and methods, for a host of interesting reasons). Few people understand how the phrase "mind your ps and qs" came into existence unless they understand the workings of letterpress, handset type, and the glories of the California Case (or strictly the California Job Case). (Mark Twain buffs might know all this and then some not only because of their interest in a great American writer, but also an interest in his life and his occupational skills.) You get my point. Every profession and craft has its own vocabulary which has a historical context and a working context; the latter changes. It's all fascinating.
At least now you'll have a general idea of where I'm coming from and have some books to turn to for additional information. If something isn't clear, you can always ask me.