Why is it that the printing direction on book spines is one direction in the USA (I tilt my head to the right to read the spine), but the reverse in Canada and European countries (I tilt my head to the left to read the spine)?
The original way was that it didn’t matter.
In the 1700’s Rational Thought was still popular, and British printing standardized so that, in set on a shelf, the last page of volume 1 would be next to the first page of volume 2.
Ben Franklin, and other American Colonial printers, stung by some of the laws restricting them to support the English printing industry, took the opposite tack and said that it made more sense that a book spine should be readable when placed face up on a table. On a shelf it didn’t matter, but being upside down on a table was a nuisance.
There was a lot of “let’s be different, and show we are a nation of mixed stock, not simply English”.
This nationalism was expressed in the reformed spellings, and very restrictive laws about import of printed material from the UK. These laws are still in effect, and that is why so many books are published simultaneously in both London and New York City, despite being identical, even to the spelling and use of single and double quote marks, etc.
[aside - Someone please move this thread to another forum. I think it deserves more answers. Thanks.]
Thanks for the answer.
As for the bad forum used, DRAT!@##$ I thought I was posting to the General Questions forum. Please forgive this ‘newbie’ and ask that some admin person move the thread…
When I post to the wrong thread it’s always because the board is slow, so I have more than one window open. Then I switch back and forth waiting for one to be ready, and get confused about which I’m reading from and which I’m posting to.
Off ye go to GQ. Good question, by the way.
The only European books that I have seen that have forced me to tilt my head to the left to read the spine have been German. In Sweden, anyway, we tilt our heads to the right, likewise in Norway (at least judging from the cover of the only Norwegian book I have at hand) and Britain.
What books have you been reading? Every single book on my shelf printed in England, looks just the same as the US ones.
The only exception to this that I have ever seen is PhD theses. Their titles are always printed the wrong way up for some reason.
Adding agreement - I currently have 7 books within sight. 2 British, 3 Canadian, 2 American. All are lying on their back covers, all have their titles on the spines set to that they’re properly readable as they sit.
My wife just returned from Montreal with 2 cookbooks and a few CDs (all printed in Quebec and written in French of course). Both cookbooks and one of the CDs have spines printed the “other way”. As for other experiences, I have a CD from Denmark and a book from the UK (a technical book) both with backwards spines. Sorry if it seemed that I made a sweeping statement about US vs other English speaking countries.