Cutting a newspaper?

While cleaning out a storage room, I came across an old copy of Jules Verne’s Around the World in Eighty Days. For no particular reason, I sat down and read the whole thing in one night. In the text I came across a practice that I have never heard of, “cutting a newspaper”. The passage is as follows:

“…A flunkey handed him an uncut Times, which he proceeded to cut with a skill which betrayed familiarity with this delicate operation.”

A quick Google search was unable to turn up anything. So my questions are: what exactly is mean by an uncut newspaper, how does one cut an uncut newspaper, and what makes it so difficult?

WAG here…
I’ve read many books (especially old editions) that have had their pages joined together at the top. So, in order to read page2 and page3, you’d have to slit the top edge and separate them. I guess newspapers back then didn’t have their cutting techniques down pat and readers often had to separate the pages themselves.

I don’t think the procedure is difficult, per se, just that it requires care. If your slit goes even slightly wrong, you’d end up ripping off half a page. I guess that’s the “skill” and “familiarity” which Verne alludes to.

The Oxford English Dictionary does have this definition of cut: “To separate the leaves of (a book) by cutting through the folds of the sheets of a paper knife.”

I have seen books where the leaves were printed on a long sheet, and then folded accordian style and bound at one edge. But the way the leaves of books are folded and bound is an entirely different matter than newspapers, which are not bound. So I still don’t get what Verne (or his translator) meant.

Perhaps Verne was humorously comparing how a person separates the various sections of a newspaper with how a person cuts a deck of cards. But the newspapers of Verne’s day never approached the huge multiple-section newspapers that we have today. Even the largest metropolitan dailies of the 19th century never had more than two sections.

I presume Phileas Fogg was reading the Times of London. From a history of newspaper presses:

I know this reply is years too late, but I think I have an answer, or at least a partial one, in this article. (Incidentally, that passage in Around the World in Eighty Days has long troubled me, too).

The URL said that uncut means 4 pages printed on one sheet. Well maybe some newspaper or other used two pages to the sheet, or eight.

The concept is that you’d then fold up a bunch of sheets, in such a way that if you trim off a minimal sliver of paper off the side, you’d then have cut all the pages down that side.

The skill would be in making neat folds, keeping the pages on the sheets in the correct position to be in order and in correct orientation, and then neatly trimming one (for two to a sheet) or two (for four to a sheet) sides, so as to then have a neat newspaper with minimal effort.

IF Eight to a sheet, would you have to make a dividing cut and then work with the resulting seperated piles with the 4 to a sheet method ?
You could just cut each page out individually, and as roughly as you like, throw them all on the floor, and then pick them up randomly and put them into order. But thats not minimal effort is, and the result may be messed up,eg crumpled, cut , torn, pages.

To my knowledge, a sheet folded in that manner always had four pages to a sage, eight pages total. (Later, larger presses allowed 16 page sheets.) You could do some variation theoretically, but the equipment was sized for the newspapers of the day and that included the automatic cutters and folders at the printing press. (Cutting is usually a two step process to get the edges smooth. You’ll sometimes find older books with ragged edges that were never smooth-cut, and they clearly show how messy paper ends get when just sliced open.)

Other types of material, like books or magazines, certainly could have more pages printed at a time but they would need their own specialized equipment. That’s one reason why so many printed items have the same size: it’s very costly to invest in off-size machinery without some pressing need (pun intended).

I was researching weekly story papers of the 19th century to find novels about “steam men” - an early kind of robot - for the book I’m writing. My local university had a collection in their Rare Books room that had an example I needed that had never been digitized. When they brought it out to me I tried to open it to read and discovered that it was uncut.

As Familiar Purrson’s cite says collectors prefer uncut pages, mostly because it proves less wear and tear by readers. But I needed to read it. Maybe a newspaper could be opened enough to read inside, but not this. They had to find the head librarian to authorize a cut and do it herself. She took it in back, so I don’t know how she worked the cut.