I'm reading a book. Every few pages, in the bottom left margin, it repeats its own title, preceded by an increasing number:

24 The Fellowship of The Ring

What is the point of this? Surely they cannot think that anyone would forget which book they are reading, and are too lazy to flip it around to look at the cover? Is it some sort of copyright protection? Does it somehow, in some way that escapes my mind, prevent some sort of undesirable behaviour? That's usually what things like this end up being, but in this case, I cannot even think of a reason. If somebody copies the entire book, what does it matter if it says the title of the book on every Xth page?

It does not say something like:

(C) 1950 J. R. R. Tolkien. Copying forbidden.

  • 1
    They are just printer's marks. The book binder will need this information to assemble the book in the correct order.
    – Mick
    Commented Aug 4, 2020 at 1:01
  • 1
    @Mick But why would they need that when there is already a page number which gives them the same information?
    – Question
    Commented Aug 4, 2020 at 1:21
  • Page numbers are not reliable: not all pages HAVE page numbers, and the numeration series can start over (switching between roman numerals and arabic is common), etc. In general, page numbers are tied to the logical contents of what's printed, not to the physical structure of the book. Commented Aug 5, 2020 at 15:16
  • The technical term is "signature mark": see en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Signature_mark . Commented Dec 26, 2020 at 14:39

1 Answer 1


Page headers / footers are usually used to aid the reader's orientation within a book by showing page numbers as well as the title of the current chapter or subheading to which the page belongs to (this can be esp. handy when looking for something in a non-fiction book).

There are some conventions for this, e.g. that the author's name or book title is usually put on the left-hand page, whereas the subheading is put on the right-hand page. These stem from tradition, but I could not find any information as to their historical use, therefore I'd assume they are added to make the layout more even. If e.g. the chapter title is the same for a two-page spread, it would look odd to repeat it on both pages, but it would also look odd to have something in the header on only one of the two pages, therefore I presume additional information like the author or book title is added.

See e.g. these sources for more info:

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