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On some books, I've noticed that they have colors on the edges of the pages. For instance, on my Tikkun:

tikkun

And on a G'mara (part of the Talmud):

g'mara

What is the point of these colors? Are they only found on religious books?

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  • 2
    Definitely not only on religious texts. I have two older books with solid red edges (and otherwise white paper).
    – b_jonas
    Sep 4, 2017 at 12:57
  • Maybe that could be used as a signature of authenticity by the authors, it might be fairly easy to copy the book contents, and alter it, but not the signature, you can easily identify pirated or altered copies by looking on the edge, this was specially important on religion books in the past, since alterations could be interpreted as heretic.
    – montelof
    Sep 4, 2017 at 17:30
  • Related: judaism.stackexchange.com/questions/302/…
    – Alex
    Aug 27, 2018 at 0:53

2 Answers 2

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This is actually fairly common and has no real significance. It's a purely decorative process called edge painting (or fore-edge painting) because it's color painted on the fore-edge of the book (go figure).

It's common on religious texts, but that's only because religious texts simply tend to be better made and better decorated. It's quite general, though.

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  • Few of my books have this and form either a picture or a sentence too Sep 4, 2017 at 15:23
  • Good point. Religious books also tend to be designed for more heavy use. Sep 5, 2017 at 4:52
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While edge painting is done on some high-price books, I've also seen solid-color edge painting done in the early 1980s or thereabouts on some inexpensive children's paperbacks that were made from cheaper paper stock, and asked a librarian about it. From what I was told, if some pages are printed on paper that is more brownish than others, this can cause an ugly striped appearance on the edges of the book. Applying paint can hide this. I don't think I've noticed such painting done recently, but I've not really looked for it. What's significant, though, is that sometimes a simple monochromatic paint job may be a result of efforts to make cheaply-produced books look better, rather than a to showcase genuinely expensive production.

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  • Do you happen to have any references to back up this answer?
    – bobble
    Jan 26 at 16:48
  • @bobble: Just personal experience, and what the librarian told me. I remember some of the books I read having a yellow painted outer edge, but I don't recall which particular books they were. They certainly weren't rare or expensive, though.
    – supercat
    Jan 26 at 17:00
  • I can also vouch for seeing such books in childhood. Jan 27 at 15:30

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