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Recto and verso

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The verso is the "back" side and the recto the "front" side of a leaf of paper in a bound item such as a book, broadsheet, or pamphlet. Thus in languages written from left to right (like English), the recto is the right-hand page and the verso the left-hand page. These are terms of art in the binding, printing, and publishing industries, and can be applied more broadly to any field where physical documents are exchanged.

The term recto-verso describes two-sided text. The terms are important in the field of codicology, where each physical sheet of a manuscript is numbered and the sides are referred to as recto and verso. Critical editions of manuscripts will often mark the position of text in the original manuscript, or manuscripts, in the style '42r.' or '673vº'.

The terms are carried over into printing, recto-verso is the norm for printed books, but was an important advantage of the printing-press over the much older Asian woodblock printing method, which printed by rubbing from behind the page being printed, and so could only print on one side of a piece of paper.

The distinction between recto and verso can be convenient in the annotation of scholarly books, particularly in bilingual edition translations.

The "recto" and "verso" terms can also be employed for the front and back of a one-sheet artwork, particularly in drawing. A recto-verso drawing is a sheet with drawings on both sides, for example in a sketchbook—although usually in these cases there is no obvious primary side. Some works are planned to exploit being on two sides of the same piece of paper, but usually the works are not intended to be considered together. Paper was relatively expensive in the past; indeed good drawing paper still is much more expensive than normal paper.

By book publishing convention, the first page of a book, and of sometimes of each section and chapter of a book, is a recto page,[1] and hence all recto pages will have odd numbers and all verso pages will have even numbers.[2][3]

  1. Paul Drake (2007). "The Basic Elements and Order of a Book". You Ought to Write All That Down. Heritage Books. pp. 1. ISBN 9780788409899 ISBN 9780788409899. 
  2. Suzanne Gilad (2007). Copyediting & Proofreading For Dummies. For Dummies. pp. 209. ISBN 0470121718 ISBN 0470121718. 
  3. Merriam-Webster, Inc. (1998). Merriam-Webster's Manual for Writers and Editors. Merriam-Webster. pp. 337. ISBN 087779622X ISBN 087779622X.