Why Do Books Have Pages Intentionally Left Blank?

By Antonia Čirjak on March 19 2020 in Did You Know

Why is this a thing, and what is the intent behind a blank page?
Why is this a thing, and what is the intent behind a blank page?
  • In mathematics, even zero can be explained as a set of
  • Signatures are a system the printing machines use to determine how to cut paper that will contain the printed material.
  • If they can not be divided by number four, signatures leave you with an extra page and the opportunity to put the self-defying message of a blank page in there.

If you ever opened any type of written literature or a legal document, there is a big chance you saw the message "This page intentionally left blank." Why is this a thing, and what is the intent behind a blank page?

First of all, let's set things straight - even that page where we are informed about its blank-ness is not really blank. Although it tells us nothing about the content of the book, the fact that there are words on this page makes it not blank! But, there is more to this mysterious page other than the fact that it triggers strict logic thinking about the observable world. 

Fear Of A Blank Page

People like to "get the big picture," and it does not matter what the turf is for drawing conclusions. Movies, songs, paintings, and books - we all want them to be complete (despite the artists' inner voice saying the piece is never over), so we can grasp the intent of the author to its full extent. Or at least try to.

Now imagine a situation where you are reading a book, and suddenly you turn to a blank page. Panic kicks in and nothing can stop you from thinking that you may have missed something crucial for the plot, making the whole reading experience pointless. But, if you see a message explaining that an empty page was deliberate - you continue with peace in your mind. 

Movies, songs, paintings, and books - we all want them to be complete (despite the artists' inner voice saying the piece is never over), so we can grasp the intent of the author to its full extent.
Movies, songs, paintings, and books - we all want them to be complete, so we can grasp the intent of the author to its full extent.

All jokes aside, if we read anything that is not a book of someone's fiction, that means we do not want to miss out on vital information. You can always come back to a book later, but when you have a legal document that you need to sign, you definitely want all pages to be present. This is the first reason why "This page intentionally left blank" message appears in printed media - so it puts your mind to ease that you have all the information you need about that particular issue. 

Preventing Ink Bleed Since Forever

One more reason why you often see this message of a blank page is to avoid ink bleed. If you have one empty page separating the important content of the book, then the ink will have another layer, it can not protrude and mess up your reading experience.  

Woah, Woah, Stop! I Can Not Divide You By Four!

Another factor that makes the publishing and printing companies leave an intentionally blank page has to do with something known as signatures. Signatures are patterns recognizable by printing machines, which have to do the cutting and assembling of the paper during the book printing process.

Signatures vary in their size, but one feature they all have in common is that they can all be divided by four. Now, if a book has 100 pages, there will be no leftover empty pages during printing (100/4=25). However, if we have a book that is 103 pages long, we will have one extra page from the signature.  That is when the publishing companies decide either to put the famous info of a blank page or, in some cases - to fill the page with illustrations or a list with the author's other work.

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