Recto and verso

The terms recto and verso refer, respectively, to the text written or printed on the "right" or "front" side and on the "back" side of a leaf of paper in a bound item such as a codex, book, broadsheet, or pamphlet. The terms are shortened from Latin rectō foliō and versō foliō, translating to "on the right side of the leaf" and "on the back side of the leaf", respectively. The two opposite pages themselves are called folium rectum and folium versum in Latin,[1] and the ablative recto, verso already imply that the text on the page (and not the physical page itself) are referred to.

In codicology, each physical sheet (folium, abbreviated fol. or f.) of a manuscript is numbered and the sides are referred to as rectum and folium versum, abbreviated as r and v respectively. Editions of manuscripts will thus mark the position of text in the original manuscript in the form fol. 1r, sometimes with the r and v in superscript, as in 1r, or with a superscript o indicating the ablative recto, verso, as in 1ro.[2] This terminology has been standard since the beginnings of modern codicology in the 17th century.

Lyons (2011) argues that the term rectum "right, correct, proper" for the front side of the leaf derives from the use of papyrus in Late Antiquity, as a different grain ran across each side, and only one side was suitable to be written on, so that usually papyrus would carry writing only on the "correct", smooth side (and just in exceptional cases would there be writing on the reverse side of the leaf).[3]

The terms "recto" and "verso" are also used in the codiology of manuscripts written in right-to-left scripts, like Syriac, Arabic and Hebrew. However, as these scripts are written in the other direction to the scripts witnessed in European codices, the recto page is to the left while the verso is to the right. The reading order of each folio remains first recto, then verso regardless of writing direction.

The terms are carried over into printing; recto-verso[4] 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 sometimes of each section and chapter of a book, is a recto page,[5] and hence all recto pages will have odd numbers and all verso pages will have even numbers.[6][7]

In many early printed books or incunables and still in some 16th-century books (e.g. João de Barros's Décadas da Ásia), it is the folia ("leaves") rather than the pages, that are numbered. Thus each folium carries a consecutive number on its recto side, while on the verso side there is no number.[8] This was also very common in e.g. internal company reports in the 20th century, before double-sided printers became commonplace in offices.

Recto and verso
Left-to-right language books (for example in English)
Recto and verso RTL
Right-to-left language books (vertical Japanese, Arabic, or Hebrew)

See also


  1. ^ e.g. Quibus carminibus finitur totum primum folium versum (rectum vacat) voluminis "These poems finish the full back page (the front is blank) of the first leaf of the volume" [Giovanni Battista Audiffredi], Catalogus historico-criticus Romanarum editionum saeculi XV (1783), p. 225.
  2. ^ e.g. Roberts, Longinus on the Sublime: The Greek Text Edited After the Paris Manuscript (2011), 170; Wijngaards, The Ordained Women Deacons of the Church's First Millennium (2012), 232; etc. Tylus, Manuscrits français de la collection berlinoise disponibles à la Bibliothèque Jagellonne de Cracovie (XVIe-XIXe siècles) (2010)[1]
  3. ^ Martyn Lyons (2011). Books A Living History. Getty Publications. p. 21. ISBN 9781606060834.
  4. ^ Recto verso is an expression in French that means "two sides of a sheet or page". In Flanders the term recto verso is also used to indicate two-sided printing. Duplex printers are referred to as recto verso printers.
  5. ^ Drake, Paul (2007). "The Basic Elements and Order of a Book". You Ought to Write All That Down. Heritage Books. p. 1. ISBN 978-0-7884-0989-9.
  6. ^ Gilad, Suzanne (2007). Copyediting & Proofreading For Dummies. For Dummies. p. 209. ISBN 9780470121719.
  7. ^ Merriam–Webster, Inc. (1998). Merriam-Webster's Manual for Writers and Editors. Merriam–Webster. p. 337. ISBN 9780877796220.
  8. ^ See e.g. a modern reprint of the 3rd Década (1563): Ásia de João de Barros: Dos feitos que os Portugueses fizeram no descobrimento e conquista dos mares e terras do Oriente. Tercera Década. Imprensa Nacional – Casa da Moeda, 1992.
Anne Ramsden

Anne Ramsden (born 1952) is a Canadian artist who has exhibited widely in Canada. She is currently based in Montreal, where she is a professor at the Université du Quebec à Montréal.

Book of Kells

The Book of Kells (Latin: Codex Cenannensis; Irish: Leabhar Cheanannais; Dublin, Trinity College Library, MS A. I. [58], sometimes known as the Book of Columba) is an illuminated manuscript Gospel book in Latin, containing the four Gospels of the New Testament together with various prefatory texts and tables. It was created in a Columban monastery in either Britain or Ireland and may have had contributions from various Columban institutions from both Britain and Ireland. It is believed to have been created c. 800 AD. The text of the Gospels is largely drawn from the Vulgate, although it also includes several passages drawn from the earlier versions of the Bible known as the Vetus Latina. It is a masterwork of Western calligraphy and represents the pinnacle of Insular illumination. It is also widely regarded as Ireland's finest national treasure.

The illustrations and ornamentation of the Book of Kells surpass that of other Insular Gospel books in extravagance and complexity. The decoration combines traditional Christian iconography with the ornate swirling motifs typical of Insular art. Figures of humans, animals and mythical beasts, together with Celtic knots and interlacing patterns in vibrant colours, enliven the manuscript's pages. Many of these minor decorative elements are imbued with Christian symbolism and so further emphasise the themes of the major illustrations.

The manuscript today comprises 340 leaves or folios; the recto and verso of each leaf total 680 pages. Since 1953, it has been bound in four volumes. The leaves are high-quality calf vellum, and the unprecedentedly elaborate ornamentation that covers them includes ten full-page illustrations and text pages that are vibrant with decorated initials and interlinear miniatures and mark the furthest extension of the anti-classical and energetic qualities of Insular art. The Insular majuscule script of the text itself appears to be the work of at least three different scribes. The lettering is in iron gall ink, and the colours used were derived from a wide range of substances, many of which were imports from distant lands.

The manuscript takes its name from the Abbey of Kells, which was its home for centuries. Today, it is on permanent display at Trinity College Library, Dublin. The Library usually displays two of the current four volumes at a time, one showing a major illustration and the other showing typical text pages, and the entire manuscript can be viewed on the Library's Digital Collections Repository.


A codex () (from the Latin caudex for "trunk of a tree" or block of wood, book), plural codices (), is a book constructed of a number of sheets of paper, vellum, papyrus, or similar materials. The term is now usually only used of manuscript books, with hand-written contents, but describes the format that is now near-universal for printed books in the Western world. The book is usually bound by stacking the pages and fixing one edge to a bookbinding, which may just be thicker paper (paperback or softback), or with stiff boards, called a hardback, or in elaborate historical examples a treasure binding.At least in the Western world, the main alternative to the paged codex format for a long document is the continuous scroll, which was the dominant book form in the ancient world. Some codices are continuously folded like a concertina, in particular the Maya and Aztec codices, which are actually long sheets of paper or animal skin folded into pages. These do not really meet most current definitions of the "codex" form, but are so called by convention.The Romans developed the form from wooden writing tablets. The gradual replacement of the scroll by the codex has been called the most important advance in book making before the invention of printing. The codex transformed the shape of the book itself, and offered a form that lasted until present day (and continues to be used alongside e-paper). The spread of the codex is often associated with the rise of Christianity, which adopted the format for use with the Bible early on. First described by the 1st-century AD Roman poet Martial, who praised its convenient use, the codex achieved numerical parity with the scroll around AD 300, and had completely replaced it throughout what was by then a Christianized Greco-Roman world by the 6th century.


The term "folio", from the Latin folium (leaf), has three interconnected but distinct meanings in the world of books and printing. It is firstly a term for a common method of arranging sheets of paper into book form, folding the sheet only once, and a term for a book made in this way. Secondly, it is a general term for a sheet, leaf or page in (especially) manuscripts and old books, and thirdly, an approximate term for the size of a book, and for a book of this size.

Firstly, a folio (abbreviated fo or 2°) is a book or pamphlet made up of one or more full sheets of paper, on each of which four pages of text are printed, two on each side; each sheet is then folded once to produce two leaves. Each leaf of a folio book thus is one half the size of the original sheet. Ordinarily, additional printed folio sheets would be inserted inside one another to form a group or "gathering" of leaves prior to binding the book.

Secondly, "folio" is used in terms of page numbering for some books and most manuscripts that are bound but without page numbers as an equivalent of "page" (both sides), "sheet" or "leaf", using "recto" and "verso" to designate the first and second sides, and (unlike the usage in printing) disregarding whether the leaf concerned is actually physically still joined with another leaf. This usually appears abbreviated: "f26r." means the first side of the 26th leaf in a book. This will be on the right hand side of the opening of any book composed in a script that is read from left-to-right, such as Latin (as used in English), Cyrillic, or Greek, and will be opposite for books composed in a script that is read from right-to-left, such as Hebrew and Arabic.

Thirdly, folio is also used as an approximate term for a size of book, typically about 15 inches (38 cm) tall, and as such does not necessarily indicate the actual printing format of the books, which may even be unknown as is the case for many modern books. Other common book formats are quarto and octavo, which are both also printing formats, involving two and three folds in the sheet respectively.

Famous folios (in both senses) include the Gutenberg Bible, printed in about 1455, and the First Folio collected edition of Shakespeare's plays, printed in 1623; however, their actual size is rather different.


Folium (Latin: folium, "leaf") may refer to

a leaf of a book: see recto and verso

Folium of Descartes, an algebraic curve

Folium (spider), a marking on the abdomen of a spider


The hyphen-minus (-) is a character used in digital documents and computing to represent a hyphen (‐) or a minus sign (−).It is present in Unicode as code point U+002D - HYPHEN-MINUS; it is also in ASCII with the same value.

Iñigo I d'Avalos

Íñigo I d'Avalos (Italian: Ignazio or Innico; died 1484) was an Aragonese general.His grandfather, Ruy López d´Ávalos, had been constable of Castile. Iñigo came to Italy with Alfonso V of Aragon in 1442. He took part in the naval battle of Ponza in 1435. In 1452, after the Aragonese conquest of the Kingdom of Naples, he was made Count of Monteodorisio.

In 1452 he married Antonella d'Aquino, heiress to the marquisate of Pescara, which was thenceforth part of the family's fiefs. Iñigo died in Naples in 1480: his lands were inherited by his son Alphonso. His grandsons Alfonso and Fernando and his great grandson Francesco Ferdinando d'Avalos were generals for Spain in the Italian Wars.


In printing, 2-up, 3-up, or more generally N-up refers to a page layout strategy in which multiple pre-rendered pages are composited onto a single page; achieved by reduction in size, possible rotations, and subsequent arrangement in a grid pattern. The primary purpose of N-up printing is to reduce the number of pages that a printed work would otherwise require without having to re-edit, index, or flow the layout of the individual pages of an existing work.N-up printing should not be confused with multiple column layout or the pre-press imposition process.

The general availability of N-up printing in computerized output was stimulated with the introduction of page layout languages such as PostScript, and later PDF, which made such page compositions very easy; as exemplified by the GNU Enscript program as early as 1995.

The Compact Oxford English Dictionary is notable for using N-up printing as a means to physically compress the large multi-volume dictionary into a much smaller and thus more accessible work. The first Compact OED edition of 1971 used a 4-up layout (4 original pages per resulting page); while the second edition of 1991 used a 9-up format, giving a total of 18 original pages being visible when the book is opened so both the recto and verso pages are displayed. Though the 9-up format, especially considering each original page used a 3-column layout, required such a reduction in font size that it necessitated the use of a magnifying lens to be legible.

Obverse and reverse

Obverse and its opposite, reverse, refer to the two flat faces of coins and some other two-sided objects, including paper money, flags, seals, medals, drawings, old master prints and other works of art, and printed fabrics. In this usage, obverse means the front face of the object and reverse means the back face. The obverse of a coin is commonly called heads, because it often depicts the head of a prominent person, and the reverse tails.

In fields of scholarship outside numismatics, the term front is more commonly used than obverse, while usage of reverse is widespread.

The equivalent terms used in codicology, manuscript studies, print studies and publishing are "recto" and "verso".

Papyrus 103

Papyrus 103 (in the Gregory-Aland numbering), designated by 103, is a copy of part of the New Testament in Greek. It is a papyrus manuscript of the Gospel of Matthew.

Papyrus 137

Papyrus 137 (in the Gregory-Aland numbering), designated by 137, is an early fragment of the New Testament in Greek. The fragment is from a codex, written on both sides with text from the first chapter of the Gospel of Mark; verses 7-9 on the recto side and 16-18 on the verso side. The manuscript has been dated paleographically to the later 2nd or earlier 3rd century.

Portrait of Galeazzo Sanvitale

Portrait of Galeazzo Sanvitale (1524) is a painting of the condottiero Gian Galeazzo Sanvitale by the Italian late Renaissance artist Parmigianino. It is housed in the National Museum of Capodimonte, Naples, Italy.

Rongorongo text B

Rongorongo (; Rapa Nui: [ˈɾoŋoˈɾoŋo]) is a system of glyphs discovered in the 19th century on Easter Island that appears to be writing or proto-writing. Text B of the rongorongo corpus, also known as Aruku Kurenga, is one of two dozen surviving rongorongo texts.

Aruku Kurenga provided part of the "Jaussen List", a failed key of rongorongo glyphs. Jaussen's informant, Metoro Tau‘a Ure, 'read' the tablet correctly from the bottom left of the recto, but the transcription of his reading has been of no use in understanding the script.

Rongorongo text C

Rongorongo (; Rapa Nui: [ˈɾoŋoˈɾoŋo]) is a system of glyphs discovered in the 19th century on Easter Island that appears to be writing or proto-writing. Text C of the rongorongo corpus, also known as Mamari, is one of two dozen surviving rongorongo texts. It contains the Rapa Nui calendar.

Rongorongo text N

Text N of the rongorongo corpus, the smaller of two tablets in Vienna and therefore also known as the 'Small Vienna tablet', is one of two dozen surviving rongorongo texts, and repeats much of the verso of tablet E.

Sans forgetica

Sans forgetica is a variation of a sans-serif typeface, designed to assist students in retaining the information which they read. Back-slanted and with gaps in the letter forms, the typeface is designed to reduce legibility; it adds reading complexity to learning tasks based on the psychological principle known as desirable difficulty. Such added complexity may help learners with their reading comprehension and interpretation of information.

The Woggle-Bug Book

The Woggle-Bug Book is a 1905 children's book, written by L. Frank Baum, creator of the Land of Oz, and illustrated by Ike Morgan. It has long been one of the rarest items in the Baum bibliography. Baum's text has been controversial for its use of ethnic humor stereotypes.

Verso Books

Verso Books (formerly New Left Books) is a publishing house based in London and New York City, founded in 1970 by the staff of New Left Review.

Typographic units
Digital typography

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