Over the past two centuries, printers and bookmakers have used the term gutter in a range of ways. Initially it referred to a grooved device that minimized accidental marks in letterpress printing (Savage 1841, 307–8). Subsequently, it named the small segment of a page behind the seam in a book’s binding (Jacobi 1888, 55); later still, it referred to the seam itself (Darley 1965, 114). All these meanings have some association with efficiency and management of excess or waste, probably echoing the term’s origins in architecture and civil engineering. Such echoes are perhaps still heard in the term’s most widespread usage in publishing today. Gutter now names the blank spaces between printed columns, which shorten lines of text to facilitate rapid scanning.

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