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Emmaline Cotter
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A Compendium of Beloved Blogs from the Literary Food Community
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Dean Wong "Seeing the Light" Book Launch at Wing Luke Museum
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Spoonbill & Sugartown in NYC
Cali Kopczick
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Open Call: Submit to Ghosts of Seattle Past until April 30th
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Ghosts of Seattle Past: Irish Wake for Lost Spaces
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Week of Literary Love: Jay Gatsby
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Week of Literary Love: Grendel's Mother
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Week of Literary Love: Victor Frankenstein
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Week of Literary Love: Lady Macbeth
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Our discomfort with language
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A Katrina Scavenger Hunt
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Hurricane Story revisited
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TexMex Richards
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TexMextern Reviews: Masculinity in the Time of Cholera
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SIFF Special: Most Likely to Manipulate
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TexMextern Reviews: Reviews with a Zest!
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A Tale of Two Noodles
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It's Time We Started Talking About Endpapers
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Spine Poetry
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CMP Presents...12 by M. Lynch
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Week of Literary Love: Jean Valjean
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Week of Literary Love: Katniss Everdeen
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Week of Literary Love: Holden Caulfield
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Literary Showdown: Seattle vs. Boston
Dandi Meng
3 February , 2015 (2)

It's Time We Started Talking About Section Break Markers
Cali Kopczick
19 December, 2014 (2)

Short Run Festival Recap
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Selling Culture: Japan and America's Trickiest Trade
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History's Bestsellers in Translation Part II: Nonfiction
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Before the Summer Runs Out: A Road Trip Proposal
Cali Kopczick
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The High Art of Smelling Books
Cali Kopczick
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Pike Place Location Opening and Lizard Telepathy Fox Telepathy Open House
Staff
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Indie Book Publisher Opens Office/Retail Space in Seattle's Pike Place Market
Press Release
July 16, 2014 (0)

Q&A with "A Commonplace Book of Pie" Author Kate Lebo and Illustrator Jessica Lynn Bonin
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A Broadside for Mardi Gras
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The NOLA-Nippon challenge: week 2
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Viewed Sideways: a collection of essays by Donald Richie
D. Michael Ramirez II
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Review: The Beautiful One Has Come (Suzanne Kamata)
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The JET Program's Finest Hour
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Hurricane Story - Free Offer!
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Chin Music Press
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A great sorrow
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Blog Entry
It's Time We Started Talking About Section Break Markers
Cali Kopczick
19 December, 2014

The year is coming to an end, and with it our thoughts inevitably turn to transitions. Yes, people are aging and worlds are shifting and resolutions are being made. But what we're really interested in is typography.

It's time we started talking about section break markers.

Though aesthetic attention to books might be the uniting factor in our otherwise eclectic catalogue, we'll admit up front that we haven't given too much thought to section break markers. But flipping through Tod Davies's Jam Today and Jam Today Too, some of the guest books currently in our showroom, our eyes were immediately caught on the minute illustrations at section breaks. They're gorgeous. Beautifully drawn, thematically consistent, and totally resonant with the tone of the book.

Jam Today pan

Jam Today carrot

Section break markers from Jam Today (above) and Jam Today Too (below).

Jam Today Too juicer

Jam Today fish

Looking back at our own books, and at many of the books on our personal shelves, section breaks that weren't just white space were often occupied by a simple dot, asterisk, or line. Our first book, Kūhaku, featured little pseudo-pilcrows squeezed before the text just after a section break.

Kuhaku section break

Text at the end of sections in Buddy Zooka was immediately followed by a little floral flourish, called a "fleuron" by typesetters. 

Buddy Zooka fleuron

We started digging in, and we learned a few things. For one, that Orion's Belt of asterisks that you see sometimes at section breaks is called a "dinkus." And when those three asterisks are arranged in a triangle, they're called an asterism. These asterisms were particularly useful to show breaks in the text back before paragraphs became conventional.

Lots of section break symbols, including many fleurons, fall under the category of "dingbats" (no, we are not making this up), little symbols that fit in a square grid frame for the purposes of printing and programming. In turn, dingbats fall under the category of "ornaments," the extra visual elements of printing that also include any flourishes around chapter headings and title pages.

The big thing we noticed, though, was that no one was really talking about section break markers. There's not a set name for them, and online discussions about them tend to focus on the logistics of inserting them in Word.

But section break markers are important. Their effect on the holistic experience of a text is, though subtle, also rife with potential. Section breaks are pivot points for the text, a chance for the author to bounce between time, tone, or scene and thereby ramp up the action. Section break markers shape the reader's experience at these crucial points, and they provide a chance for publishers to create an extra sense of cohesiveness. Elements of design from the front cover, back flap, and the text itself can distill into an island in the white space of a section break. Too often, section break markers are so simple that you don't notice them; but when you stumble on something as carefully wrought as the Jam Today illustrations, the unexpected pocket of delight is all the more memorable.

To kick the conversation off, we've rifled through our libraries and found some interesting section break markers. We'll be doing more research, and we'd love for you to send in any thoughts or knowledge you have on section break markers, along with any hidden gems you've discovered on your own bookshelves.

Cry of the Sloth section break

Like our Kūhaku markers, the section break ornaments in The Cry of the Sloth by Sam Savage look suspiciously like pilcrows (paragraph break symbols).

 

The Bone People section break

The section-break markers in Keri Hulme's The Bone People are left-justified and provide an expansion of the ellipses in the text.

 

Second Childhood section break

Fanny Howe's Second Childhood offers a variation on the simple dot marker.

 

Electric Michaelangelo section break

The Electric Michaelangelo, a novel by Sarah Hall, has a more linear, elongated section break marker.

 

Roethke section break

Every aphorism from Theodore Roethke's On Poetry & Craft is separated by one of these little filips.



Comments
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Lee Witte
Fascinating! I didn't realize section break markers were such an art form. Maybe the study of them should be called "fleuronology"

Ellen Ziegler
Yes, typography is the pulse by which we continue to know we are still alive. This is a great post; thank you!