Catchword

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In printing terminology, a catchword is a word placed at the bottom right-hand of a book page that anticipates the first word on the following page. Catchwords assisted book binders in assembling pages in the correct order. While the term was first used in the early eighteenth century, the original meaning is now rarely used as it has shifted to commonly signify a repeated word encapsulating a particular idea, like a slogan.

When analyzing the use of catchwords in periodicals, it is especially of interest to focus on The Yellow Book, in which they “represent a deliberate anachronism,” as Linda Dowling writes (125). While catchwords were originally used for practical reasons, The Yellow Book used them to link the periodical to the history of printing and to align themselves with anti-commercial publications like The Hobby Horse, which also used catchwords on each page. While catchwords were meant to ensure a coherent succession of pages, they simultaneously slightly interrupted that coherence by making transparent “the physical sign which constitutes the act of reading” (Dowling). Catchwords thus participate in the ‘pictorialization’ of typography inherent in the Revival of Printing.

Sources:

“Catchword.” Merriam Webster Online, Merriam Webster, n.d. Web. 24 Oct. 2015.

Dowling, Linda. “Letterpress and Picture in the Literary Periodicals of the 1890s.” The Yearbook of English Studies 16 (1986): 117-131. ProQuest. Web. 24 Oct. 2015.

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