Josna Rege

321. Recto

In blogs and blogging, Books, Stories, Words & phrases, writing on April 23, 2015 at 4:14 am

atoz [2015] - BANNER - 910


The recto side of a leaf (a sheet of paper) is the front side (hence “overleaf” for the other side). This dates back to the use of papyrus, whose smooth front side could be written on more easily and therefore was used first. If the script of your language runs from left to right, as it does in English, then the recto side of a folio is on the right-hand side. In books, the title pages and tables of contents are typically on the right-hand side as well, and since numbering begins on the right, recto pages are always odd-numbered.

title page, recto (from

title page, recto (from

Fine; well and good.

Often, if pages are recto, that fact isn’t indicated when they are referenced. Why not? Because recto is the norm; it’s only the other side that would be remarked upon. Recto refers to the right-hand side, but also to the dominant, the correct, the one that has all the rights. Being left-handed I tend to get annoyed about this sort of thing. The Chosen Ones are at God’s right hand and all that.

It’s perfectly acceptable for right simply to refer to the right-hand side of things. It’s when it also means Right, as in Correct and Proper, that I get hot under the collar. Recto is all very well, but it isn’t always right.

Tell Me Another (Contents to Date)

Chronological Table of Contents

atoz [2015] - BANNER - 910

  1. The use of ‘right’ to have separate meanings for their context can be quite annoying. I am not a ‘leftie’. but have a son & a grandson who are, and I am so glad that at least they are not made to use their right hand for writing nowadays!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. So in languages that go from left to right they reverse the paper?

    Liked by 1 person

    • I don’t know but suspect it’s just that in those cases the left-hand page of a book is the dominant one. Will look into it.


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