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Shadow Lines : Searching For the Book Beyond the Shelf

Nicholas Royle
Format: Paperback
Publisher: Salt Publishing
Published: March 15, 2024
ISBN: 9781784633073
240 pages, No
Country of publication: United Kingdom


The ‘shadow line’ is a term Royle uses to describe the faint line on the top edge of the text block that allows him to see whether a book on a shelf contains an inclusion – those items inserted into books and long forgotten.

The shadow line is a constant reminder of how Royle started to think of books as more than just the printed stories or information they contain. He is always looking for shadow lines when scanning the shelves of second-hand bookstores, charity shops, hotels, Little Free Libraries and Airbnbs.

He’s no longer only looking for books that are just books. He’s looking for the book that contains a hand-drawn map of an unnamed town in Ireland that he can try to identify so he can read the book while walking the streets depicted on the map. He’s looking for the book that contains a 1957 delivery note for an address in Bristol, so that he can send the book, complete with delivery note, to whoever lives there now and invite them to welcome it back into its former home.

He’s also looking, beyond the bookshelves, for books dumped in the street, for books used as props in art installations, for books left on bedside tables in films. He’s looking for books that are Doppelgängers of other books, for books that are named after places (where they might not be set), for books with two-word titles the first of which is London. He’s looking for books that don’t exist.

This follow-up to White Spines, Royle’s instant classic published in 2021, shows his search takes many forms, giving a shape and a structure to this compelling new work, just as the search for the Picadors informed the former. Strange, haunting, comic and poignant, Shadow Lines is the perfect book for those who love physical books and the stories beyond their pages.

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