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On many editions of the Chumash, Talmud, and even many more-modern books, you look at the side of the book (opposite the spine) and there are random colored splotches printed on the pages. (For instance, the HaMaor edition of the Mikraot Gedolot Chumash has red and blue splotches.) Any idea why those are there?

Example: enter image description here

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Great question! –  WAF Feb 22 '10 at 4:36
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5 Answers

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If you ever look at sfarim that are commonly opened to specific sections (like a siddur), you'll notice that there are black lines around those pages that are more commonly used (you could, for example, land almost exactly on the last page of Shacharis). When the pages are colored, you don't see those lines.

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But what about Gemarot and other Seforim- there aren't really places that are opened specifically? For example, the Nefesh HaHaim should have the black lines in the shaar 4, no? –  Hacham Gabriel Dec 21 '11 at 4:40
    
@H'Gabriel when sforim become used, the lines are formed automatically. I have a few siddurim which are used only on weekdays where one can see from the outside where is Shachris/Mincha/Maariv. If I used it every day only for its Tehillim, for example, the lines would be opposite the Tehillim. –  Shmuel Brin Dec 21 '11 at 5:35
    
I don't think that is what the question was asking. –  Adam Mosheh Apr 25 '12 at 19:25
    
@AdamMosheh I think he was asking about the splotches shown in the picture –  Shmuel Brin Apr 25 '12 at 19:43
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I have once heard that such technique was done because in the early days of book-binding, paper was very expensive and some books, including judaica, was printed on 'recycled' or scrap paper. This paper would be of random colors and element exposures. When stacked, the sides of the paper would be the colored splotches.

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It's just a bookbinding technique.

http://bookbinding.com/bookbinding-for-amateurs/coloring-edges.html

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Welcome to Judaism.SE, and thanks very much for this answer! Please consider registering your account, to help the site keep track of your contributions. –  Isaac Moses Jun 21 '11 at 14:42
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I am not certain but I suspect that it is simply a decorative practice. I believe I have seen it done on older, non-Jewish books and I assume that the practice has faded in favor of more economical/contemporary styles. Jews who buy seforim, on the other hand, are a little more inclined for "classic" styles and or more interested in a more distinguished graphic design (Goldleaf is not common among general books anymore but the rule among seforim).

Additionally, while I recall there being basis for leniency, opening and closing a book with words stamped on the side (such as the owner's name) is an old problem mentioned in the poskim and having such decoration (which lacks any coherent figure) decorates the side while preventing such stamping.

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Could be just as a cheap alternative to gilt-edged pages, such as you find on expensive books (both Jewish and non-Jewish).

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