Here is page 346 of the New York Review Books edition of Volume 1 of Uwe Johnson’s Anniversaries, a massive work of fiction excellently translated from the German by Damion Searls.

See the little foldy-over bit at the bottom, trapped in the binding. (You can click on the picture to enlarge it.) The grey and black boxes (which are really off the edge of page 345) are the data the printer uses to check the ink density while the job is running, adjusting it as necessary to keep the ink balance uniform throughout the run. You can see the torn edge at the left edge of the box: follow it down and you can see where it continues to the edge of the book. The white area you see below that diagonal line near the bottom is in fact a bit of page 344. The diagonal is a fold. Because a bit of the sheet got folded in, the extraneous color bars didn’t get trimmed off as they normally would be.

Attentive readers of this blog will immediately recognize that given the way the fold dives into the spine, we should expect to see some more action 4, 8, 12 or 16 pages further on. And this indeed we do: here’s a picture of page 359 where the rest of this little folded-in quirk turns up.

The little flap secured in the middle by the binding must have suffered this tear sometime between the impression cylinder and the end of the folding line. The book was printed by Sheridan Press: whether by sheet-fed or web press I don’t know. If it was sheet-fed one might imagine a pressman picking up the top few sheets on a skid to riffle through for evenness of color and catching a finger nail on the next sheet, not noticing that the motion of his hand pulled the flap over, causing it to be folded down tight when the sheets above were dropped back. Once the fold is in there there’s really no reason why anyone would detect it till the reader, me, finds the last couple of words on page 346 obscured. I chose not to tear it back to read the words: manufacturing mini-flaws like this are fascinating. It’s really amazing how rarely something like this goes wrong: when we find an example we need to hold onto it as a reminder of the potential fallibility of all human endeavor.

However this fold over may have happened, it is unlikely to have affected more copies than mine: another reason to cherish such freaks of process.