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Notebook margins

Notebook Margins Were Invented so Rats Wouldn’t Bite Through Important Notes 

Notebook margins are often considered a design choice, but did you know they have a practical purpose? The original reason for adding margins to writing paper was to protect your work from rodents, specifically rats. In the past, rats were a common household pest and would often nibble on paper, ruining important documents or notes. By adding wider margins, the paper was protected from the rats as they would start chewing through the edges first!

Why Notebooks Have Margins: A Surprising History

Notebook margins are often considered a design choice, but did you know they have a practical purpose? The original reason for adding margins to writing paper was to protect your work from rodents, specifically rats. In the past, rats were a common household pest and would often nibble on paper, ruining important documents or notes. By adding wider margins, the paper was protected from the rats as they would start chewing through the edges first! 

Notebooks and journals have been an integral part of our lives for centuries. They serve as a canvas for our thoughts, ideas, and inspirations. But have you ever wondered why notebooks have margins? Is it just an aesthetic choice, or is there a deeper reason behind it?

Believe it or not, notebook margins were not originally designed for artistic or decorative purposes. They actually have a fascinating history that dates back to a time when rats posed a threat to valuable documentation.

In the past, rats were commonplace pests in households and offices. They would scuttle through homes, silently causing havoc and destruction. These rodents had a particular appetite for paper, making notebooks a vulnerable target for their sharp teeth. Imagine spending hours meticulously noting down important information, only to have it chewed up and ruined by a pesky rat!

To combat this problem, inventors came up with a simple yet ingenious solution – wider margins. By increasing the width of the empty space on the sides of the pages, the valuable content within the notebook was shielded from rodent damage. Rats, being creatures of habit, would instinctively start nibbling on the exposed edges, leaving the essential notes intact and readable.

As time passed, the threat of rats chewing through paper diminished significantly. Modern pest control methods, improved hygiene practices, and the decline of rats as common household pests all played a role in making notebooks less susceptible to rodent attacks. However, the tradition of including margins in notebooks persisted, transforming its purpose from a necessity to a design choice.

Today, notebook margins serve multiple purposes beyond their original intention. They provide visual structure and balance to pages, allowing for better organization and readability. Margins can be utilized for annotations, jotting down additional ideas or references related to the main content. They also offer a space for doodling, sketching, or adding decorative elements that enhance the overall aesthetics of the notebook.

Furthermore, margins have found significance in the age of digital note-taking as well. Even in the virtual realm, applications and software often include the option to create margins, mimicking the familiar feel of paper notebooks. This blending of analog and digital worlds showcases the enduring relevance of margins in our note-taking experiences.

So, the next time you open a notebook and find those empty spaces on the sides of the page, remember their humble origin. Notebook margins were not just an arbitrary design choice; they were a strategic solution to protect valuable notes from the nibbling teeth of rats. They have evolved to become both functional and artistic, a testament to the ingenuity and adaptability of human creativity.

As we continue to embrace the digital era, let’s appreciate and preserve the legacy of notebook margins, connecting us to a time when pen and paper held a different kind of magic.



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Steve is graphic designer who works at a print shop. He has been in graphic design since high school and continued on to get an Associates of Applied Science degree in graphic design too. He has since worked mostly in advertising design for various newspapers and shoppers. He has also worked for a couple sign companies. He currently works at a print shop. Steve has over 30 lifetime years of graphic design.
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