Created By: Earnest on March 27, 2011 Last Edited By: Earnest on March 30, 2011
Troped

Blank Book

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Trope
The proofreader really needs to lay off the sauce.

This is when a character picks up a book and sees it is essentially empty. It's just a cover (possibly even without a title) pasted onto a blank book, or one filled with nonsense words like Lorem Ipsum over and over, or that just simply stops partway through. Why is this book blank? There's a few less than good reasons for it.

Type 1: It may be that the character is trapped in a Lotus-Eater Machine of some kind and the book being empty (or filled with unintelligible and unreadable gibberish) is a sign that the Master of Illusion got sloppy or the dreamer can't remember it right.
Type 2: It's also possible that the character is in some kind of stage filled with prop books, or the book is a deliberate fake intended to deceive.
Type 3: Lastly, someone (or thing) may have "stolen" the contents of the book and left it completely wordless in the process. In fact, some words may literally fly off the page or drip off as wet ink.

Examples:

Anime and Manga

Comic Books
  • A Calvin and Hobbes strip invokes this trope. Calvin uses this as an excuse for not doing his homework: "I tried, but the book publisher didn't use the proper print fixative. Needless to say, when I picked up the book all the letters slid off the page and fell on the floor in a heap of gibberish!"

Film
  • Cast a Deadly Spell. A man steals the Necronomicon and sells it to mobster Harry Borden. After Borden pays for the book and the man leaves, Borden opens the book and discovers its pages are blank - it's a fraud.
  • It's been a while, but I'm fairly certain this happened in the second Neverending Story.
  • This happened with Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea in the film version of Sphere. It wasnt blank, but just stopped where the reader was too scared to read past that page while he was a child.
  • Pleasantville: The library's books are mostly blank until the male lead exposes the locals to the concept of reading for pleasure, at which point new words appear.

Literature
  • In Tanya Huff's The Keeper, the protagonist tries to restore a decayed journal, but a "word spider(?)" got into the word-restoring tupperware the book was in and caused the words to literally drip off the book, much to her horror.
  • In Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, Tom Riddle's diary is effectively blank until someone writes into it. After Harry destroys it with the Basilisk venom, it goes blank for good, though not before bleeding ink.

Western Animation
  • In Batman: The Animated Series, when Bruce Wayne was trapped by the Mad Hatter in a Lotus-Eater Machine, one of his first clues something was wrong with the perfect world was that all the books were unreadable.
  • The Justice League cartoon had an episode where Green Lantern, Hawkgirl and Flash got transported to an alternate universe where the Silver Age heroes John Stewart read about as a boy are real. Midway through, John gets suspicious that the world isn't all it seems, and goes to a library, where he finds all the books are blank.

Live-Action TV
  • When Willow's Superpowered Evil Side emerges in Buffy the Vampire Slayer, she absorbs the text from all the magic shop's books on dark magic. Her friends later try to find out about the magic she's using, but the books are now blank.
  • In the Dark Oracle main heroes every episode find the eponymous comic book with blank pages. As time progresses, pages begin to fill up.

Real Life
  • In the line of "prop books", a social climber's library may be filled with shelves of these, there to look impressive rather than be read.

Community Feedback Replies: 29
  • March 27, 2011
    Scooter007
    may not be quite what you're looking for, but a Calvin And Hobbes strip had Calvin invoking this as an excuse for not doing his homework: "I tried, but the book publisher didn't use the proper print fixative. Needless to say, when I picked up the book all the letters slid off the page and fell on the floor in a heap of gibberish!"
  • March 27, 2011
    AlexRandom
    I think this happened with Twenty Thousand Leagues Under The Sea in the film version of Sphere, but I may be misremembering - can anyone confirm?
  • March 27, 2011
    SKJAM
    • Pleasantville: The library's books are mostly blank until the male lead exposes the locals to the concept of reading for pleasure, at which point new words appear.

    In the line of "prop books", a social climber's library may be filled with shelves of these, there to look impressive rather than be read.
  • March 27, 2011
    Rolf
    ^^ It wasnt blank, but just stopped where the reader was too scared to read past that page while he was a child.

    Something about squid so probably was that book yes
  • March 27, 2011
    Lysythe
    In Tsubasa Reservoir Chronicle, the book was blank for the first person to pick it up. Once handed to another person, it was filled with thee first person's memories for the second to explore.
  • March 28, 2011
    TBTabby
    The Justice League cartoon had an episode where Green Lantern, Hawkgirl and Flash got transported to an alternate universe where the Silver Age heroes John Stewart read about as a boy are real. Midway through, John gets suspicious that the world isn't all it seems, and goes to a library, where he finds all the books are blank.
  • March 28, 2011
    thegrenekni3t
    • When Willow's Superpowered Evil Side emerges in Buffy The Vampire Slayer, she absorbs the text from all the magic shop's books on dark magic. Her friends later try to find out about the magic she's using, but the books are now blank.
  • March 28, 2011
    Arivne
    An alternate type II: the book is a deliberate fake intended to deceive.

    Film
    • Cast A Deadly Spell. A man steals the Necronomicon and sells it to mobster Harry Borden. After Borden pays for the book and the man leaves, Borden opens the book and discovers its pages are blank - it's a fraud.
  • March 28, 2011
    AlexTrusk
    In the Dark Oracle main heroes every episode find the eponymous comic book with blank pages. As time progresses, pages begin to fill up.
  • March 28, 2011
    robybang
    • The Real Adventures Of Jonny Quest: Villain Ezekiel Rage constantly quotes from "The Book of Rage". When Jessie finds it, she discovers it's completely blank except for a picture of Rage's dead family.
  • March 28, 2011
    INUH
    Um...shouldn't the picture show a book that doesn't have stuff written in it?
  • March 28, 2011
    Earnest
    ^ It's a variant of type 1, where the letters are all jumbled. 'course a better pic would always be welcome.
  • March 28, 2011
    Deboss
    Use the exclamation point to add a line break for the page.

    Examples

  • March 28, 2011
    INUH
    ^^Ah, I see.

    Is that the same trope?
  • March 28, 2011
    Xelloss08
    • In Dark City, John Murdoch discovers that a picture book he drew in as a child is now completely blank.
  • March 28, 2011
    Ghilz
    In Star Trek Deep Space Nine, Bashir realizes he's still in Sloan's mind when his copy of "Tale Of Two Cities" has "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times." on every page - it's the only part of the book he read.
  • March 28, 2011
    Earnest
    ^^^ It's not identical, more of a close Sister Trope that serves essentially the same purpose. That being to freak out the "reader" with a book that has messed up/absent content. It could be split, but I doubt it would have enough examples to stand well on its own.
  • March 28, 2011
    Rolf
    In book Conrad's Time Machine, the inventor had a huge shelves of "effectively 100%" original first edition books. Effectively 100% in such way that all books he or anyone else had and will read, glance though or touch is real first edition books. What is actually there is around 0.1% real first edition books and rest is just titled blank books.
  • March 28, 2011
    JCCyC
    Title suggestion: Content Free Book?
  • March 29, 2011
    CAD
    Happens in Kung Fu Panda: The dragon scroll is totally blank. Instead, it is a mirror, meant to prompt the Believe In Yourself Aesop rather than spelling anything out.

    Also happens at the very beginning of Inception when Cobb steals the documents from Saito's vault, replacing them with blank papers. Not to mention the fact that the real documents have all the important parts erased from them.
  • March 29, 2011
    thegrenekni3t
    In the line of "prop books", a social climber's library may be filled with shelves of these, there to look impressive rather than be read.

    There's a variant on this in The Great Gatsby that may or may not be worth noting here: Gatsby's library is full of real books--but the pages are left uncut, meaning he doesn't actually read them. Owl-Eyes notices this and calls Gatsby "a regular Belasco", complimenting him on the thoroughness of the illusion.
  • March 29, 2011
    Ardiente
    It is scientifically proven that it is impossible to read while dreaming. Lucid dreamers trying it have found themselves immediately awakening.
  • March 29, 2011
    henke37
    Author Existence Failure could be a cause too.
  • March 29, 2011
    CAD
    @Ardiente: I'd say that's entirely person-specific. I've read stuff in my dreams before. Words are simply images that have meaning when seen by the eye; they can be burned into the mind's eye just like anything with the Tetris Effect, and they have as much of a chance of appearing in dreams as paintings or other visuals.

    Though, for most of my life, I'd always have trouble reading in dreams because the words would keep changing before I finished a sentence. Nowadays that I've been more into reading and writing, the words stay a lot more static in dreams.
  • March 29, 2011
    Kain
    [[The Historian]] by Elizabeth Kostova features several books that are blank except for a picture of a dragon in the middle.
  • March 29, 2011
    Aspie
    Another Buffy the Vampire Slayer example: The book used to seal Moloch was blank until the sealing ritual was performed, at which point it would fill up with words. When Willow scanned it into the library computer, it became blank again, as Moloch was released into the internet.
  • March 29, 2011
    AdellePleven
    @Ardiente: What CAD said. I've done plenty of reading in my own dreams. I've even dreamed about editing this very wiki. If you can link to a study that proves me a liar, I'd like to see it.

    (Is there a trope for "You Can't X in a Dream"? Time to investigate.)
  • March 29, 2011
    Rolf
    I once coded a solution to a problem in my dream. I tried it for real and fix did work.

    Most times I try to read it usually don't work out as I start to wake up by then usually. :P
  • March 30, 2011
    Rolf
    Why not add the example I posted a bit ago?

    This is ready to be launched imho.
http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/discussion.php?id=rizfdipj9bx3wz4piurq68s0