University of Virginia Library


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Observations on the Incidence and Interpretation of Press Figures [1]


IN A RECENT STUDY OF PRESS FIGURES, WHICH appear in many eighteenth-century books, Mr. Walter E. Knotts offers a timely reminder of their importance as possible clues to bibliographical analysis, and from his examination of eight copies of a single work proposes a technique for the use of this tool.[2] These figures, if properly understood, are of potential value in the solution of numerous problems, for oftentimes they represent, in the absence or in the unhelpful uniformity of such indications as headlines or watermarks, the only discernible evidence of irregularity in the manufacture of a book. But this evidence, though occasionally observed, is more often ignored, or else is variously interpreted according to hypotheses exclusively derived from the ambiguous data of the figures. Thus far, no attempt has been made to record the incidence of the figures in a substantial number of books, to correlate this data, whenever possible, with other evidence, to formulate a theory comprehending the several vagaries in the use and distribution of the figures, and to present a series of examples illustrating their significance.

This enquiry is directed toward the several ends which have been slighted in previous accounts, and though it may fall short


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of its ultimate objective, endeavors to provide, at least, a more informative basis for further study. Investigation discovers two kinds of information: an explanation for the casual employment of figures in the production of a book, and a rationale for the interpretation of these figures as bibliographical evidence.


In general, the received opinion concerning press figures[3] is that they were inserted, one to a forme, by the compositor, at the direction of the overseer, in order to identify the press designated to receive the forme, to facilitate an equitable distribution of the work among the presses, and to corroborate each pressman's claim for pay.[4] Contradicting these several suppositions, all of which are founded on cursory comment in printers' manuals published early in the nineteenth century, is other comment from the same sources. Elsewhere it is noted, to the contrary, that it was the pressman's responsibility to work with figures, that in small shops the office of overseer was nonexistent,[5] and that all employees were paid by the hour, the day, or the week, as the convenience of the employer might dictate, and not, as the figures would imply, according to the number of sheets they had worked.[6] To this conflicting testimony may be added that of the books, which show no equitable distribution of the figures, in many instances no figures at all, and, in some, sheets which are only partially figured. And as a final piece of confusion, it is well to recall a chapel rule of 1734 enjoining the pressmen "to put in the Drawer, one of a Sort of every Job, with their Names, the No. wrought, and Day of the Month."[7] For the shops in which this regulation applied, figures would be superfluous, whatever their purpose in the organization of the work or the payment of the men.


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From the foregoing account it will be apparent that the information in the manuals is quite unenlightening, not only because it is inadequate, but because it indiscriminately reports practices which seemingly vary with the time, the shop, and the number of men employed. Custom or circumstance may require, for some books, the figuring of every sheet, whether or not the work had been predetermined; for others, figures only at the end of a specified period of time; and for others, figures only on those occasions when the work had been disrupted or reassigned. Thus any theory envisaging a uniform procedure in an unorganized, laissez-faire handicraft must be regarded with suspicion.

With this caveat against arguments based on selected testimony rather than direct observation, we may turn to those which have at least the merit of being empirical. An obvious approach to the problem, and the one taken by Dr. F. B. Kaye and Mr. Knotts, is to discover the procedure which results in the erratic employment of figures in a single book. For Dr. Kaye the unfigured formes represent the work of a press which is properly identified in the sheet immediately preceding or following the sequence.[8] For Mr. Knotts, on the other hand, they designate the work of an unidentified press.

The indication that a forme of any gathering had been printed by this press would be the absence of a number. An examination of a number of eighteenth-century books reveals that often when some (but not all) sheets in a book are figured there are more without press numbers than with them. This suggests that the figures were used to identify formes of sheets which had been worked off by any press other than the one which was doing the bulk of the job.[9]
If this latter hypothesis is correct, then we must assume that the printing offices in the eighteenth century, most of which had a normal complement of about twelve pressmen and eighteen compositors,[10] assigned the greater portion of their work to a single press, and only an occasional forme to others. Though we may doubt that the offices were managed as inefficiently as Mr. Knotts seems to imply, his interpretation of the figures is, theoretically, as plausible as the one advanced by Dr. Kaye.


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The dilemma which confronts the bibliographer is easily resolved, for some books, by reference to the headlines, a kind of evidence overlooked by Mr. Knotts. When the headlines can be distinguished in books containing press figures, they provide a means for the analysis of the figures, and a measure for accepting or rejecting the opposing interpretations. In Gay's Fables (1727), for example, a quarto collating A 4 B-Z4 2A2, the figures are so distributed that, as Mr. Knotts observes, no grouping results of the order required by Dr. Kaye's hypothesis. If the figures are correlated with the headlines, however, a pattern emerges which appears to substantiate the very theory Mr. Knotts intended to disprove.

Discounting the headline skeletons for gatherings B, C, and D, all of which are indeterminable, we may represent the others as follows: Now according to Mr. Knotts' belief, no less than forty formes were machined by a single individual, and only seven by the three pressmen identified as 4, 5, and 7. But according to the available evidence, as it may be read from the headlines, the work was more equally divided and the figures revealed to be somewhat more meaningful than Mr. Knotts supposes. The only acceptable interpretation, it seems to me, is this: Two men are originally assigned to the job at "half press" (i.e., one man to a machine), their names properly recorded in the ledger, and their work organized so that they operate in tandem, with one man machining both formes of the sequence?C-E-G-I, and the other, both formes of the alternate sequence?B-?D-F-H-K. Upon the completion of K, the work is interrupted: skeletons I and II are interchanged; III and IV are pied, discarded, or mislaid; V and VI are composed; and two other men take the place of those originally assigned.


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These identify themselves as 5 and 7 in order to obviate any dispute as to where the "hours" of work for one group ended, and those for the other began.[11] Printing then proceeds through P in the same manner as before, when there is a second interruption, marked, we will note, by the insertion of a figure 4 in each sequence at Q and R. What this signifies, apparently, is that the work previously distributed between two machines operating, as we have conjectured, at half press, is now undertaken as a single sequence by one machine employing two men (4 and an assistant) at full press. Had 4 figured only one of the two sheets, R, for instance, the indication would be that he is replacing 5 only in the one sequence while 7 continues with the other. But since he figures Q as well as R, he signalizes the termination of work by both of his predecessors, assumes credit for all of that which follows, and presumably operates at such a rate—at full press, probably—that he requires for his work the services of the same number of compositors, and the same number of formes, which had been used before. If a single compositor, using two formes, were needed for each of the two presses operating from B to P at half-capacity, then the total of two compositors and four formes might be required for a single press operating from Q to X at full capacity. That 4, with an assistant, is able to work twice as fast and thus to accomplish twice as much in a given period, is confirmed, it would seem, by the time divisions, which show that while the other pressmen, working individually, machine only two or three sheets in a week, 4 machines no less than six.

Unlike the others, 4 anticipates the end of his assignment, and marks it at outer X. Once again work is suspended, over Sunday, we may suppose, to be resumed by 5. And since 5 also requires the labors of the two compositors who had been previously assigned to separate presses, he too figures one of the formes supplied by each, verifying the fact that 4 is no longer at work, and then finishes the production by machining Y, Z, 2A, and presumably A. The grouping throughout, we may conclude, is quite apparent, the significance of the numbers for this work not incomprehensible, and their distribution exactly in accordance with Dr. Kaye's premises. For this poem, at any rate, the figures mark the


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inception and the extent of the work undertaken by those not originally assigned to the job.

If this is a reasonable interpretation of the evidence, it follows that an examination of books containing press figures and headlines will permit inferences not to be drawn when one or the other of these indications is absent. In the Fables the figures alone allow no demonstrable theory, and the headlines only a presumption that two presses were operating throughout. But the facts do not always conform to our expectations. Where there are no figures, as in the second volume of the Spectator [12] and in sheets K-2F of the fifth volume, the presumption is, for want of other evidence, indisputable. Where there are figures of a pattern like that in the fourth volume, the presumption is apparently confirmed. But where they are of another pattern, as in the Fables, and in the fourth edition of the Fable of the Bees, the presumption applies only for certain sheets. And for such works as John Williams' Vindication of the Answer to the Popish Address (1688) it does not seem to apply at all. This tract, a quarto collating A-E4 F2, is of the following pattern: Throughout the major portion of this work, and occasionally in the two Fables we have considered, a single press, first τ for A-B, and then * for C-D, seems to be operating at such speed (at full press?), or processing so few sheets, that four skeleton formes are allocated for the job in order to lend more fluidity to the time of distribution. Only in the last two sheets is there a shift in the arrangement, and then the skeletons are distributed, not in the manner we might expect, with I-II to one press and III to another, but with I-II to two presses, and III again to one of these, probably τ.

A correlation of the evidence necessitates a modification of our views concerning books with two sets of headlines as well as


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with those having four. Again there seems to be more disorder than the headlines alone reveal. For the eighth volume of the Spectator the absence of figures implies only a continuance of a process as it had been prearranged, which might be that of a single press machining all sheets, or that of two presses simultaneously machining the inner and outer formes. For the several editions of Clement Ellis's The Protestant Resolved (1688), on the other hand, some other and more specific explanation is required. The patterns are these: In each of these there is no indication, from the headlines, of two presses. From the figures, however, we learn that while * and τ have individually done most of the work performed in shop "B", both simultaneously machined sheets I and K of the first edition, and G, H, and presumably I of the second. Also observe that the termination of the work by the extra press is carefully marked, by a τ in outer L of the first edition, and by an * in inner K of the second. Once again the figures prevent unwarranted claims for pay.

James Macpherson's Temora (1763) presents another instance of the extent to which the headlines or the figures, if considered separately, may mislead the bibliographer. In this poem the identification of two sets of headlines, each used successively, one for the inner forme, one for the outer, might indicate work on a single press. The notation of a variety of marks, however, would seem to justify the assertion that the sheets were simultaneously processed by as many as ten different pressmen. Actually neither assumption appears to be valid. Either a number of men were working in relay on two presses or, less plausibly, the formes were allocated to any available press, but to no more than two at a time. Whatever the procedure, it was obviously erratic, undetermined by the overseer, and thus necessitated the marking


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of every forme to certify the identity of the men performing the work.[13]

One other relationship remains to be examined: that between the figures and three sets of headlines. When the third skeleton appears only occasionally it is very probably the one usually employed for the proofing press, but used for final work if one of the other skeletons is unavailable. If intermittently employed, as in sheets B-F of the first edition of Ellis's The Protestant Resolved, no identification is required for any of the formes, since all would represent the work of a single press. An example of a more systematic use of the third press is observed in Susannah Centlivre's The Busie Body [1709][14] Here, for some reason (perhaps it may be—as we have conjectured before—that 3 is working full press), all but one of the formes through F are marked.[15] After F there is a disruption involving, this time, not a discontinuance of certain forme-skeletons, but a reallocation, apparently for half-press work by three presses operating in succession. Number 3 worked both formes of G, presumably, 5 those of H, 2 those of I, and 3, again, those of K. The regular pattern of figures and headlines which might appear when several presses are operating successively would not be evident, however, when they are operating simultaneously. In this situation any one of the three formes would go to the press that was ready to take it. Consequently the sequence would be indeterminable, subject to arguments later on as to the hours of work performed, and requiring, therefore, as in similar instances cited above, the identification of every forme. A typical example of such an operation appears in the first volume of the Spectator.


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From this preliminary survey of the correspondence or, more often, the discrepancy between the headlines and the figures in eighteenth-century books, it will be agreed that investigation based on one kind of evidence to the exclusion of the other leads to an oversimplification of the problems involved. Before the expiration of the Licensing Act in 1695 the process of bookmaking was undoubtedly less confused than afterwards: only thirty-five master printers were authorized to practice the trade,[16] and most of these, we may be sure, conformed to the regulation limiting the number of presses and apprentices for each shop. During this period, then, extraneous conditions have not only provided the bibliographer with certain means for detecting occasional irregularities in the production of a book, as these are discerned in various types, headlines, and paper, but limited the output of books he has to examine to relatively few and comparatively well-organized establishments. After 1695, though, the conditions for disorder increase in approximately the same ratio as the means for detecting it disappear. By the end of the eighteenth century the personnel of the trade numbered no less than 2815,[17] but the materials of the trade—ink, paper, and type—had become so standardized that little is known or will ever be known of what these several thousand persons were doing. Even the press figures are uncommunicative. When they appear they seem to indicate a process which is disrupted, reassigned, or uncontrolled, printing engaged at half or full press, simultaneously or sequentially, and, rather obscurely, production over a certain period of time.[18] But they do not reveal, in all instances, the necessity for their appearance, nor the precise information conveyed to the person who ordered their insertion. Thus they remain, at best, as intimations of what will never be fully divulged.[19]


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Whatever may be the significance of the figures to the pressmen of the eighteenth century, their importance in contemporary investigation cannot be underestimated. By ignoring these convenient indices to the formes and sheets of various books, bibliographers have devised descriptions so general as to encompass as a single entity works which actually exist in innumerable states, impressions and editions. Even such authorities as Kaye, Griffith, Gulick, Sale, and Worthington, all of whom have occasionally reported the figures as a means of differentiation, fail to report them consistently and completely. Hence their accounts of Mandeville, Pope, Chesterfield, Richardson, and Scott are, one and all, inadequate. Indeed my casual enquiry into the use of these figures as a positive sign of variation among copies allows the assertion that practically every scholarly bibliography and edition of eighteenth-century literature rests on undiscriminated texts.

The great value of these figures lies in the convenience with which they may be recorded and subsequently used to distinguish and classify the variants they disclose. For this purpose one need not fill reams of paper with the distinguishing characteristics of the headlines (a fruitless procedure, I might observe, for most editions in this period) or travel about the country with cases of microfilm. The figures are sufficient criteria.[20] In most cases they may be recorded, as a necessary part of the description of a book, by a simple reference to the page and number [as 39—7]. In some, however, it may be necessary, for the purpose of bibliographical analysis, to convert this reference to less simplified notations


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indicating the forme in which the figure is located [C(i)7], the position of the figure within the forme [C7v(i)7], or, for half-sheet imposition, the sheet [C—7] or page [C4v—7] identified by the figure. The method of notation employed should, I think, be determined by the book, and not by any arbitrary principle requiring the presentation of useless information for some works and not enough of what would be essential for others. In the discussion which follows I have, therefore, adopted the most convenient system for the book considered.

The analysis of variants. Variation in the presence or kind of figures for a sheet in copies which are otherwise of a single impression indicates (1) a disrupted impression, as this may be occasioned by the substitution of one pressman for another at the same press, (2) a reimpression at other presses to compensate for a miscalculation at the time the tokens were set out for the original printing, or (3) a resetting for the same reason as that accounted for in (2).[21] Though an examination of copies which vary in this respect will usually not permit a discrimination between (1) and (2),[22] it will reveal (3) and allow the explanation suggested. Whether (2) or (3), a decision concerning the priority of variants may be offered on the basis suggested by Dr. Kaye: the later one will have a pattern of figures differing from that evident in the other sheets.[23]

Imagination can easily supply any number of incidents as the occasion for an interruption of the kind indicated under (1)—the failure of the first man to report for work after an evening at his favorite pub, or his departure for lunch, or his dismissal for one reason or another. And sometimes a reasonable hypothesis may be deduced from the aberration. In the previously undifferentiated second editions of Pope's Imitations of Horace, The


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First Epistle of the Second Book and The Second Epistle (1737), the work was performed by four numbered men and one designated as "τ".[24] For both of these second editions numbers 2, 3, 4, and occasionally 1 complete the impression of their formes, but τ works infrequently and then only on the press operated by 1. I think we may presume from this circumstance that 1 is the master printer in Woodfall's shop (perhaps Woodfall himself), and has under his tutelage a young apprentice who is allowed, now and then, to try his hand with a few sheets. If this much is presumed, the conjecture follows that where both figures and symbols appear in the same book, the figures may designate the master and journeymen, who are assigned numbers according to seniority, and the symbols, the apprentices, printers' devils, or "smouters" who are only occasionally employed at press.

Consistent variation in the figures for all sheets indicates different impressions or editions. Since the figures are usually entered on or immediately below the direction-line, they may be tied up with that line and the adjacent letter-press when the latter is removed from the forme, and remain as a part of the type page until they are replaced by the figures of other pressmen assigned to


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work a subsequent impression. When this is the practice the numbers, as always, will change between impressions, but their relative positions within the formes will remain unchanged. A typical example of this procedure is observed in the two "editions" of Samuel Johnson's Thoughts on the Late Transactions Respecting Falkland's Islands (1771), an octavo in half-sheets collating A2 B-K 4 L2, and bearing these figures: Here, as the figures imply and as inspection confirms, the second variant, though called a "Second Edition" on its title-page, is actually a reissue (reimpression).[25] Not infrequently, however, the figures will be dropped, along with other superfluous matter, before the pages are retied for storage, and thus reappear in a new impression as different numbers in different positions. Where this has occurred, it is impossible to ascertain, from the figures alone, whether the variant is of the same or another setting of type.[26]


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During the course of an impression regularly processed according to the order of its signatures, it may be decided to overprint the remaining sheets in anticipation of a second edition. Such a decision will be reflected in the figures, which will vary in number and position throughout that portion of the text which has been reset or reimpressed, but will usually remain invariable in the latter portion, where a single expanded impression suffices for both editions. Thus the incidence of identical figures provides, for the books concerned, instances of a procedure for which Dr. Bowers found no evidence in books of an earlier period:[27] that of a deliberate increase in the number of very late sheets machined at one time to be divided between two editions. The other practice to which Dr. Bowers refers as normal for sixteenth and seventeenth century printing is that of laying aside and later reimpressing the pages to be overprinted. Of the many examples of both procedures, apparently only five are now on record for the eighteenth century: those involving the two editions, first volume, of Gibbon's Decline and Fall; volumes 2 and 4 of the second and third editions of Chesterfield's Letters; volumes 1 and 3 of the third and fifth editions of the Letters; volume 7 of the first and third editions of Richardson's History of Sir Charles Grandison; and two editions of The New Ministry.[28]

Printing according to the order of accessibility. Occasionally it may be inferred, with varying degrees of certainty, that the initial impression of a book has not proceeded according to the order of its signatures, but in some abnormal sequence determined by the availability of the formes. Irregularity is implied, but not demonstrated, whenever identical figures in a second variant reappear, not in the latter portion of that variant, as we should expect for a normal overprint, but scattered throughout several interior sheets. In the absence of indications to the contrary, one explanation for these reiterated figures—as they occur, for example, in


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sheets D, F, and H of Johnson's Thoughts on the Late Transactions—is that the pressmen so identified accidentally returned to the same formes they had machined before. But for some works, certain considerations disallow this conjecture. For these, we may presume that the formes involved were overlooked in the process of the first impression, either by the pressman, who for one reason or another neglected to machine them until toward the end of his work, when they were then used for an overprinting, or by the compositor, who pushed them aside while he imposed or distributed the type for the others.

Before fixing the responsibility upon one or the other we should trace the progress of the forme from the compositor's bench to the press-room and back again in order to determine where and how it could be mislaid. Normally, of course, the proportion between compositors and pressmen will be such that the work proceeds without interruption. Once the intended date of publication has been advertised, however, the distribution of work must be so arranged that the pressmen are never allowed to be idle, for the schedule depends upon their machining a certain number of formes in a given time. It will be of advantage to the overseer, therefore, that he have one or more formes ready at each press so that there will be no delay and consequent disruption of the schedule. The practice of stacking the formes awaiting impression we may consider to be a custom, for a regulation covers the matter:

When a compositor carries his form down for press, he is not to put two forms together without a partition between, or forfeiture of two-pence; and in case, through neglect of such partition, a form should be battered, the compositor guilty of such neglect shall forfeit six-pence.[29]
Since preservation of type is the primary concern, it is probable that the formes were laid, even with partitions, not one on top of the other, but against a wall where they would be convenient to all the pressmen, or, if they were previously assigned to one, against that man's press. Wherever their location, the formes last imposed would be those most accessible to the men.

Infrequently it might happen, particularly if the preceding work is running to a great number of copies, that all the formes of


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a pamphlet would be stacked and ready for impression, in which case they would be machined throughout in the inverse order of their signatures.[30] So long as the pressman keeps the two formes of a sheet together, it is immaterial whether he selects those for sheets G or M or X, for he knows that sooner or later he and his companions will "work their way to the wall," where he may find some of the early formes—B, D, and F, for example. And if, before he gets that far, the issue has been increased, then B, D, and F will constitute a single impression for the two editions, while G, M, and X, though later in the alphabetical sequence, will be reset or reimpressed in the second.

Though there must necessarily be an accumulation of ready-formes in the press-room in order to avoid delay, any accumulation of used formes was considered a nuisance and subject to fine.

As soon as a form is wrought-off, the pressman to carry it to a lie-trough, and there completely rub it over with lie, rinse it with water, and then carry it to the wrought-off place, or to the end of the compositor's frame it belongs to. Three-pence for each neglected form.[31]
After it has been returned to the "wrought-off place" or directly to the compositor, he too must not be dilatory in distributing type.
Jobs to be cleared away immediately after notice being given by the overseer, under the penalty of two-pence for every hour's delay.[32]
Usually, of course, the compositor would need no urging to perform this task, for it would often be essential that he distribute in order to keep himself provided with enough sorts to continue composition. And as it takes only one-sixth as long to break type as it does to set it up,[33] he not only has the compulsion of a penalty and the necessity for reusing the type as encouragements to distribute, but sufficient time for the job. It may be said, therefore,


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that whenever interspersed formes of the first impression reappear in the second impression or edition, these formes have been machined according to the accessibility of the type in the press-room.

It is one thing to construct a plausible hypothesis, quite another to prove it. The three examples cited below are arranged according to the degree of irregularity and the amount of corollary evidence supporting the argument advanced. In the first of these, Chesterfield's Case of the Hanover Forces (1743, 80 in half-sheets, A2 B-L 4 M2)[34] a comparison of the two early editions shows these similarities and differences:

Sheets reset in "B"   reimpressed   continuously impressed  
Edition "A"  C-2 D-1 E-3  B-- L-3 AM-1 G-1  F-3 H-3 I-1 K-2  
Edition "B"  3 1 1  3 1 1 3 3 1 2  
[Italics indicate figures in the same position for each edition. Edition "B" sheet G is reimpressed except for reset 2v-3].
The appearance of an identically positioned figure in the sheet presumably imposed as A2+M2 would seem to indicate a single impression; but since the date on A1 of the "A" edition invariably reads "M.CDD.XLIII.", while that in "B" reads, correctly, "M.DCC.XLIII.", an interruption has occurred between the variants. The sheet in "B" must be considered, then, either as a reimpression, with the presence of the identical figure accounted for as the accidental return of the man to the forme he worked before, or as a continuous impression, with the corrected state appearing, again accidentally, only in the later edition of the copies examined. Though accidence may similarly account for the reiterated figures in F, H, I, and K, the possibility of this diminishes with each additional sheet and may be discounted altogether with reference to four. It would be a strange coincidence indeed that out of the eleven formes of this book, number 2 should return to one of the two formes he had previously impressed. More likely is the supposition that the sheets for "A" were impressed in the order of their accessibility, those later


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reset being the first, followed by those subsequently reimpressed and, as the stack was uncovered, those continued as a single impression for the planned overprint. The progress of these formes through the press may therefore approximately correspond to this formulary:        
Edition  A   AB   B   B  
Sheets  C-E, B, L, AM, G  K, I, H, F  B, L, AM, G  C-E 
Copies  1000  1500  500  500 
Category  impressed   reimpressed   reset  
The number of copies for this and later examples represents an arbitrary assignment.

In Cumberland's The Imposters (1789, 80, A2 B-F8 G6) an order of printing according to accessibility seems to be the only reasonable explanation of the facts. The status of the first two "editions" is this:[35] Since the formes for every sheet, except C and E, were simultaneously impressed in the one issue, but consecutively impressed in the other, it would appear that there was some reason for a shift in the printing arrangements. And that reason, we may confidently assert, can be found in the circumstances pertaining to the impression of C, a sheet which, unlike the others, is apparently of a single impression, and simultaneously machined throughout. What happened, presumably, is that the formes for C were covered by those for D-G, and were thus not available until inner and outer G had been picked up by 1 and 6. Then, after the completion of a run of—let us say—500 copies of G, but before the completion of the same run on C, the decision was made to double the issue, whereupon x and 4 together continued to impress about 900 copies of C in approximately the same amount of time that it took 8 and τ individually to print and perfect 500 copies


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of B and E. Number 8 then completed the work on AG while 4 machined D and F. The facts of printing, therefore, were probably not too dissimilar to what is represented by the formulary:

Issue  1   1-2   2  
Sheets  B, D-G  B, E, G, D, F 
Copies  500  1000  500 
Category  impressed   reimpressed  

Combined in Matthew Lewis's Alfonso, King of Castile (1801, 80 in half-sheets, A-P4) are several kinds of evidence which together provide a convincing demonstration of the irregular printing of the first impression. In this, A4v carries a list of fifteen corrigenda present in eight of the fifteen gatherings. In the second issue (reimpression) of the play the list has been withdrawn and all errata corrected except those appearing in the three sheets having the same figures as before—sheets H, I, and N. Then in the second impression of these sheets (the third issue of the play, titled "The Second Edition") four of the five errata which they contained are finally corrected. From this it follows that H, I, and N were printed without interruption for both of the early issues before the corrigenda were made available for the second, and before they were removed from the press and corrected for the third. To understand these complications as they are now beginning to develop it will be convenient to have before us a tabulation of the data for the pertinent variants.[36]

Sheet  A   i  
1st issue  (3)  (3)  (4)  (3)   (4)   (3)  (3)   (6) 
2d & 3d issues  4   (3)   (4)   6   (3)   4  
4th issue  4   6   4  
[Sheets containing uncorrected errata are enclosed in parentheses; those continuously impressed for two variants are indicated by italics. Sheet A is dropped and i a Q R added in the third and fourth reimpressed issues].

Since H, I, and N are both by figure and by readings confirmed as a single impression for the first and second issues, we may suppose that they were printed toward the end of the sequence of sheets for the first and in sufficient quantities to provide copies


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for both issues. Yet they must precede the last two or three sheets, for sometime during the work on P, first issue, the press was stopped for the correction of "requium" to "requiem" (105.5), one of the fifteen errors noted by Lewis when he returned the proof for preliminary gathering A. If H, I, and N had followed A, then it is reasonable to assume that they too would have been corrected at press, especially since number 3 worked on A as well as H and N. And not only must P and A therefore come after the three but very probably the invariant O, a sheet worked by 6, who, we will observe, is lately assigned to this job, apparently for the purpose of hurrying it up.

Taking these several factors into account, we are obliged to assume that the first issue was overprinted for three sheets (H-I, N), then reduced to the original quota of copies for three more (O-P, A) in order to insure the publication of the original issue on the scheduled date. After this date there were a number of other improvisations in the making of subsequent issues, all of which may be represented in a formulary.

Issue  1-3  2-3  3-4 
Sheets  B-G,K-M  H-I,N  O-P,A  B-E,G,K-L,O-P,A  i, Q-R  a,F,M 
Copies  1000  2000  1000  1000  500  1000 
Category  impressed   reimpressed   impressed  
Sheets  i,B-E,G-L,N,O-R  HI 
Copies  500  500 
Category  revised and reimposed   reset  
[I assume the production of 1000 copies for each of the first two issues, the reuse of 500 copies remaining from the second for the third, and the production of 500 more for the fourth.]
Should any more be needed, a measure of proof for the position of H-I, N in the sequence machined for the first issue can be inferred from the construction of subsequent impressions. For the third issue ("Second Edition") sheet A was discarded, four new sheets prepared (i, a, Q-R), and the remainder of the second issue combined with these to form a complete copy. As all the type for the first issue, excepting H and I, was still standing at the time the fourth issue (also titled "Second Edition") was ordered, it was corrected according to the author's latest desires,


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then machined by a new group of men. Why was it necessary to reset H and I?[37] If these two sheets had come in their proper sequence during the impression of the second issue, they would have been available for the fourth. But as they obviously were not available, the conclusion is inescapable that they were printed simultaneously with the first and at the beginning of the second issue, then distributed before the decision was made to retain the type of the second for a fourth reimpressed issue.

Cast-off copy. Normally an allocation of copy among several shops can be easily detected by variation in the headlines, font of type, type-measure, or paper. But occasionally these differentiae are so minute that they escape notice unless attention is directed to them by evidence of a more conspicuous nature, such as that provided by the figures. These may show a division whenever they appear in one portion of the text, but not in the second, or, less frequently, when they are of one kind in the first portion, and of another in the second. Why the former pattern should be almost invariably represented is inexplicable.[38] Some few copies might be considered as the joint product of two shops, one of which did not use figures; but the presence of numerous exemplars requires another explanation. Whatever the reason, the figures in the following editions signify what other evidence substantiates as a distribution of work.

Shop 1: figures   Shop 2: figures  
Burnet, Reflections on the Relation of the  
English Reformation (1688) 
"A" edition (40, A-M4 N2) . . . .  A-K *  L-Nτ 
"B" edition (40, A-H4) . . . . . .  A-Dτ  E-Hτ (different font) 
Ellis, The Protestant Resolved (1688) 
First Edition . . . . . . . . . .  B-F  G-N, Aτ * 
Second edition . . . . . . . . . .  B-F  G-L, Aτ * 
Johnson, An Account of the Life of Mr  
Savage (1744) . . . . . . . . .  B-S 1, 2, 3  T-2B, A 
Lyttelton, Dialogues of the Dead (1760) 
Second edition . . . . . . . . . .  A-L [various]  M-X 
Third edition . . . . . . . . . .  A-L [various]  M-X (N figured) 


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The Spectator, vol. V (cf. appendix) .  B-E §  F-2F 
Tonson (ed.) Poetical Miscellanies: The  
Sixth Part (1709)[39] . . . . . . .  A, E-M, Q-2S  B-D * 
N-P τ 3 
4A-3B *§ 
The figures alone, however, are not an infallible criterion. Even though they are grouped in one portion of the text, they do not indicate divided copy in Gay's Fables, as we have seen, nor do they suggest, in the absence of other and more reliable evidence, what has happened in Mason's Caractacus (1759). Here they appear in the last six gatherings only, but from their presence nothing can be deduced.[40]

Cancels. One obvious use for the figures which has been recommended in theory, though, so far as I know, never put into practice, relates to the detection of cancels. As Mr. Chapman has observed, if two figures are present in a forme, one is presumably upon a leaf supplied from another sheet.[41] In each of the following works cancellation may be suspected from the reduplicated figures, and is immediately confirmed by corroborative evidence.

Figures (cancel in italics)  Collateral proof  
Burke, An Appeal from the New to the Old Whigs  
(1791) 80 [42] . . . . . .  C2v(o)3 C5 (0)1   chainlines, stub after C5 
G7 (o)8 G8v(0)1   chainlines, G8 (signed 'G7') 


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Burke, Speech on Conciliation  
(1775) 40 . . . . . . .  C2v(0)5 C4v(o)5  chainlines 
Cumberland, The Wheel of  
Fortune (1795) 80 . . . .  A5(o)x A8 v(0) *  [wove paper] 'A8' 
Other cancels in Burke's Appeal for which the figures provide no clue, however, are B5 (signed) and D8 (signed 'D7'). If there were no signature on the first of these to signify cancellation, it might be inferred, nevertheless, from the absence of a figure. All sheets except B have in their uncancelled state, presumably, two figures; B departs from the pattern by having only one. And as this is on the inner forme (B8-§), the other was very probably on the outer forme of B5 in its original state.

Where there is, as in the Appeal, an evident pattern of figures, any irregularity should be regarded with as much suspicion as duplicate figures. In Johnson's Thoughts on the Late Transactions, to cite again an oft-quoted example, the missing figure in sheet K of the first impression (see p. 183) is doubtless explained by the existence of a cancel at K2. Similarly in Edward Young's Centaur Not Fabulous (1755), an octavo, various deviations from customary practice are observed: the register of signatures through $4 for all sheets, except N2 and R2; and the insertion of a single figure for each sheet, except T and 2C, which have two, and E and U, which have none. As the copies examined have all been tightly rebound, corollary evidence is not easily obtained; but the occasional presence of stubs in some exemplars allows a provisional conclusion that this book contains at least five cancels—N1.2, R1.2, and T8 or U1—and probably has several more, or perhaps a complete resetting, in sheets E, T, and 2C.

Like the grouping of figures discussed in the previous section, the appearance or disappearance of figures is not always a certain sign of abnormality. To the several instances of this in which cancellation is confirmed, we may add several more which seem to indicate a cancellation that has not occurred. The first, Chesterfield's Vindication of the Case of the Hanover Troops (1743, 80 in half-sheets), has a figure 1 entered at D3v of the initial issue, the same 1 and another at D4v of the reissue (reimpression).[43] As this


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pamphlet was printed by half-sheet imposition, requiring only one figure to a forme, the presence of a second calls for explanation. And the only plausible one is that upon the return of the forme for a reissue, the pressman, perhaps realizing that he was subject to a fine for working without figures,[44] looked about for the symbol of the previous man, and not finding it, inserted his own at D4v. Had he looked on the other side of the forme, we may presume, he would not only have found the figure, but discovered it to be his.

Another appears in a cheap reprint of Charles Shadwell's Fair Quaker of Deal (1769, 120) where, curiously enough, two figures, a 2 and a 4, are found on B11. Quite possibly—my conjecture rests on a single copy (NcD)—one man replaced another at press and failed to remove the figure belonging to his predecessor. A third example, evident in Fielding's Voyage to Lisbon, is more appropriately considered in the next section.

Imposition. When the format of a book is for any reason subject to various interpretations, the figures should provide a clue to the disposition of the pages within a given forme, and thus identify the process employed. For the normal method of half-sheet imposition, in which all the pages for a signature are placed within the same chase, the process, involving the use of a single machine, is revealed by a single figure in each gathering. For the alternate method, requiring an arrangement of two successive outer formes in one chase, the corresponding inner formes in another, the process, involving two presses or two distinct operations on the same press, would be occasionally signified by two figures, both of which will appear in one of the half sheets, none in the second, or one in a certain forme of the first, the other in the obverse forme of the second. Again, as with all of my remarks concerning the figures, these generalizations have exceptions. One, Chesterfield's Vindication, has already been mentioned as an instance of accidental duplication in the figures. Another, possibly, occurs in Fielding's second-printed, first-published edition of the Voyage to Lisbon (1755), a duodecimo with its final gathering


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imposed as a half-sheet and figured N3v(i)7, N4v(o)2. Here we would expect, for one gathering, imposition according to the first method, but find, apparently, the arrangements required by the second. Perhaps, if the figures are a reliable indication, the second half-sheet produced was used in another book.

In duodecimoes the manner of imposition can be determined, in most instances, by the position of the figures. Normally these will be found only at the most convenient point of insertion, i.e., at the exposed foot of unsigned pages at either end of the forme. If the pages are, conveniently, of an outer rank, but so positioned that their headlines are exposed, the feet of these pages are as inaccessible as those for the inner rank, and thus remain unfigured. To illustrate the arrangement of the pages in the impositions usually described (a and d below), possible variations in these arrangements, and the probable location of the figures in all varieties, I present the following data for the outer formes: Practically all eighteenth-century books of duodecimo format were imposed as described under (a); some few, as for example those discussed below, have sheets accidentally imposed, it would seem, in the manner of (b) or (c); but none, so far as I have observed, were imposed as indicated by (d).

One instance of disarranged imposition appears in a reprint of


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Thomas Southerne's Oroonoko (printed for C. Bathurst and others, 1776), in which sheet B is aberrantly signed through $6 (not $5, as normally) and figured 7v(i)3, 10v(o)2. The added signature as well as the location of the figures suggests (b) as the manner of imposition. Very probably the rank of leaves 5—8 was not discovered to be misplaced until the outer forme of B had been partially machined. Then, to avoid wastage, the inner was imposed in the same manner, and a signature added to $6 so that the binder would be certain, whatever forme was up, to sect the lower and not the upper third of the sheet.

Other instances of irregularity, but only in the location of the figures, are implicit in Mandeville's Fable of the Bees. Part II (1730),[45] where an asterisk is inserted at M10v, and in Smollett's Humphry Clinker (second edition, 1771), where there are the following discrepancies from the normal pattern: F11v(i)4, F10v(o)7; H8(i)4, H9(o)7; and M4v(o)7. All of these except F conform, again, to (b); and F, apparently, to (c). For these the evidence of aberration becomes less certain, of course, when it rests on the figures alone, and may be explicable on other grounds at present undisclosed. (Outer 11 and 12 would be conjoined whether imposition is [a] or [c].)

One example of the confusion that may result when the figures are abnormally placed in a normal imposition appears in the first-published edition of Fielding's Voyage to Lisbon (1755), a book of many bibliographical mysteries, not all of which have as yet been fathomed. In this all gatherings have two figures, one for each forme, except E, F, and G, each of which has three: If the figures in the inner rank were not duplicated in the outer, we might suppose, as for Humphry Clinker, that the first two sheets are instances of (b), the third of (c). Since the figures are reiterated, however, and since the chainlines for all leaves are contiguous with those for their normal counterparts, we must discount, not only this possibility, but another pertaining to


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cancellation. A third conjecture, that these three gatherings were imposed by 4's and 8's to dispose of split sheet remainders, must also be dismissed; for if this were the procedure, then F would have two figures on the inner four-leaf segment to represent the work of a single press, and only one on the outer eight-leaf segment to represent the work of two. Thus we are perforce reduced to the comment that these figures must reflect some irregularity, not in the production of the book, but in the assignments for its production. Perhaps two agents were involved, the compositor, who accidentally inserts the figures in the middle rank of pages as he imposes them, and the pressman, who fails to discover them in the outer ranks, where they belong, and therefore figures again, number 1 at E12v, number 2 at F5v and G8.

Though the figures raise, in the Voyage to Lisbon, an intriguing little problem which may not be decided to the satisfaction of all, they do provide the means for solving one of much greater consequence. Excluding those in the inner rank of E, F, and G, which are demonstrably superfluous, and those appearing in I and K, which ambiguously identify either (a) or (d) imposition [I7v(i)3, I12v(o)7; K7v(i)3, K12v(o)2], the ones remaining are invariably disposed in locations accessible only for imposition with cutting (a). The watermarks, however, seem to indicate the alternate method without cutting (d). These are located, in each gathering, at the outer margin, half-way down the page, and overlapping leaves 9 and 10, their approximate position for the latter method. Between the two kinds of evidence we must choose, I am now convinced, that afforded by the figures, and explain the other as uncommon paper of foreign make, probably Genevan, with the watermark in the middle of the sheet.[46] In this unusual position it


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appears exactly at the location described for the sheets of the Voyage to Lisbon and verifies the imposition which the figures certify as (a). Thus the information to be derived from the figures is completely justified and leads to a conclusion which might not have been forthcoming had it been ignored.

From these several demonstrations of the value of press figures in various phases of bibliographical analysis it is obvious that they are entitled to consideration whenever they appear in eighteenth-century books. In many instances they constitute the only convenient procedure for disclosing hidden variants, "presumed editions,"[47] and sophisticated or mixed copies,[48] the only practicable method for detecting and deciding problems at present unknown or unresolved, the only expedient means for selecting and organizing the material to be studied in any investigation, and for describing the exact nature of that material in the bibliographical record. Their presence in the record may not always be informative, but their omission must inevitably deny the scholar the opportunity of confirming the research of others and seriously inhibit his own.


The recent publication of Mr. Philip Gaskell's article on "Eighteenth-century Press Numbers" [Library, 5th ser., IV (1950), 249-61] allows me the privilege of anticipating, in his commentary, some of the criticism which may be evoked by my own account. Again I feel constrained to remark that the exclusive interpretation offered by Mr. Gaskell, like the one ventured by Mr. Knotts, cannot prevail against the conflicting testimony of


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the headlines. Perhaps information other than this may be found to support the ambiguous intimations of the figures—such as that recorded in the printers' ledgers, for instance—but until it is forthcoming I shall continue to refer to the corollary evidence now available, and to reaffirm my conviction (1) that Kaye's theory is, essentially, the only one that comprehends all the facts; (2) that the presence of an anonymous pressman need not, therefore, be presumed for all unfigured sheets; (3) that reiterated figures in both formes of a sheet cannot be regarded as the idiosyncrasy of a compositor or foreman (a surmise which overlooks the strangely intermittent indication of what would be a persistent trait), but rather as the sign of full-press operation or of the termination of simultaneous printing; (4) that a shift in the position of a figure does not necessarily signify reimposition; or conversely, (5) that the appearance of a second figure in the same position as the first may not result from the transfer of the forme, during the course of an impression, to another machine. If one recognizes the probabilities which seem to be confirmed by the examples that I have cited, first, that the figures designate the man and not the machine, and secondly, that the figures may be tied up with the letterpress between impressions, then it can be maintained that the occasional appearance of an alternate but identically positioned figure in some sheets usually indicates a replacement at the same press, and the appearance of this figure in all sheets, a subsequent impression at other presses. Moreover, the association of the figure with the man also permits a rational explanation of the large numbers in a few works, such as the '22' which Mr. Gaskell found in Mrs. Piozzi's Observations on a Journey (1789). Actually, Strahan, the printer, may have owned only seven or eight presses and assigned to each three or more men working in shifts.

Despite our several disagreements, Mr. Gaskell and I concur in rearranging the order and reducing the number of impressions which Mr. Knotts devised for the variants of The Beggar's Opera (1728). But where Mr. Gaskell, as a consequence of his premise concerning the variable figures, supposes only one reimposition, and thus limits the total impressions to two—constituting for the first, the groups he labels A—C, for the second, D—G — I wish to defer a commitment on those described as D—E (corresponding


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to the miscellaneous group 3 in my review) until their status has been determined by the headlines. Meanwhile, it should be mentioned that, in addition to the variants already disclosed, several others have been reported. These I describe according to Mr. Gaskell's classification.                
Group   B   C   D   E   F   Copy  
A1  1v-1  7v-2  7v-2  4v-8  CtY (Plays, vol. 68) 
A2  7v-2  7v-2  4r-8  CSmH (Devonshire H.C. 7) 
4v-5  5r-5 
B1  7v-6  4r-6  CSmH (Devonshire 151814) 
E1  8v-6  TxU (Ak/ G252/ 728bad) 
Undoubtedly all but a few of the eleven varieties now identified represent, as Mr. Gaskell suggests, mixed copies or adjustments at press and not separate impressions.


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Page 202


Page 203


Page 204


Page 205



Portions of this study derive from chapters 1 and 2 of my unpublished doctoral dissertation, entitled Procedures for Determining the Identity and Order of Certain Eighteenth-Century Editions (University of Chicago, 1949).


"Press Numbers as a Bibliographical Tool: A Study of Gay's The Beggar's Opera, 1728," Harvard Library Bulletin, III (1949), 198-212. For a further consideration of the problems discussed by Mr. Knotts, see my review in Philological Quarterly, XXIX (1950).


I have adopted the term "press figures" in deference to original contemporary usage in the printers' manuals. Perhaps a more accurate signification would be "pressman's mark," for, as I shall endeavor to show, the symbol identifies the man rather than the press, and exists in the form of letters and numbers as well as figures. Since this term is of my own coinage, however, and since it might be confused with "printer's mark" or "press mark," both of which have other denotations, I use the customary reference.


Cf. Ronald B. McKerrow, An Introduction to Bibliography (1927), pp. 81-82; R. W. Chapman, "Printing with Figures: A Note," The Library, 4th ser., III (1922-23), 175-76; and the latter's citation from several printers' manuals.


C[aleb] Stower, The Printer's Grammar (1808), pp. 386, 376.


Ellic Howe (ed.) The London Compositor (1947), pp. 70, 72; Stower, op. cit., p. 418.


Howe, op. cit., p. 31.


Bernard Mandeville, The Fable of the Bees, ed. F. B. Kaye (1924), II, 395.


Knotts, op. cit., p. 202.


This estimate is based on the statistics cited in Howe, op. cit., p. 133.


See Stower, op. cit., p. 433 for tables indicating the charge in hours as estimated from the number of sheets printed and perfected.


Tabulations of the figures for the Spectator, Fable of the Bees, and Temora are entered in the appendix. For the Fable of the Bees it would appear that half press is indicated by a figure on one forme of a sheet, full press by a figure on both formes. Note that when 8 is operating at full press (I-L or O-Q) it accomplishes almost twice as much as 7 and 5 at half capacity (M-N).


This explanation also suffices for Colley Cibber's The Careless Husband (Tonson, 1735. 120, A-D12 E6) and for Steele's Dramatic Works (Lintot, 1723. 120, A-L12 M6). Both have two sets of headlines and numerous figures.


Though of the shape and size of an octavo, this play has horizontal chainlines (so I am informed) and thus collates A 4 B-K4. My examination has been confined to a facsimile copy of MiU reproduced by the Augustan Reprint Society (Series V, No. 3, 1949).


Other instances of what seems to be an unnecessary reiteration of the same figure, but here throughout the impression and only for one forme of each sheet, appear in the first editions of Peacock's Nightmare Abbey (1818—sheet H unfigured, K figured twice) and Coleridge's Fears in Solitude (1798).


The figure cited is that for the year 1668. Howe, op. cit., p. 33. Though the Act limited the master printers to twenty, there is no evidence that they were reduced to that number at any time during the period that the law was on the books.


Cf. an anonymous report to Francis Place, cited in Howe, op. cit., p. 133.


Where the figures are apparently used for this latter purpose, as in the Fables, the 4th edition of the Fable of the Bees, and in the 6th and 7th volumes of the Spectator, the time represented may be a week. For these books it is plausible that the men completed, in a six day period, three or more sheets at full press, three or less at half press. The evidence is so ambiguous, however, and so variously recorded by the pressmen as to be almost worthless.


It has been suggested to me that the figures might identify the compositors as well as the pressmen, and thus serve as a means for insuring the return of the wrought-off formes to the proper persons for distribution. This would be a plausible assumption were it not for the fact that the figures are highly variable, not present in some formes of an impression, constant in others, shifting in still others, and changing in every forme of a reimpression. Thus for any one setting of type, presumably the work of a single compositor, there may be in the course of its use as many as eight different figures, all identifying the succession of men at press, but none the man who composed the type. An exceptional case is evident, however, in the initial gathering of Mandeville's Fable of the Bees. Part II (1730, 120—the second edition?), where a figure ‡ appears at the foot of every page from A7 to A11v. Professor James L. Clifford has offered what seems to be the only reasonable explanation for this phenomenon. An apprentice has composed these ten pages and is held responsible for whatever correction is necessary and for the eventual distribution of the type.


This comment should be qualified by the observation that pirates may infrequently attempt to duplicate the figures of their copytext as well as the ornaments and typography. Cf. Dr. Giles E. Dawson's article on "Three Shakespearian Piracies" in Papers of the Bibliographical Society of the University of Virginia, I (1948), 47-58.


For examples other than those noted in this article, see for (1) and (2) Greville Worthington, A Bibliography of the Waverley Novels (1931), p. 12 passim; for (3) Kaye, op. cit., II, 394-95. Occasionally the figures remain constant within an impression but move within the forme. Thus in Gay's , figure 7 appears in some copies at M3v (NN-Berg [2]), in others at M1v (MB, NN), though the headlines and letterpress are unaltered. Similarly, figure 3 in the second volume of Fielding's Amelia (120, 1752) may appear at position F6v (CtY) or F7 (CtY, ICU, NN-Berg[2]). Presumably these figures were extracted by the inkballs and replaced.


The only positive evidence would be that of the headlines, which would reappear according to pattern in both of the variants resulting from the circumstances described in (1), but only in the first of the variants envisaged under (2).


Kaye, op. cit., II, 394-95.


The disclosure of these editions requires supplementary information, which is in preparation for future publication. Of the several editions of the First Epistle, the first is unrecorded, and the second consists of a single impression, not two, as Griffith believes (items 458, 467). Either edition of the Second Epistle corresponds to the general description offered by Griffith under item 447.


Throughout this paper my terminology approximately conforms, I trust, to the several definitions set forth in Dr. Bowers' Principles of Bibliographical Description (1949). From the available evidence concerning planned overprints of certain eighteenth-century books, I am, however, unwilling to abandon McKerrow's classification of these as "editions" and to assume with Dr. Bowers (p. 48) that they represent states. For books printed before 1695 it is no doubt true that since legal restrictions operated to prevent an excessive issue of copies from a single setting, the necessary resetting for overprints "presumably occurred," as Dr. Bowers remarks, "during 'continuous printing' and concerns the text of only a small portion of the book." But the lapse of these restrictions brought about a modification of procedure which is evident in numerous books of a later period. In one, Gibbon's Decline and Fall (cited by Dr. Bowers [p. 48, n. 7] as an unusual case), the resetting admittedly involves only about one-third of the text; but this amounts to the impression of 500 sheets on fifty-four formes—or to some 13,500 perfected sheets, in all, which could hardly have been processed simultaneously with the work on the original issue. In a second the resetting, comprising 50% (160 pages) of the text, was certainly not undertaken until after the overprinting of the remainder, for the author was demanding publication of the first issue at the earliest possible date. In a third, resetting constitutes 60% (192 pages) of the text, and some of this was continuously impressed for the "third edition." And for others, as in the several editions of Pope's Epistles, and of The New Ministry cited in the text, printing apparently proceeded up to the last sheet or so before resetting or reimpression was begun. Quite obviously, then, the time-consuming process of recomposing and reprinting early sheets for most, if not all of these books must have been subsequent to the initial publication of the copies produced according to the original plan. Thus the evidence for this period is sufficiently complete, I believe, to deny the necessity and the practice of resetting during continuous printing, and to reject the designation of "states" for books in this category. Actually, if this designation must apply, it will be necessary to subsume under these "states" variant impressions and other "substates"; and this is quite impractical. I have, therefore, accorded such books the status of editions.


An instance of successive reimpressions in which the figures are dropped occurs in Gay's The Beggar's Opera. See Knotts, op. cit. More often, however, as Dr. Bowers reports for books printed in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, the entire type matter, excluding the headlines and quads, is tied together if intended for reuse. "Notes on Standing Type in Elizabethan Printing," Papers of the Bibliographical Society of America, XL (1946), 210. See further note 30 below.


Bowers, Principles, p. 110, n. 44.


See the respective author-bibliographies by J. E. Norton (p. 38 passim), S. L. Gulick (p. 97), W. M. Sale (pp. 68, 73-76), and Arthur E. Case, Bibliography of English Poetical Miscellanies 1521-1750 (1935), items 435(1)(a) and (1)(b).


Stower, op. cit., p. 384.


The composition of a work running to approximately six sheets was often completed before return of letter. Howe, op. cit., pp. 92, 361, n. 1. For all examples discussed in this section two assumptions are implicit: first, that sufficient chases were available in this period for retaining the pages of several formes, and secondly (as this may be demonstrated in the headlines of The Imposters and Alfonso), that the headlines are an integral part of the type-page, not of the forme, and thus are transferred from one impression to another.


Stower, op. cit., p. 386.


Ibid., p. 385.


Howe, op. cit., p. 381.


The editions of this pamphlet here identified as "A" and "B" represent two of some eight editions, only four of which are registered in Gulick's bibliography. "A" has not been previously recorded; "B" corresponds to Gulick No. 301.


The "second edition" is actually a reissue (reimpression) of the first. In both issues the figures appear on the same type pages, indicating, as mentioned before, that they were tied up with the letter-press between impressions. Where the figures are in the same position within the page that fact is noted by italics.


The circumstances of production for these and other unrecorded variants of Alfonso are so complex as to preclude analysis in this article. See my dissertation, pp. 123-24.


In the Princeton copy of the fourth issue the difference between the other gatherings and H-I is accentuated by a change in the paper from wove to laid.


The only exception I have seen, besides the two editions of Burnet's Reflections, is volume 7 of the Spectator. Cf. appendix.


The only copy I have seen (NN) collates 80, A4 B-T8 U8(—U8?) X-2R8 2S6 4A8 3B8. Dr. Case [op. cit., item 172 (6) (a)] correctly infers from the irregularity in the signatures and pagination that sheets N—P, 4A (described by Case as 3A) and 3B must have been printed before the rest of the book. Supporting evidence is represented by the figures for these sheets, and also by the paper, which is distinctly different from that used elsewhere. The figures and the paper also distinguish sheets B—D, but since these conform to the new system of pagination, they were doubtless printed after the others and simultaneously with those machined according to the later plan of imposition.


It should be noted, however, that although it is impossible to demonstrate the employment of two shops for this poem, at least two compositors were at work in different sections, one who spells the name "EVELINA" (in D8v-F1, G4v-M1v), and one who spells it "EVILINA" (in A4v, C2v-C4, F1v-G4v). Furthermore, this distinction roughly corresponds to that between the unfigured (A-G) and figured (H-N) portions of the text.


"Notes on Cancel Leaves," The Library, 4th ser., V (1924-25), 252.


If it is permissible to consider information not to be derived from the book—i.e., for the Appeal, the fact that the whole of sheet E was also cancelled [Thomas MacKnight, History of the Life and Times of Edmund Burke (1860), III, 407-9]—then the precise collation for this insignificant little pamphlet will read: 80, A 2[=K4.5] B8(± 'B5') C8(± C5) D8 (-D8+'D7') E8(±) F8 G8(-G8+'G7') H-I8 K8[-K4.5=A 2].


Dr. Gulick identifies the first edition (item 305) as existing in two states, one with and one without errata on H4v. Actually, as the figures show, there are two impressions, with the first in two states. The whole question of the bibliography and authorship of this and the other Hanover pamphlets attributed to Chesterfield is so complex as to require separate consideration elsewhere.


Regulation 3 for pressmen, Stower, op. cit., p. 386.


The figure cited for this work is the only one that appears, except for the reiterated figure mentioned in fn. 19.


The watermark, a twelve-pointed star measuring 3 cm. across, almost certainly identifies the paper as of Genevan origin, since the law in that locality specifically required the mark to be in the center of the sheet. Cf. C. M. Briquet, Les filigranes (Leipzig, 1923) II, 324, 349. Professor Allen T. Hazen, to whom I am indebted for this reference, also informs me that its appearance in this edition of the Voyage, printed in 1755, is most unusual, for it had been supposed that no Italian or Swiss paper was used by British printers after 1740. Corroborative evidence of the w/m position is to be found, first, in the other edition, which was printed just before this one [cf. Strahan's ledger entries, cited in J. Paul de Castro, "The Printing of Fielding's Works," The Library, 4th ser., I (1920-21), 257-70], on ordinary lily paper (except for A 4), and obviously according to imposition (a); secondly, in the preliminary gathering A 4, which is of the same setting of type in each edition and has, for both, half of the star w/m at the outer edge of A3, an impossible position for a mark normally placed; and thirdly, in the final gathering N6 of this edition, where half the mark appears at the outer edge of N5, again an impossible position for a normal mark.


If scholars would check the figures instead of haunting bookshops for "lost" editions, they might discover the copy they seek on their own shelves. Thus, to cite a trivial example, the unknown but presumed "second edition" of William Whitehead's Variety (1776, 4°) is disclosed as a corrected reimpression of the first.

Figures   Copies  
"Edition" A  7-7, 12-7, 15-6, 18-10  DCL IU MH PU 
"Edition" B (reimpressed)  7-9, 15-5, 18-10, 20-6  ICU NjP NN 
"Third Edition" (reimpressed)  7-6, 8-2, 15-5 18-10, 20-6  ICN 
Here again, the figures prove their usefulness, not only in identifying a variant, but in suggesting, prior to inspection, the kind and sequence of variants, and what would seem to be an overprinting of certain sheets.


The figures reveal, for instance, mixed sheets in MH copy of Akenside's Pleasures of Imagination NN (Berg) copy of Johnson's Taxation No Tyranny, and PU copy of Smollett's Humphry Clinker.


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