University of Virginia Library


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.