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The traditional paper-based concept of format, which underlies the use of chainline direction and watermark position as evidence of how sheets had been folded to produce particular books, may lead to accurate results for the majority of books from the hand-press period. (Even the many books, especially in the second half of the eighteenth century, that were printed on “wove” paper, without chainlines, frequently offer conventional watermark evidence, at least before the 1790s.) But a considerable number of books from the hand-press period raise questions that


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have proved awkward for bibliographers who think of format only as an indication of how many times full sheets were folded; and since one cannot know in advance whether a given book falls into this category, it is best to approach every book with a more comprehensive concept of format in mind.

One of the main classes of problematical books consists of those in which the chainlines run in the opposite direction, and the watermark is in a different position, from what would be expected on the basis of other evidence, such as the proportions of the leaves. McKerrow, in his 1914 “Notes,” called attention to “certain books of quarto shape in which the chain-marks run vertically as in an octavo” (p. 259), and he recognized the dilemma these books pose: “It is not clear whether in such cases the 8vo paper was a sheet of the size of two ordinary sheets, or whether in the mould used the chain-marks for some reason or other ran the opposite way from that which was usual” (p. 260). In other words, if the heavier wires (“chains”) ran, as was customary, parallel to the short dimension of the mould, the paper would have been double the “ordinary” size, in the sense that the short dimension of an “ordinary” sheet was doubled, forming the long dimension of the new sheet; otherwise, one would have to assume that the mould was constructed uncharacteristically, with the chains running parallel to the long dimension.[27] McKerrow did not pursue the question of what one should call the format of such books, and it is clear that he was thwarted in that process by conceiving of format in terms of paper, since crucial information about the original sheets was not known. Indeed, the example he cited (Hardyng's Chronicle, 1543) posed a further complication because some of its eight-leaf gatherings were in ordinary quarto with two sheets quired together (the chainlines were horizontal, and there were two watermarks per eight leaves), whereas the others had all the characteristics of octavo except its shape. To him, therefore, the book was illustrative of the “puzzles connected with format.”

This passage remained the same in McKerrow's expanded Introduction to Bibliography in 1927 (though some further examples were added to a footnote, along with this statement: “Dr. Greg informs me that such mixtures of 4to and 8vo are not infrequent in dramatic literature of the early seventeenth century” [p. 174]). But in another passage he was unequivocal about basing format strictly on the original sheet:

Suppose, for example, that a printer intending to print a small octavo wishes to use up some rather large paper. He could easily do this by cutting off one-


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third of each sheet and using the remainder exactly as a normal sheet for his octavo formes, making up every third gathering out of the two cut-off pieces placed one inside the other [these cut-offs having been printed together from octavo formes]. Such a book would actually have been printed as an octavo, but, as format depends on the original sheet, would have to be regarded bibliographically as a 12mo.

(pp. 168-169)

Whether this is a realistic example is beside the point; what is of interest for present purposes is that here McKerrow is clearly ruling out both imposition and the size of the paper actually brought to the press as elements of how a book is to be “regarded bibliographically.” Yet if a bibliographical approach encompasses all parts of the book- production process, it is hard to see why the number of type-pages on the press should necessarily be irrelevant or why the size of the sheet as manufactured should always be considered more important than the size that the printer altered it to before printing. When McKerrow says that the book was “printed as an octavo,” he comes close to proposing a printing format distinct from a paper format, but he does not develop the point, falling back on the idea that “format depends on the original sheet,” without examining that idea critically.

In the years following McKerrow's book, the first important contribution to thinking about format was a brief article by Allen T. Hazen, “Eighteenth-Century Quartos with Vertical Chain-Lines” (Library, 4th ser., 16 [1935-36], 337-342). That title itself gives a clue to Hazen's conclusion, since he does call the books in question “quartos.” Hazen was able to answer McKerrow's query about whether paper might have been made in moulds with chains running parallel to the longer dimensions: by taking the practical step of visiting the Hayle Mill of J. Barcham Green & Son, he learned that the chains must run parallel to the short sides of the mould (the sides grasped by the vatman) if the pulp was to be distributed properly. After thus eliminating one of the proposed explanations for “wrong-direction” chainlines in books, he proved that double-sized paper did exist, at least in the latter half of the eighteenth century, by analyzing some untrimmed copies of newspapers from that period. He believed he was therefore justified in concluding that books with “so-called irregular chain-lines were printed on half-sheets of a special paper which was in general twice as large as the regular papers” (p. 341).

He then turned to the question of what format term should be applied to such books, and he based his recommendation on a belief that double-sized paper would normally have been cut in half before printing (“the principle of cutting before printing, it appears, may safely be con-


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sidered axiomatic” [p. 342]). (He did not speculate on the marketing of this paper and thus on whether the cutting took place before or after it arrived in the printing shop.) As a result, he felt that “one would be unnecessarily pedantic to insist” on denominating format according to the original size of the sheet; and he suggested that phrases on the pattern of “Quarto with vertical chain-lines” would be “simple, clear, and accurate” (pp. 341-342). Actually, mention of the chainline direction is not essential if it is referred to elsewhere (as it would be in a bibliographical description); the important point is that he is calling such a book a quarto, not an octavo in half-sheets. Instead of regarding the latter as “pedantic,” I would call it an example of the unthinking adherence to a traditional definition—unthinking because it does not take into account the underlying purpose of the terminology.

Format terms are meant to tell one something about the process of book production; and if, as McKerrow insisted, format must always be based on sheets as manufactured, regardless of the presswork procedures followed, it will sometimes obscure rather than clarify that process. The size of original sheets can certainly be relevant to format (1) when whole sheets as manufactured were placed on the press, as they were for most books in the hand-press centuries, or (2) when printers—largely those before 1480—cut sheets prior to printing only as a means for achieving the same result as if they had used whole sheets (and their cuts were thus the equivalent of folds that would have been made after printing). But when abnormally large sheets were cut before printing to create ordinary-sized sheets, their original size is a fact with more relevance to the history of paper than to the analysis of the printing of particular books. And when, as in McKerrow's example cited above (in which a third of each sheet was cut off before printing), normal sheets were altered to create the desired size of full sheet for an ordinary imposition, the cutting was not an expedient for printing the original sheet and therefore was not the equivalent of folding after printing; thus again here it is the cut size, not the original size, that ought to be relevant for format. The same reasoning is applicable to manuscripts on paper, and it can be adapted for analyzing books printed or written on vellum, which was presumably not subject to such standardization of size as paper was.[28] The format of vellum books would relate simply to the size of sheet that was considered appropriate for a given job, whether the sheets were cut to that size before or after reaching the printing shop or scriptorium (it may not be possible in the case of vellum to identify preproduction cuts that were the equivalent of folding after production).


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The point of view I am advocating gains support from another consideration: that large moulds were used not only to produce double-sized sheets but also to make two regular sheets simultaneously. That Hazen did not consider this possibility is the primary flaw of his discussion: having ruled out the existence of moulds with chains running parallel to the longer axis, he assumed that “the use of paper that was approximately double the ordinary size is the only possible explanation for the irregular chain-lines” (p. 338).[29] But in 1950 Kenneth Povey and I. J. C. Foster reported the results of their search for books with “turned chain-lines”: using the evidence of deckle edges in untrimmed copies, they recorded a considerable number of books printed on paper with longitudinal chainlines. Not only did they find such books “fairly common from the end of the seventeenth century onwards”; they also concluded that “paper with chain-lines running lengthwise in the sheet... was a commoner cause of turned chain-lines than half sheets of double paper.”[30] Their discovery of paper with longitudinal chainlines, combined with the fact that the chains always ran the short way of the mould,[31] led them to recognize that side-by-side two- sheet moulds were in use by at least the late seventeenth century (and they cite some eighteenth-century references to such moulds).

These moulds had a deckle with a central cross-bar, though they did not always have tranchefiles adjacent to this central bar. Thus in untrimmed copies of books displaying turned chainlines, paper made in such moulds can be distinguished from paper made in double-sized


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moulds without cross-bars by the fact that the former would have four deckle edges, whereas the latter would have one cut edge.[32] This circumstance makes clear the artificiality of arbitrarily basing format on the original size of the sheet: an apparent quarto with turned chainlines would be called a quarto if there was evidence that its paper came from side-by-side two-sheet moulds, but it would be called an octavo if there was evidence that its paper came from moulds of the same size without cross- bars. And if the paper evidence was unavailable, the format could not be named. But since—from the point of view of the process of imposing and printing—the two situations are the same, it does not seem reasonable to classify the finished books differently because of a difference in the manufacturing history of the papers.

The work of Hazen, Povey, and Foster dealt primarily with the eighteenth century, but books with turned chainlines were not uncommon in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Despite the cogency of Hazen's suggestion, however, neither Greg nor Bowers, when approaching books of those earlier centuries, accepted the idea of basing format on cut sheets under certain circumstances. In A Bibliography of the English Printed Drama to the Restoration (1939-59), Greg used the expression “(4°-form) 8°” to describe a book printed from quarto formes on pieces of paper that had apparently (in his view) been created by cutting double-sized sheets in half before printing. When he discussed this formulation in his introduction, which appeared in the final volume, he described the situation in a curiously opaque manner. “So far... as my experience goes,” he said, “sheets of this sort were always folded three times, thus giving quires that are technically octavo but have the superficial appearance of quarto. They might be either eights or fours, according to whether the sheets were sewn as one or had been previously cut in half.” This statement is unclear, since cutting the sheets in half (whether before or after printing) would not preclude gatherings in eights. And the puzzle increases when one reads that “in fact it is doubtful whether any Elizabethan press was large enough to take the double sheet.” Greg is here making an unnecessary assumption about paper


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size: the paper need not have been of an unprintable size for the printer to have decided in a given instance to treat half-sheets as if they were full sheets (perhaps mixing them with smaller whole sheets), and of course the paper could also have been of a regular size but produced in a two-sheet mould. One may plausibly infer Greg's meaning to be that the sheets were cut before printing[33] and that the cut should be regarded as the equivalent of a fold. Even though the paper that was put on the press was thus of a normal size and resulted in four-leaf gatherings of the usual quarto shape, he still said, “I feel bound to describe books printed on this unusual paper (folded thrice) as octavos.” Because play quartos that contain vertical-chainline gatherings “not infrequently” also include some “ordinary quarto quires,” he suggested describing such mixed-paper copies as “4° and (4°-form) 8°” (p. 1vi).

At the same time that Greg was working on the first volume of his Bibliography, William A. Jackson was preparing the Pforzheimer catalogue and was also confronting books with turned chainlines. In general, Jackson avoided commenting on the problems they posed, but his standard phrase in most of his entries for such books, “Octavo in fours,” shows that he simply regarded vertical chainlines as evidence of octavo format.[34] Thus he was essentially taking the same position as Greg, though he expressed no assumption about outsized paper. He did, however, recognize that the paper in some of these books was peculiar in other respects, as he noted in his one comment on the matter (in entry 656):

Books of quarto size printed wholly or in part on paper with chainlines as in octavo are not particularly uncommon in sixteenth and seventeenth century printing—Dr. Greg has suggested that they might perhaps be called “bastard quartos”. But it does not appear to have been noticed that several of those printed early in the seventeenth century are on a similar unwatermarked rather thick paper with a streaked perpendicular texture.


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It happens the book being described (Marston's Antonios Reuenge, 1602) displayed horizontal chainlines in seven out of ten four-leaf gatherings, and he labeled it “Quarto,” appending a sentence to the collation: “Sheets G, H, and I are on octavo paper.” This statement is self-contradictory: “octavo paper” presumably means paper that would hold on each side eight pages (of the same size as those in the rest of the book), in which case G, H, and I would have to be half-sheets, not “Sheets.” But the key point here is that Jackson assumed from the direction of the chainlines that G, H, and I are in some sense “octavo” even though they were presumably printed from four-page formes. His treatment is somewhat less objectionable than Greg's since it does not postulate paper of an unprintable size; but, like Greg, he unwittingly demonstrated the illogicality of making chainline direction an essential determinant of format.[35]

Bowers (aware of Greg's ideas even before the introduction to the Bibliography was published) agreed with Greg, and in the Principles (1949) he explicitly equated a pre-printing cut with a fold (in this instance referring to printing with a two-page forme):

Since format is based on the full sheet, no matter what its size or shape, without regard for cutting before machining (cutting being treated as if it were a folding of the sheet), a book composed of this [“double-size”] paper with a divided half folded once is actually a quarto, even though the size and shape of a folio.

(p. 194)

To call the paper “double-size” (as he did in the preceding paragraph) is to make an unwarranted assumption about normality, just as Greg did, since it would have been possible for a printer to use half-sheets of regular paper as the equivalent of full sheets. In any case, because he believed that books with turned chainlines are “sufficiently out of the ordinary... to warrant special notation,” he endorsed the style of Greg's “(4°- form) 8°” and thus perpetuated an awkward usage that required the statement of format to be combined with information about the paper,[36] which can often in a full bibliography be more clearly recorded elsewhere (and


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which would have to be further described in any case).[37] And to speak of a book with mixed paper as “4° and (4°-form) 8°,” as Greg recommended, is to make a distinction that is not relevant to format. The fact that two different papers were used is unquestionably worthy of note (as it would be even if they had both been of normal size originally and all the chainlines had run the same direction on the leaves); but I think it can be argued that to complicate the description of format in this way is a mistake. Such books are simply quartos, printed throughout from four-page formes.

The application of this approach to extreme situations can be illustrated by examining the 1570 edition of Foxe's Acts and Monuments, which is made up of two stocks of paper, one of them half the size of the other. The larger paper was printed in folio format, and thus each sheet was folded once for sewing; but the smaller paper had to be fastened in another way, since each sheet formed a single leaf. Ordinarily single leaves, when they are interspersed within sewn gatherings, are pasted in; but here the smaller paper, which was used when the supply of the larger was exhausted, constitutes many entire gatherings. To create sewing folds, the leaves that were required to be conjugate were pasted together, and the fold was made a short distance from the joint: in other words, one leaf provided a stub to which the other was attached. When Leslie Mahin Oliver analyzed the printing of this book, he concluded that the pasting occurred after printing and that each of the small sheets was printed from a one-page forme. If this analysis had been correct, the format of the book would have had to be stated as a combination of folio and full-sheet. But when Paul S. Dunkin examined the book, he found evidence that the small sheets were pasted together in twos before printing and that the printing was then no different from that of any other folio. (The evidence he used involved skeleton-formes and the fact that a trace of the inked text for one leaf appeared at the edge of the paper to which that leaf was attached.)[38] The whole book is therefore a folio, printed from two-page formes throughout. This example illustrates the importance of thorough analysis in the determination of format. Just as the paper selected for a given job can be cut down from larger sheets, so


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can it be made up from more than one piece of paper; and the area of paper surface required by the type-forme is more important for format than the original size of the paper.

I do not mean to suggest that paper evidence is irrelevant to the discovery of format but rather that typographical and presswork evidence should be drawn on as well—a natural corollary to the idea that the number of type-pages involved is essential to the concept of format for printed books. Techniques for ascertaining which type-pages were in the same forme—such as tracing the recurrences of identifiable (damaged) types or locating the inked appearance of lines of type that were also used as bearers and left blind impressions—can provide a check on conclusions drawn from chainline direction and watermark position,[39] as can such evidence of imposition as point-holes, when they are still visible. And press figures, in those eighteenth-century books that contain them, can readily reveal the number of pages in a forme.[40] It is salutary to keep in mind not only that chainlines may run the “wrong” direction (or not be present at all) but also that watermarks and countermarks do not always appear in the usual positions.[41] Clearly Bowers offered a dangerous oversimplification when in the Principles he said, “In early books printed on a small press, the evidence of chainlines and watermarks in hand-made paper always reveals the precise format as applied to the number of leaves printed from a full sheet of paper” (p. 429). A sound approach to format analysis must employ all available evidence, including typographical clues and the incidence of point-holes, as well as other characteristics of paper besides chainlines and watermarks (such as tranchefiles and deckle edges).[42]