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The Concept of Format by G. THOMAS TANSELLE
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2 occurrences of "roots of mechanical collation"
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The Concept of Format

A few bibliographical terms are widely used by the general public, though usually with somewhat different meanings from those understood by bibliographers. An example is “first edition,” taken to signify what bibliographers would call “first printing.” Perhaps the most common such term is “format,” which has spread far beyond its application to books: people speak of the format of a television show or a ceremony, where the term refers to the nature and order of the contents. Even when it is applied to printed matter, it sometimes carries this sense; magazine editors, for example, when they talk about the formats of their magazines, may well be referring to the kinds of material included and to the ordering of the items. They might, however, mean the layout, typography, and overall dimensions of the journal; and nearly everyone follows the software makers' practice of using “format” to mean the spatial arrangement of an electronic text as it is displayed on a terminal screen or on paper. Librarians, too, in recent decades have spoken of “reformatted” texts when they mean texts reproduced by microfilming, xerography, digitization, or any other means. These usages at least begin to approach the bibliographer's concerns by focusing on physical and design characteristics rather than intellectual content. But they still do not reflect what bibliographers mean by the term.

Bibliographers need a word to express the relationship between the physical structure of finished books and some of the printing-shop routines that led to that structure, and they have long used “format” for this purpose. (Students of manuscripts, despite a less firm tradition, have equal use for a concept that connects physical structure with scribal procedures.) In bibliographical scholarship, the word does not mean simply the size and shape of a book. It is true that the dimensions of the leaves of a book form a visible manifestation of the processes of imposing type-pages in particular arrangements, printing sheets from the type so arranged, and folding the printed sheets; but the mere measurement of the leaves does not give one any information about those processes. A physical description of a book logically includes leaf dimensions,


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but bibliographical description at its most useful goes beyond the details that strike the eye and involves analysis of how those details came about. The identification of format illustrates the inextricability of description and analysis: not only is the manner in which leaves are held together a basic fact about a book as a physical object (books with identical leaf- dimensions may have very different structures); but so is the knowledge, for example, that the type for a half-sheet at the end of a book was on the press at the same time as the type for one at the beginning, or that a particular pair of leaves was inserted into a whole-sheet gathering and therefore came from a different sheet of paper printed at a different time. Such information results from the kind of investigation that is inherent in the determination of format.

If bibliographical scholars are generally in agreement on these points, a precise definition of this particular concept of format is remarkably elusive. It must be said, however, that many bibliographers have not recognized any problem in the commonest definition, which links the term solely with the number of times sheets are folded to form the leaves of a book (one fold producing folio, two creating quarto, three making octavo, and so on). When full sheets as manufactured were placed on the press and were printed from formes that would fill one side of a sheet, there would seem to be no problem in using this familiar definition—and a great many books, after all, were printed this way. But a definition of a concept is scarcely satisfactory if it does not encompass all situations, and this one does not. Sometimes, for example, the pieces of paper placed on the press were smaller than the sheets as manufactured; sometimes the type (or other material used to create a printed image) for one side of a sheet was not all laid on the press at the same time; and sometimes (if a web-fed press was used) the paper was in the form of a sizable roll rather than individual sheets. Facing such situations, bibliographers have had difficulty in deciding how to apply the idea of format. Furthermore, any definition based solely on paper-folding is not entirely satisfying, since—for the process that “format” refers to—the number of page-units involved is as essential a fact as the folding of the paper. Yet a definition based only on type-pages has its own problems, as when presswork proceeded by single pages rather than full-sheet formes of type. I shall attempt below, after surveying how “format” has been used, to examine these questions and propose an answer, applicable both to printed books and to manuscripts.[1]


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Any survey of how the word “format” has been applied to books must acknowledge that the particular concept we are concerned with here, dealing with book structure and the process that produced it, is not a part of the word's meaning to everyone in the book world. The book-dealer who in the early 1990s advertised a ruler that translated inches into format terms was a source of great hilarity to bibliographical scholars.[2] But that ruler was only one manifestation of the same approach to format that the bibliographer Falconer Madan had seriously advocated many decades earlier[3]—or that causes many librarians and dealers to have special shelves for “folios,” meaning simply large books, whether or not they were produced in the manner that would cause bibliographers to call them folios. This usage is the one supported by general dictionaries. The Oxford English Dictionary, for example, defines “format” as “Shape and size of a book, e.g., octavo, quarto, etc.” (2nd ed., 1989). For the derivation of the word, the OED relies on Paul-Emile Littré's Dictionnaire de la langue française (1863-77), which traces it to liber formatus, meaning a book formed (shaped) in a particular fashion. The Latin “forma” had been used, at least by the fifteenth century, to mean “size” in connection with books, as in “forma magna.”[4]

The earliest English instance of “format” located by the OED is in a 25 February 1840 comment made by Thomas Moore and first published in the seventh volume (1856) of John Russell's edition of Memoirs, Journal, and Correspondence of Thomas Moore: “Found from Tom Longman that there is some chance of their being able to bring out the `History,' some time or other, in a better shape than that vile Lardnerian format” (p. 272). Presumably Moore was referring to the short stubby


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appearance of The Cabinet Cyclopaedia, edited by Dionysius Lardner and published by Longman in many volumes between 1831 and 1851. This is of course probably not the very first time that the word was written down in an English-language context; but its italicization may suggest that it was not yet regarded as an English word, or at least that it had not yet become a common expression in English. In any case, one should not be surprised, with the legacy of “forma” and “formatus” behind it, that “format” as an English word was first used in this sense and that it has been so employed extensively ever since.[5]

There is nothing wrong with this usage except when “shape and size” are thought to imply book structure, a danger that emerges in the OED's own definition. Anyone reading “Shape and size of a book, e.g., octavo, quarto, etc.” in the OED can be expected to turn to the entries for “octavo” and “quarto” for clarification. “Octavo” (with citations starting in 1582) is defined as “The size of a book, or of the page of a book, in which the sheets are so folded that each is one-eighth of a whole sheet”; “quarto” (with quotations beginning in 1589) is defined as “The size of paper obtained by folding a whole sheet twice.” The obvious trouble with linking these two examples of “format” to the basic definition is that a knowledge of paper-folding tells one nothing specific about shape and size unless one knows the shape and size of the paper to start with. And though the general shape (proportions) of sheets of paper, at least for much of the hand-press era, was fairly constant, the size was decidedly variable (the smallest standard paper in the sixteenth century, for instance, being twenty or twenty-five centimeters shorter in both dimensions than the largest paper).[6]

A folio can thus be smaller than a quarto if the folio is made from small paper and the quarto from large, and the book trade of the hand-press period recognized that size and shape had to be conveyed by a combination of two terms, one indicating paper size and the other the number of leaves produced by folding each sheet—as in “Crown quarto”


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or “Royal octavo.”[7] In this practice lies the source of the bibliographer's “format,” which requires the separation of these two elements. One of the interesting and complicating facts about the development of bibliographical terminology in English is that “format” came to refer, in bibliographers' hands, to process (imposition and folding) and the resulting structure rather than to dimensions. The progression could have gone the other way, but it did not; perhaps the reason is that the early New Bibliographers were drawing on what was (as we shall see below) a long-established continental tradition of using “format” in just this way. In any case, the result was that the specialist meaning of “format” for historians of the physical book diverged from the meaning of “format” in general usage in English.

Nevertheless, that specialist concept, based on the process/structure side of the dichotomy, obviously existed in English thought long before English bibliographers decided to call it “format.” Printers, after all, had to deal with process and structure in approaching every piece of printing, and they necessarily recognized the reciprocity of paper- folding and number of type-pages required. Understandably, however, nonprinters were likely to focus on paper-folding, since the folded paper is what survives to be seen in copies of books. In 1658, for example, Edward Phillips's The New World of English Words: or, a General Dictionary declared, “A book is said to be in Duodecimo, when it is of twelve leaves in a sheet.” This statement can be regarded as an early expression of the bibliographical approach because it refers only to process and does not include any mention of paper size; it also—and in my view less appily—foreshadows later bibliographical practice in its emphasis on paper-folding over the number of type-pages involved.

The phrase “in Duodecimo” here is worth noting because it reflects the early beginning of the tradition, among printers and nonprinters alike, of using “format” terms in such prepositional phrases: the OED cites occurrences of “in folio,” “in quarto,” and “in octavo” from the 1580s. (On the continent these expressions were, and still are, often hyphenated, as “in-folio,” and often treated grammatically as a single word, a noun.) But before the early twentieth century there was apparently no overall term in English for the concept that subsumes specific


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impositions, as designated by such phrases. Printers, of course, would have thought of “imposition” as the term, but it focuses on the arrangement of type-pages in a forme rather than on the relationship between the forme and the finished book (though that relationship is inevitably determined by imposition). The fact that we now idiomatically speak of a book being “in” a particular format but not “in” a particular imposition shows the extent to which the emphasis of “format” has gone the other way, toward the folded paper rather than the type- pages.

Joseph Moxon in his Mechanick Exercises of 1683 did use a term, distinct from “imposition,” to mean what we would call “format”: the word is “volumn,” but Moxon was seemingly alone in this practice. In his section “Of Imposing,” he wrote, “There are four Volumns in use that are differently Imposed, viz. Folio, Quarto, Octavo and Twelves.[8] More significantly, his imposition diagrams had headings like “Imposing a Folio Sheet,” and yet the arrangement shown was that of the type-pages in the forme, not their mirror-image in the sheet. That references to the sheet and to the forme could be blended this way would seem natural to a printer, who would see the process as a whole and understand that a planned book-structure entails a particular imposition. The printer would thus take for granted the artificiality of separating the two, though obviously convenience would be served by having the diagrams themselves show forme arrangements.

The long line of English printers' manuals in the two centuries after Moxon, often repeating each other verbatim, followed the same plan. John Smith's The Printer's Grammar (1755), Philip Luckombe's The History and Art of Printing (1771), Caleb Stower's The Printer's Grammar (1808), C. S. Van Winkle's The Printers' Guide (1818), John Johnson's Typographia (1824), T. C. Hansard's Typographia (1825), C. H. Timperley's The Printers' Manual (1838), William Savage's A Dictionary of the Art of Printing (1841)—all of these (and no doubt the others) are similar in that they do not use the word “format” and, under headings like “Of Imposing,” they present diagrams (or “schemes”) with such titles as “A Sheet of Folio.”[9] When a term on the order of “format” is needed, it tends to be “size,” as when Luckombe speaks of schemes “for imposing all the Sizes that regularly descend from Folio” (p. 434) or when Johnson says, “Schemes of various other irregular sizes might have been introduced” (p. 191). Nor does the word “format” seem to


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appear in such later standard manuals as John Southward's (his Practical Printing of 1882 had reached its sixth edition by 1911, and his Modern Printing of 1898-99 was in a fifth edition in 1921) or Theodore L. De Vinne's (his 1904 Modern Methods of Book Composition contains no entry for “format” in its thorough index).

On the continent, however, there was a very different tradition: the word “format” was being used in printers' manuals in the seventeenth century. A beginning of a shift in the meaning of Latin “forma” can perhaps be seen in the 1608 Latin manual by Hieronymus Hornschuch, the Orthotypographia, where the phrase “in quaque librorum forma” appears in the discussion preceding the presentation of imposition schemes and where the first prose after the imposition diagrams begins “In hisce formis” (pp. 10, 15). When Hornschuch's book was translated into German by T. Heidenreich (with editions in 1634 and 1739), the word was rendered as “Format” (1739, pp. 12, 18). By 1653, Johann Ludwig Vietor used “format” as an established term in his Formatbüchlein, which consisted almost entirely of imposition diagrams containing “Format” in the headings (as in “Von dem Format in Folio”). Two more German manuals containing imposition schemes appeared in the seventeenth century, both with “Format” in their titles—Georg Wolffger's Format- Büchlein (1673) and Daniel Michael Schmatz's Format-Buch (1684)—and Samuel Struck's Format-Buch came along three decades later (1715). Similarly, Johann H. G. Ernesti's Buchdruckerey (1721) used “Format” in its titles for imposition diagrams, as did Christian Friedrich Gessner's Buchdruckerkunst (1740) and Buchdruckerei (1743).[10] Johann Hildebrand's Handbuch für Buchdrucker-Lehrlinge (1835)—to cite one German manual from the nineteenth century—had a section entitled “Formatbildung” and used “Format” in the general heading to the section of diagrams (pp. 51, 52).

Although the first French manual (and the only one for sixty years after its publication), Martin Fertel's La science pratique de l'imprimerie (1723), did not use “format” in its section “Des Impositions... ” (pp. 139-178)—heading its diagrams instead with phrases like “L'Imposition d'un In-folio d'une feuille seulement” (p. 142)—French printers of the eighteenth century did employ “format,” explicitly linking it with paper-folding. Antoine-François Momoro's Traité élémentaire de l'imprimerie


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(1793), for instance, defined “format” as “Nom que l'on donne aux quantités de pages qui entrent dans une feuille. Ainsi on distingue les formats in-8°., des formats in-12., par la largeur des pages et par la différence des quantités de pages” (p. 178). And Bertrand- Quinquet's Traité de l'imprimerie (1799) said, “Chaque format prend son nom du nombre de feuillets que présente une feuille de papier” (p. 86). In the nineteenth century, Henri Fournier's Traité de la typographie (1825)— which, through four later editions, was the dominant French manual well into the twentieth century—used “format” routinely in the prose preceding and following the imposition diagrams (as in the reference to “les différents genres d'impositions désignés par les noms des formats,” p. 68), though not in the headings of the diagrams themselves (which followed the pattern of “In-Folio”). Thus on the continent “format” not only referred to type-page impositions but also was thought of in terms of the ultimate folded sheets.

If the authors of printers' manuals are like analytical bibliographers in their recognition of the fundamental connection between the imposed number of type-pages and the structure of books, they are different in that their approach to process is prospective: they offer instruction in how to bring a book into existence. Bibliographers, in contrast, like all historians, work in the other direction and try to reconstruct processes from the traces that those processes have left. Writings that show how one can start with a printed book and recover from it a firm knowledge of how many pages a printer decided to print on each side of the sheets that made it up began to appear in the nineteenth century, and they offer the most direct testimony as to how the structural concept of “format” (if not the term itself) evolved among bibliographers.

A first step in English is represented by Thomas Hartwell Horne's An Introduction to the Study of Bibliography (1814). His chapter “On the Forms and Sizes of Books” (pp. 288-292) began with the statement, “The form or size of a book depends upon the manner in which it is folded.” Although the reference to paper-folding may suggest that he was using “size” as the printers' manuals often did in their discussions of imposition, he more often used “form” for this purpose, and sometimes “size” referred only to dimensions. In any case, he proceeded to caution readers against confusing dimensions with manner of folding; such confusion, he said, would result in “very important bibliographical errors.” Rudimentary as his discussion was, it recognized that the determination of book structure is essential to bibliography. Furthermore, its exposition of the analytical use of the direction of “water-lines” (vertical in folio, horizontal in quarto, and so on) and the position of “water-marks” (based on their normally being centered in one half of the sheet) seems


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to reflect some understanding of the necessity for relating observed structure to the original sheets (and thus to the type-page arrangement required). One may also observe that the two words “form” and “size,” which Horne used inconsistently, are the same two words that later English bibliographers struggled with before they adopted “format,” sometimes distinguishing between them and sometimes using them interchangeably to mean what we now call “format.”

To move forty years ahead to Henry Bradshaw is to take a giant leap in bibliographical insight, for Bradshaw's thinking provided the foundation on which the most fruitful later work has been built. As Paul Needham has shown, by 1861 Bradshaw had devised a collational formula that employed superscript fractions to indicate (in the numerator) the number of leaves per gathering and (in the denominator) the number of leaves in each sheet. A clear explanation of his system appears in a letter of 18 February 1863 to J. Winter Jones:

I take the broadside sheet as it comes from the mill, as my standard or unit, and where the size of the page is that of half a sheet ½, we call it folio and I use the denominator 2; where one-fourth i.e. quarto I use 4, and so on, so that 10/2 means that the quire consists of 10 leaves or 5 sheets folded in folio, 8/4 would mean that the quire or signature contained 8 leaves (or two sheets) folded in quarto, and so on.[11]

The denominator of his fraction is of course what we now call format, and the fraction itself showed his recognition that book structure was not adequately accounted for simply by noting the number of leaves per gathering. One needed, in addition, to know how each gathering was physically constructed—in other words, how the leaves in it related to each other (which ones came from the same sheet of paper, which were still conjugate at the sewing-folds, and which were separate leaves that had been inserted). Bradshaw understood (and stated in print in 1868 in The Printing of the Historia S. Albani) that any useful notation for structure must distinguish regular pairs of conjugate leaves from inserted single leaves.

Thus before “format” was employed in English for bibliographical analysis, Bradshaw had developed the concept in the form that has underlain all later responsible work. And he was aware that “format” was the word used on the continent. When in October 1882 he published the presidential address he had delivered a month earlier before the Library Association, he appended to it “A Word on Size-Notation as


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Distinguished from Form-Notation,”[12] the main purpose of which was to criticize the thinking of the Association's Size-Notation Committee. He rightly deplored the use of terms like “folio” and “quarto” to denote approximate leaf size and asserted that they “represent strictly not sizenotation but form-notation” (p. 36 [406]). One may at first think that by using “form” in this way he was linking the concept not only with paper-folding but with type-page imposition as well, since “form” or “forme” was the name for the total quantity of type placed on the press.[13] But he mentioned explicitly only paper in defining (for example) “quarto” as “a term which means that a page or leaf of the book is, in size, one-fourth part of the whole sheet of hand-made paper on which the book is printed” (p. 38 [408]). After explaining such notations as “4°,” the superscript “representing the termination of the word,”[14] he added, “Every possible form of folded sheet (the French format),... could thus be represented by a perfectly uniform expression.” In contrast to the English, he went on, “Frenchmen seem to be generally taught these things as elementary facts” (p. 39 [409])—and one is tempted to add that the English confusion was abetted, if not caused, by the lack of a distinctive technical term and the resulting reliance on words like “size” and “form.”[15]

In both France and Germany bibliographical scholars did indeed follow printers' usage in their countries and employed “format” in the way Bradshaw indicated. Léopold Delisle, for example, in 1886 began his list of “conditions matérielles” to be noted in describing incunables as follows: “Le format, qui sera déterminé par l'examen des pontuseaux du papier (verticaux dans les in-folio et les in-octavo; horizontaux dans les in- quarto).”[16] Anton Einsle, in Incunabel-Bibliographie (1888), dis-


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cussed “Das Format” as the fourth element in a description and similarly mentioned the chainline-direction test (p. 10). Ernst Voulliéme, in Die Incunabeln der Königlichen Universitäts-Bibliothek zu Bonn (1894), said, “Das Format ist nach der Stellung der Drahtlinien des Papiers, nicht nach der Grösse der Bücher, bestimmt” (p. vi). And Karl Dziatzko's “Ueber Incunabelnkatalogisierung” (1896) made this the first point of description: “Zahl der Bände und Format, dieses nach der Richtung der Wasserstreifen im Papier bestimmt” (p. 113).[17] The difference between continental and English usage is epitomized by the fact that when Einsle's work was translated into English (for the second English edition—1890, under the title The Book—of Henri Bouchot's Le livre of 1886), the section originally entitled “Das Format” was called “The Size,” and it contained the statement that “a sure means of distinguishing between these several forms is afforded by the position of the wirelines of the paper” (p. 329).

Precisely how “format” moved into English bibliographers' vocabulary I have not yet discovered. Presumably the interchange between English and continental incunabulists brought it about. But in 1893 it was not yet established, for E. Gordon Duff found it necessary to use the awkward expression “form size” in his Early Printed Books. [18] After stating that confusion is caused by the “two opposing elements at work, size and form,” and after explaining why terms like “folio” and “quarto” (which “apply to the folding of the sheet”) are inappropriate for designating the measurement of nineteenth-century books, he said, “In describing old books, the old form size should be used”—as opposed, apparently, to “measurement size” (though he did not use this term). He then outlined the chainline-direction test as the way one can “very simply” determine the “size of an old book” (p. 206). In 1907 Cyril Davenport was still using “size” to refer to foldings, with some consequent confusion. He began one sentence, “The further foldings of 16°, 32°, and 64° are the same operations carried further, but although such


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sizes do exist....” Then on the next page he stated that the “sizes” (now meaning measurements) of folios vary considerably, adding, “The sizes of quartos and octavos are also very varied” (The Book: Its History and Development, pp. 75-76).

The likeliest link between the continental bibliographers and the New Bibliography in England would have been A. W. Pollard, who (in contrast to Greg and McKerrow) was a student of incunabula before turning his attention to books of the following two centuries. But, like Duff, he used both “size” and “form”: in his 1907 article on bibliographical description, he spoke of “the size (Folio, Quarto, etc.)”; in his preface, the same year, to his catalogue of J. P. Morgan's early books, he referred to a “book's technical size, i.e., as to whether it is folio, quarto, octavo, or any smaller size” (adding that these terms have to do with paper-folding, not measurements); in his 1908 introduction to the first volume of the British Museum incunable catalogue, he said, “The collation begins with the statement as to whether a book is printed in Folio, Quarto, Octavo, or any smaller form, these terms being used solely with reference to the number of times that the sheet of paper has been folded”; and in his 1910 article on “Bibliography and Bibliology” for the Encyclopaedia Britannica, he stated, “The `size' of a book is a technical expression for the relation of the individual leaves to the sheet of paper of which they form a part.”[19]

Even if its exact route is not yet clear, the word “format” did show up four years later in one of the landmarks of the New Bibliography, McKerrow's “Notes on Bibliographical Evidence for Literary Students and Editors of English Works of the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries” (in the Bibliographical Society's Transactions, 12 [for 1911-13; published 1914], 211-318). Regardless of where “format” first appeared in a scholarly bibliographical work in English (aside from Bradshaw's reference to it as a French word), one can at least say that McKerrow's was the most influential early use of it. The fact that “format” was at this time only beginning to come into bibliographical currency in English is illustrated by his fifth chapter. Entitled “The sizes of books. Folio, Quarto, etc.,” it referred at the outset to “the names given to the various sizes or rather `formats' of books” (p. 253). Since McKerrow's first task in the chapter was to explain why terms like “folio” do not refer to size, he obviously felt the need for a word other than “size” to designate this


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category of terms. But “format” was clearly not yet established for this purpose, since he used “size” in the chapter title and introduced the word “formats” (in quotation marks) with awkward indirectness—by saying “sizes or rather `formats' of books,” which seems (in contrast to the ensuing discussion) to imply that “format” is merely a preferred synonym for “size.” (“Format” appears only one other time in the seven-page chapter, in his statement that “the size alone will not tell us the format” [p. 255]; and in his concluding chapter “on folding in 12mo and 24mo,” he called these foldings “formats” [p. 316].) If “format” was not yet standard, however, the concept to which it referred had become “quite fixed,” he said, in bibliographers' practice: “the term[s] folio, quarto, octavo, etc., are used solely with reference to the number of times the original sheet of paper has been folded to form the leaves of the book” (p. 254).[20]

Thirteen years later, he retained most of this wording in his revised and expanded version of the “Notes” published as An Introduction to Bibliography for Literary Students (1927). But his substitution of “formats” for “sizes” in the title of the chapter shows how much more established “format” had become in English during the interval, as does his repeated use of the word in the body of the chapter, where the term seems to be taken for granted. The 1927 version of the chapter is considerably expanded, and it deals with more complications than the earlier version did, but it still essentially offers instruction in using chainline direction and watermark location as clues for determining format (vertical chain-lines, with watermark centered in the leaf, for folio; horizontal chainlines, with portions of the watermark centered at the gutters, for quarto; and so on). In a footnote, McKerrow acknowledged that he was approaching format through paper rather than type-formes: he referred to his fourth chapter, “where the question of the various foldings is discussed from the point of view of imposition of the type. We are here considering them from that of the finished and bound book” (p. 166). But in that


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chapter, although he did set up his imposition diagrams to reflect the type-forme rather than the printed sheet, he nevertheless described several impositions in words only in reference to the number of leaves into which a sheet would be folded.[21]

From McKerrow on, the concept of format, so named, was regularly explained in terms of paper-folding. Arundell Esdaile, in A Student's Manual of Bibliography (1931), for example, though he gave no formal definition of format, implicitly linked it with folding when he said in the third sentence of the section entitled “Format,” “The basis of the structure of the book is the folding of the sheets of paper to form the leaves” (p. 230).[22] J. D. Cowley, in another standard textbook, Bibliographical Description and Cataloguing (1949), stated succinctly (if awkwardly) that format is “the manner in which the sheets of which it [a book] is composed were folded” (p. 91). He went on to note that the Oxford Bibliographical Society, under the influence of Falconer Madan, recommended the use of format terms to refer to size,[23] and he observed


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that “otherwise it seems now to be generally recognized that the terms denoting folding or format are not to be used to indicate height or shape” (p. 93). The same year, Fredson Bowers, in his now classic Principles of Bibliographical Description (1949), never formally defined format, and his section entitled “Format” (pp. 193- 196) began by referring the reader to McKerrow's explanation of the methods for determining it. In a subordinate clause on the second page, however, he said that “format is based on the full sheet,” and his whole discussion presupposed a paper- based concept of format. And Allan Stevenson, in his comprehensive introduction to the second volume (1961) of the Hunt botanical catalogue, defined folio as “each sheet folded once,” quarto as “each sheet folded twice,” and so forth.[24]

E. W. Padwick, however, in Bibliographical Method: An Introductory Survey (1969), made a departure from this tradition when he said, “The format, besides showing how the sheets were folded, also suggests how the type-pages were imposed in the forme” (p. 65). But because this book has not had the distribution of the one Philip Gaskell published three years later (A New Introduction to Bibliography, 1972), Gaskell's formal definition of format (p. 80) is a more important instance of including type-formes in the conception of format:

In bibliographical usage the format of a book of the hand-press period means the arrangement of its formes and the subsequent folding of the printed sheets as indicated by the number and conjugacy of the leaves and the orientation of the paper in the gatherings.

This definition raises a number of questions, even when one limits it—as Gaskell does—to the hand-press period. For example, is the “arrangement” of the formes crucial, rather than simply the number of type-pages? In other words, do the impositions, say, for common and for inverted duodecimo result in two different formats? And to say that the folding is “indicated” by the number and conjugacy of the leaves and the chainline direction does not make clear how ambiguous and inconclusive those features can be. (Furthermore, does conjugacy


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refer only to leaves joined at the gutter fold? Different imposition schemes for what are usually regarded as the same format can result in different patterns of conjugacy at the other edges of the leaves.) I shall return to these questions later; at the moment my only point is that Gaskell's definition, despite its limitations, moves in a useful direction by explicitly linking format with formes of type as well as with paper.

Nevertheless, as far as its implications for his own book are concerned, Gaskell's definition might as well have been the usual paper-based one,[25] for his discussions of the analysis of format (as in the four steps he outlines under the heading of “The Identification of Format” on p. 84) focus on paper evidence. Since he does not show how typographic evidence also has a role to play in the consideration of format, his book in effect does not break from tradition and does not develop the promising hint incorporated into his definition. It is not necessary to multiply examples of the tradition beyond those I have mentioned. The unanimity of these influential introductory works shows that bibliographers have thought of format primarily in terms of paper-folding, even though they understood that the folding is dictated by the prior imposition of the type-pages. Codicologists have given far less attention to the conceptualization of format in manuscript books; but there has been an assumption—despite the fact that many manuscripts can be shown to have “impositions”—that the folding of paper or vellum provides the link with the concept of format in printed books.[26]


Many other dealers (in both printed books and manuscripts), without the misplaced precision of such a ruler, have used format terms to refer to size; and my exasperation with this practice caused me, some thirty-three years ago, to publish a brief article in AB Bookman's Weekly, a journal often read by dealers, many of whom used it to list books wanted and for sale (“The Sizes of Books,” 39 [5-12 June 1967], 2330, 2332). The protest was of course futile.


As in his contribution to “Standard Description of Printed Books,” Oxford Bibliographical Society Proceedings and Papers, 1 (1922-26), 55-64. (For further discussion of his approach, see note 23 below.)


As Paul Needham points out in “A Note on the History of Format Names,” which is Appendix III (pp. 141-145) of his “Res papirea: Sizes and Formats of the Late Medieval Book,” in Rationalisierung der Buchherstellung im Mittelalter und in der frühen Neuzeit, ed. Peter Rück and Martin Boghardt (1994), pp. 123-145. In this appendix Needham assembles quotations illustrating format terms from twenty-nine Italian documents, 1415-1501, and on the basis of those quotations offers some thoughts on the history of the development of format designations.


In 1895 it was still being italicized (and employed in this general sense by a person involved in book production) when an interview with William Morris was published in the Christmas number of Bookselling (pp. 2-14). Morris, speaking about the Kelmscott Press edition of The Earthly Paradise, then under way, is quoted as having said, “I am rather exercised as to its format, but Cockerell is in favour of this new size—a sort of mild quarto, and yet looking like an octavo.” See “The Kelmscott Press: An Illustrated Interview with Mr. William Morris” (signed “I. H. I.”), reprinted in Morris's The Ideal Book: Essays and Lectures on the Arts of the Book, ed. William S. Peterson (1982), Appendix B (quotation from p. 112). (I am grateful to Paul Needham for calling this reference to my attention.)


On paper sizes in incunables, see Needham's “Res papirea” (see note 4 above), pp. 125-135, and his “Aldus Manutius's Paper Stocks: The Evidence of Two Uncut Books,” Princeton University Library Chronicle, 55 (1993-94), 287-307. Philip Gaskell provides a historical table of paper sizes in A New Introduction to Bibliography (1972), pp. 72-75.


In the case of folio, the term reflects not the number of leaves but the fact of the fold itself. The word “folio” is obviously not parallel to the other format terms, since it does not incorporate a numeral reflecting the number of leaves in a sheet (or, to put it another way, the fraction of a whole sheet represented by each leaf). Needham (see note 4 above) has suggested that “folio” as a format term may have resulted from the fact that sheets of paper were folded once at the paper mills before shipping and that printers would have visualized paper in terms of the leaf, or “folium,” produced by folding sheets once; they may then have applied the same word to the format that results when printed sheets were folded once.


See Herbert Davis and Harry Carter's edition (1958; rev. 1962) of Moxon, p. 223. In a footnote, they conclude (after checking the OED) that “the use of `volume' [sic] to mean `format' is peculiar to Moxon.”


For fuller references to these manuals (and to the continental ones mentioned below), see Philip Gaskell, Giles Barber, and Georgina Warrilow, “An Annotated List of Printers' Manuals to 1850,” Journal of the Printing Historical Society, 4 (1968), 11-31.


I have abbreviated these titles to their essential words; full titles can be found in Gaskell (see the preceding note). The prominence of the word “Format” on the title pages can be illustrated by Schmatz's book: its full title begins Neu-vorgestelltes auf der lüblichen Kunst Buchdruckerey gebräuchliches Format-Buch, but the words “Format- Buch” occupy a line by themselves, in the largest type used on the page. For eighteenth-century Dutch printers' use of “formaat,” see David Wardenaar, Beschrijving der Boekdrukkunst (1801; pp. 200-204 of Frans A. Janssen's 1982 edition, Zetten en Drukken in de achttiende Eeuw).


“Letters of Henry Bradshaw to Officials of the British Museum,” ed. A. W. Pollard, Library, n.s., 5 (1904), 266-292, 431-432 (quotation from pp. 277-278). The best analysis of Bradshaw's contribution to modern bibliography is Paul Needham's The Bradshaw Method (1988).


Appendix III (pp. 36-39) of his Memoranda No. 7, Address at the Opening of the Fifth Annual Meeting of the Library Association of the United Kingdom, Cambridge, Sept. 5, 1882 (1882). This pamphlet was reprinted in his Collected Papers, ed. Francis Jenkinson (1889), pp. 371-409 (this appendix on pp. 406-409).


The spelling “form,” often employed by the earlier English printers, has continued to be the spelling used by American printers; bibliographical scholars, however, have preferred “forme.” This difference is illustrated on one page (p. 340) of Davis and Carter's edition of Moxon (see note 8 above): in Moxon's text the spelling is “form,” and in the commentary at the foot of the page the editors use “forme.”


He noted that “the French use the formula `in-4', the German use `4.', while the English use indifferently `4to.' or `4°'”; and he registered his preference for the last.


Bradshaw's contemporary William Blades, for example, certainly understood the difference between leaf dimensions and what we now call “format,” but he encouraged confusion by using “size” to mean both. On a single page of his landmark work he first spoke of the binder “folding all his sheets into quarto, octavo, &c., according to the size of the book” (thus using “size” as some of the English printers' manuals did), and then he commented on the half-sheet printing of “the quarto sizes” (The Life and Typography of William Caxton, 2 [1863], xlviii).


Instructions pour la rédaction d'un inventaire des incunables conservés dans les bibliothèques publiques de France (1886; extract from Bulletin des bibliothèques, 3), p. 3. (My thanks to Vincent Giroud for checking the Yale copy of this pamphlet.) The 1910 edition (with a title beginning with the added words Instructions pour la rédaction d'un catalogue des manuscrits et pour ...) retains the text quoted here (p. 52).


Dziatzko's essay is in Sammlung bibliothekswissenschaftlicher Arbeiten, 10 [“Beiträge zur Kenntnis des Schrift- , Buch-, und Bibliothekswesens,” 3] (1886), 94-133. For this reference and the three previous ones in this paragraph, I am indebted to Paul Needham, who generously spent time locating them in response to a query of mine. As he pointed out, Dziatzko's footnote to the words quoted here, in its criticism of Arnim Graesel's 1890 Grundzüge des Bibliothekslehre, indicates that Dziatzko was thinking of “Format” as the leaf-sheet ratio (whereas the example of Graesel shows that not every German use of “Format” took the word in this sense).


In the chapter entitled “The Collecting and Describing of Early Printed Books” (pp. 201-212). This book was part of a series (“Books about Books”) edited by A. W. Pollard.


“The Objects and Methods of Bibliographical Collations and Descriptions,” Library, 2nd ser., 8 (1907), 193-217 (quotation from p. 210); Catalogue of Manuscripts and Early Printed Books... Now Forming Portion of the Library of J. Pierpont Morgan (1907), p. x; Catalogue of Books Printed in the XVth Century Now in the British Museum. Part I (1908), p. xviii; Encyclopaedia Britannica, 11th ed., 3 (1910), 908-911 (quotation from p. 909).


A further indication of the growing use at this time of “format” to refer to paper-folding is offered by Harry G. Aldis's The Printed Book (1916): in the chapter on “The Construction of a Book” Aldis spoke of “format (shape and size)” and then said, “The common designation of the size of a book as folio, quarto, octavo, or duodecimo... is not an indication of actual measurement, but of the number of times the full sheet of paper is folded after it is printed off” (p. 73). (It is worth noting that when John Carter and E. A. Crutchley came to revise this book in 1941, they eliminated the equation of “format” with “shape and size,” which they recognized as outmoded, and they thought of dimensions as the result of paper-folding: “measurements reached by folding them [sheets] once, twice... ” [pp. 63-64].) On the other hand, in the same year (1916) Henry R. Plomer used “form” rather than “format”: “Wynkyn de Worde printed some five-and-twenty in quarto, eschewing as a rule smaller forms” (A Short History of English Printing, 1476-1900—another book in Pollard's “Books about Books” series—pp. 29-30).


Here he used “size” (sometimes held over from the 1914 version) instead of “format” and introduced the latter in quotation marks only to postpone discussion of it (pp. 34, 36). In Appendix 5, “On Folding in 12mo and 24mo” (pp. 325-328), repeated from chapter 20 of the “Notes” (pp. 315-318), he not only used the word “formats” (p. 325) but also spoke of determining “the arrangement of the pages in the formes” by discovering “the manner of folding” (p. 328). (The difficulties McKerrow had with imposition—including his erroneous quarto diagram in both the “Notes” [pp. 228-229] and the Introduction [pp. 16-17] and his erroneous octavo diagram in the 1928 and later printings of the Introduction [p. 35]—are discussed by David L. Vander Meulen in “Revision in Bibliographical Classics: `McKerrow' and `Bowers,'” SB, 52 (1999), 215-245 [see pp. 225-229].)


Roy Stokes, when in 1967 he revised Esdaile's book for the second time, added a formal definition: “The format of a book is the term used to describe it in accordance with the number of times and manner in which the original sheet was folded” (p. 237).


Madan—from the time of his work on Oxford Books in the 1880s—was the perennial champion of this thoroughly illogical system (essentially like the one advocated earlier by the Library Association and criticized by Bradshaw). In his “Degressive Bibliography,” Transactions of the Bibliographical Society, 9 (1906-8), 53-65, Madan said that in “short” and “minimum” descriptions, terms like “folio” and “quarto” “may be used to indicate simply linear size,” and he provided a table converting inches to such terms (p. 63). A decade and a half later he, E. Gordon Duff, and Strickland Gibson joined together to produce “Standard Descriptions of Printed Books” for the Oxford Bibliographical Society (see note 3 above). Each author was responsible for a different period, and each recommended differing treatments for “important,” “interesting,” and “ordinary” books (obviously a nonbibliographical classification). Madan's recommendation for the “middle period” (1558-1800) included, as before, a “table of linear measurements” giving the heights that supposedly corresponded with such designations as “4°,” “sm. 4°,” “obl. 4°,” etc. (see the section on “Size,” p. 57). The last page of this article consisted of an “Additional Note on Size Notation” by R. W. Chapman, who offered an admirably cogent criticism of Madan's approach. “When Bibliography is analytical as well as descriptive,” he said, “and its object is not merely to indicate what the bound book is like and what it contains, but also to show how it was put together, then it is important to indicate not only the gathering which constitutes a `signature' (often inaccurately called a sheet) but also, if it can be determined, the constitution of the sheet as printed.” Therefore, he went on, “bibliographers dealing with what is here called the Middle Period will find it necessary to use the old terms in the old way”; Madan's scheme “is likely to lead to further confusion in a subject already involved in some perplexity.” (For Paul Needham's comments on Madan, see The Bradshaw Method [1988], p. 28.)


Catalogue of Botanical Books in the Collection of Rachel McMasters Miller Hunt, 2 (1961), ccxxix. Two widely used glossaries of the time also emphasized paper-folding but associated it with size. John Carter, in his ABC for Book-Collectors (1952), stated that “format” was sometimes used “to mean the general shape, style or appearance” of a book but that “its proper meaning is the size, as expressed by the number of times each sheet has been folded” (p. 89). Geoffrey Ashall Glaister, in his Glossary of the Book (1960), defined format as “a loose indication of the size of a book, being based on the number of times the printed sheets have been folded” (p. 144).


The same could be said of Padwick, who asserted—a hundred pages after the comment quoted above—“The format is a statement of how the sheets of paper were folded to form gatherings” (p. 165).


The most thoughtful introduction to the subject of format in manuscripts is a three-paragraph passage in Paul Needham's “Res papirea” (see note 4 above), pp. 127-128—which includes some commentary on Carla Bozzolo and Ezio Ornato's pioneering treatment in Pour une historie du livre manuscrit au moyen âge: trois essais de codicologie quantitative (1983). On the “impositions” of manuscripts, see, for example, G. I. Lieftinck, “Medieval Manuscripts with `Imposed' Sheets,” Het Boek, 34 (1960-61), 210-220, and the papers by Charles Samaran (beginning in the 1920s) cited there.


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]


This second alternative does not logically preclude the possibility of double-sized paper, if it was the long dimension of the paper that was doubled, but McKerrow does not take note of this possibility. See also note 32 below.


On vellum sizes, see Needham, “Res papirea” (see note 4 above), pp. 126-127.


He had apparently not noticed Edward Heawood's discussion of a 1696 quarto with vertical chainlines, in which “all the fore-edges (apart from some trimming) correspond to the original margins of the sheets as shown by the smaller intervals between the extreme pairs of chain-lines.” See p. 45 of Heawood's “The Position on the Sheet of Early Watermarks,” Library, 4th ser., 9 (1928-29), 38-47. (It is true that Heawood thought this instance demonstrated the use of moulds with chains running the long way; but if Hazen had known of this example, he would—after eliminating this explanation—have been forced to consider moulds with central cross-bars and tranchefiles.)


“Turned Chain Lines,” Library, 5th ser., 5 (1950-51), 184-200 (quotation from p. 187). The motivation for using double-sized moulds was economic, since a larger amount of paper could thus be produced with little more effort or cost than making a smaller quantity. Hazen had come to the same conclusion; but since he was dealing only with double-sized sheets that were cut in half for the printing of newspapers, the real explanation in those cases was somewhat different, as Graham Pollard pointed out in 1941: the Stamp Act of 1712 imposed a duty of one penny per sheet for newspapers but did not specify the size of the sheet. Pollard asserted that double sheets were “created solely to satisfy the requirements of the Commissioners of Stamp Duties under the Act of 1712.” See pp. 125-129 of his “Notes on the Size of the Sheet,” Library, 4th ser., 22 (1941-42), 105- 137.


Povey and Foster (see the preceding note) confirmed this fact in the way Hazen did, by consulting a contemporary papermaker; but they made clearer than Hazen that the direction of the laid-wires, not the chain-wires, was the decisive factor (the close wires had to run perpendicularly to the edges grasped by the vatman if the pulp was not to clog against them).


Two-sheet moulds were also sometimes constructed so that the two sheets lay end to end rather than side by side. Given that the chains always ran parallel to the shorter sides of the mould, in these cases the chainlines would be parallel to the shorter edges of the paper, as in ordinary paper made from single-sheet moulds; and thus paper from end-to-end (in contrast to side-by-side) two-sheet moulds cannot be distinguished from ordinary paper by chainline direction. However, since two-sheet moulds did not always have tranchefiles beside the central cross-bar, a sheet made in an end-to-end two-sheet mould can sometimes be identified by its having a tranchefile at only one end. Moulds of this shape could also be used without the central-bar deckle to produce single long sheets of the kind found in some “oblong” music books; see p. 322 of D. W. Krummel's “Oblong Format in Early Music Books,” Library, 5th ser., 26 (1971), 312-324.


In drawing this inference, I am concluding that he did not consider, or ruled out, the possibility that folded sheets were placed on the press. I likewise infer that when he spoke of sheets “previously cut in half” he was referring to a cut before printing, not merely before folding. (Thus “sewn as one” would make sense here only if it assumed the printing of complete double-sized sheets; presumably Greg was trying to cover the theoretical possibility that such printing did occur.) These considerations are further indication of what an impenetrable muddle this passage of Greg's is. Of the twenty items in his Bibliography where “(4°-form) 8°” is employed (locatable through the very useful “Notabilia” index in the third volume), only one (153/154 b) is gathered in 8s—and there is every reason to expect that analysis would reveal it to have been printed either on the cut halves of large sheets or on sheets made in two-sheet moulds (therefore “sewn as one” would in this instance mean only “gathered together”).


See The Carl H. Pforzheimer Library: English Literature 1475-1700 (1940), entries 212, 224, 304A, 426 note, 772, and 773, for example. The corresponding phrase “Sextodecimo in eights” occurs in entry 786.


One might perhaps argue, since Jackson called the book simply “Quarto,” not “Quarto and octavo,” despite the printing of G, H, and I on “octavo paper,” that he was therefore giving greater weight to imposition than to the original paper size; but such an inference is belied by his practice in the other relevant entries cited above.


Another bibliographer who used the same kind of expression, but in connection with music printing from engraved plates, was Richard J. Wolfe: see his “Parthenia In-Violata: A Seventeenth-Century Folio-Form Quarto,” Bulletin of the New York Public Library, 65 (1961), 347-364. In this case he identified the “commonplace practice” of using “double” or “oversize” plates, which could print two “oblong” page-units of music at the same time (p. 358); to accommodate these plates, “half-sheets were printed as though they were whole sheets and were then folded once over” (p. 348). But because Wolfe assumed that “format is dependent upon whole sheets” (p. 353), he felt that the format had to be quarto, and he labeled it “2°-form 4°” (p. 348).


Bowers appended a note to his discussion, calling attention to quartos with chain-lines in the usual horizontal direction but with watermarks in the octavo position (top inner corners). He concluded, with advice from Greg, that watermarks were no doubt placed differently in some moulds and that such books should be called quartos despite “the abnormal position of the watermark” (p. 195). The trouble with this kind of comment is that it seems to confuse the essence of format with the characteristics that are its usual by-product. That is, format refers to a relationship, not to chainline direction or watermark placement.


See Oliver, “Single-Page Imposition in Foxe's Acts and Monuments, 1570,” Library, 5th ser., 1 (1946-47), 49-56; and Dunkin, “Foxe's Acts and Monuments, 1570, and Single-Page Imposition,” Library, 5th ser., 2 (1947-48), 159- 170.


Except when, as in the early days of printing, only one type-page or a part-sheet forme was on the press at one time (see section V below).


In some late eighteenth- and early nineteenth-century books there are also “sheet numbers” that can be used in the same way (since these are consecutive numbers labeling sheets in cases where more than one gathering came from each sheet). For further information about these various techniques, see G. T. Tanselle, “The Treatment of Typesetting and Presswork in Bibliographical Description,” Studies in Bibliography, 52 (1999), 1-57. See also B. J. McMullin, “Press Figures and Format,” Bibliographical Society of Australia and New Zealand Bulletin, 7 (1983), 109-119. Some kinds of potentially useful evidence do not often survive, such as the rules that were sometimes printed to mark where the binder should make the cut in small formats: on 12° and 24°, see Giles E. Dawson, “Guidelines in Small Formats (about 1600),” SB, 14 [1961], 206-208; on 18°, see McMullin, “`La Collection des petits formats in-18, édition de Cazin': Some Preliminary Observations,” in The Culture of the Book: Essays from Two Hemispheres in Honour of Wallace Kirsop, ed. David Garrioch, Harold Love, Brian McMullin, Ian Morrison, and Meredith Sherlock (1999), pp. 105-119 (see pp. 111-113).


See, for instance, Heawood's article cited in note 29 above. Other variations have also been noted: James Russell, for example, reported a book printed on paper in which every nineteenth wire-line was as heavy as a chainline (see “Cross `Chain Lines' in Early 18th Century Paper,” International Paper History, 3 [1993], 44- 46).


The use of such a combination of evidence is illustrated by Pamela E. Pryde in “Determining the Format of British Books of the Second-Half of the Eighteenth Century Gathered in Sixes,” Bibliographical Society of Australia and New Zealand Bulletin, 23 (1999), 67-77. For tranchefiles, see Annemie Gilbert and Sylvia Ransom, “The Imposition of Eighteenmous in Sixes, with Special Reference to Tranchefiles,” ibid., 4 (1979-80), 269-275. Point-holes and watermarks enter into Curt F. Bühler's discussion of a 24° gathered in 8s, in “The Printing of a Valerius Maximus Dated 1671,” SB, 7 (1955), 177-181; cf. Kenneth Povey, “Twenty-fours with Three Signatures,” SB, 9 (1957), 215- 216.


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The study of books from the machine-press period also benefits from regarding format in terms of type as well as paper. Indeed, a focus on paper tests for format caused even so perspicacious a bibliographer as Henry Bradshaw to believe that the traditional format terms were “wholly inapplicable” to modern books.[43] It is true that in many instances the paper offers no help whatever; but there is still a possibility of determining format through typographical evidence. The extreme situation that dramatizes the point (a common situation, in fact, after the 1860s) is the production of printed matter on a web-fed rotary press, which takes paper in the form of a roll rather than individual sheets. If format is defined simply in terms of the folding of sheets of paper, then the concept is not appropriate for books and newspapers printed on web-fed presses. But it makes no sense to say that these items have no format, or to adopt a definition of format that is not applicable to all printed material, since obviously there was some finite number of page-units on the press at one time, and that number had a direct bearing on the structure of the item as finally produced. One could say, in other words, that the sheets to be folded were cut from the roll of paper after printing, their size having been determined by the area of printing surface on the press.[44] These items do, therefore, have a format in the most meaningful sense of that term, whether or not one is able to identify it in a given instance. And any attempt to establish it must focus on an effort to reconstruct the type-forme, since in these cases the forme may be the sole determinant of format.

Difficulties in determining the formats of machine-press books are


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not, however, limited to items printed on web-fed presses. From the second quarter of the nineteenth century onward, the mechanization of the paper and printing industries allowed the production of much larger paper than was possible previously and also provided presses that could exert the requisite pressure over large enough areas to print on these large sheets. Thus in examining nineteenth- and twentieth-century books one always has reason to suspect that they were printed from formes containing the type-pages for several gatherings in the finished product. Many books gathered in eights, for example, were printed from formes of sixty-four pages, each of these large formes containing the outer or inner formes of eight eight-leaf gatherings (or, alternatively and perhaps more commonly, containing all the pages for four eight-leaf gatherings, imposed to be perfected end-for-end so that each sheet resulted in two copies of each of the four gatherings).[45] The fact that the number of leaves in a gathering does not in itself reveal the number of pages in the forme (and therefore, given the observed dimensions of the leaves, the size of the sheet) does not, of course, distinguish the task of analyzing machine-press books from that of hand-press ones. The most significant difference is that machine-made paper has fewer readily visible characteristics of potential usefulness, since it generally shows no discernible pattern when held up to the light, and if chainlines and watermarks are present they have no integral connection with the manufacturing process but are simply optional embellishments.[46]

It follows that the principal piece of paper evidence available for machine-printed books (and indeed for those earlier ones, largely from the late eighteenth-century, printed on wove, unwatermarked paper) is the leaf-edges of untrimmed or partially untrimmed copies. Even if the outer-edge folds have been slit, those edges can still often be distinguished (by their matching roughness) from the leaf-edges that coincide with the original edges of the sheet (or with the edges of the roll and the machine-cuts across the roll), and the patterns discovered in a study of leaf-edges can sometimes reveal the imposition scheme used.[47] Useful typographical evidence can also at times be uncovered. The fact that in cylinder-press operation the leading edge of a forme receives the most stress and the following (or “trailing”) edge the next most (with the side


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edges somewhat less and the internal page-edges very little) can enable one by studying plate damage to determine the imposition that would have led to it.[48] And sometimes multi-page resetting to correct damage to the edge of a forme can indicate some of the type-pages that were adjacent.[49] Reappearances of distinctively damaged ornaments or ornamented types can—as in books from earlier periods—help to show which pages could not be on the press at the same time.[50] The rare survival of plate-gang numbers can lead to the determination of imposition schemes;[51] and occasionally in paperback “two-up” printing, if the cutting is not done precisely, one may be able to see on any given page a line or two of text from the page (of another book) imposed above or below it.[52]

If, after trying such approaches as these, and others that will inevitably be developed as more investigation is made of nineteenth- and twentieth-century books, one still cannot in a given instance state with confidence the number of type-pages on the press at one time, one must clearly be content to give the structure of a book only in terms of the number of leaves per gathering. As Bowers said in his treatment of format for machine-printed books, “If the format is not known, it is omitted” (p. 429). Although this advice may sound too obvious to require stating, Bowers's purpose in giving it was to emphasize, first, that one should not regard the number of leaves per gathering as an indication of format and, second, that one should not adopt publishers' occasional practice of using format terms as vague indications of size. Since the collation formula makes clear the number of leaves in each gathering, there is no point, as he says, in substituting an expression like “in 8s” or “in 12s” for the format statement; one could, as he suggests (p.


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430), give the dimensions of a typical leaf instead, though he rightly adds that this information might just as well be placed in the paragraph on paper.

Bowers's handling of this matter is sounder than Gaskell's. In the main treatment of format in the New Introduction, Gaskell wrote:

We shall see later that books of the machine-press period were commonly printed from multiple impositions on large sheets of paper which were then cut up for folding into ordinary gatherings. For such books a format statement such as “crown octavo” does not necessarily indicate either the imposition scheme or the size of the large sheets; what it does indicate—properly used—is that the size of the sub-units of the sheets used for the gatherings was crown, and that the sub-units were folded octavo-fashion into gatherings of eight leaves.

(pp. 80-81)

It is surprising that Gaskell would sanction the use of expressions like “crown octavo” to mean something different for machine-printed books from what they mean when applied to hand-printed books. His suggestion amounts to saying that “format” for machine-printed books refers neither to paper nor type but only to the characteristics of the folded gatherings (leaf size and number of leaves). But such a signification for “format” is precisely what he—like other bibliographers—warns against for hand-printed books. It is not conducive to clarity to allow “format” (or any other term) to shift so drastically in meaning according to the equipment employed to produce the book being described. Besides, not every book produced on a machine-press was printed on large paper: it is perfectly possible for a nineteenth- or twentieth-century book gathered in eight-leaf sections actually to be an octavo in the traditional sense. The concept of format, if it is to be informative rather than confusing, must clearly remain constant as it is applied to books of different periods.


See “A Word on Size-Notation” (see note 12 above), p. 36 [406]. He did allude to presswork as well as paper when he said that “the modern methods of making paper and of printing books combine to render any accurate application of form-notation to such books not so much difficult as impossible.” But his statement would not have come to so definite a conclusion if he had recognized the potential usefulness of typographical evidence in determining format (and therefore had more explicitly seen format as reflected in the forme).


Presses that were sheet-fed rather than web-fed could also make use of rolled paper, if the rolls were cut into sheets first; and the size of the sheets was of course determined in the same way as if the cutting were done after printing—by the area of printing surface placed on the press. But this situation falls into the same category as that discussed in the preceding section: whether the paper brought to the press was half a double-sized sheet or a segment of a roll does not affect the essential argument.


See, for example, Oliver L. Steele, “Half-Sheet Imposition of Eight-Leaf Quires in Formes of Thirty-Two and Sixty-Four Pages,” SB, 15 (1962), 274-278; cf. his “A Note on Half-Sheet Imposition in Nineteenth and Twentieth Century Books,” Gutenberg Jahrbuch, 1962, pp. 545-547.


These patterns can still have some usefulness, as in detecting cancel leaves; but no conclusions can be drawn, even tentatively, from the direction of the chainline pattern or the location of the watermarks.


For an example of the use of this technique, see Oliver L. Steele, “On the Imposition of the First Edition of Hawthorne's Scarlet Letter,Library, 5th ser., 17 (1962), 250-255.


See Oliver L. Steele, “Evidence of Plate Damage as Applied to the First Impressions of Ellen Glasgow's The Wheel of Life,SB, 16 (1963), 223-231. In the case of text printed from offset plates, slur indicating the trailing edge can sometimes be seen with the help of magnification; see Craig Abbott, “Offset Slur as Bibliographical Evidence,” Papers of the Bibliographical Society of America, 70 (1976), 538-541. E. W. Padwick should be given credit for recommending, in an introductory textbook (Bibliographical Method, 1969), that such techniques as studying plate damage and leaf-edges should be employed in the attempt to determine the format of machine-printed books because format “remains the only real indication of how the book was constructed” (p. 227).


As in an instance that I analyzed in the Northwestern-Newberry Edition of Herman Melville's Typee (1968), pp. 310-311.


See, for example, Shef Rogers, “How Many Ts Had Ezra Pound's Printer?”, SB, 49 (1996), 277-283.


See Matthew J. Bruccoli and C. A. Rheault, “Imposition Figures and Plate Gangs in The Rescue,SB, 14 (1961), 258-262.


See the very informative article by Thomas L. Bonn, “Two, Two-Up, 32s: A Paperback in the Making,” Journal of the Printing Historical Society, 18 (1984), 36-46; see also Matthew J. Bruccoli, American Notes & Queries, 1 (1962), 6, and G. T. Tanselle, “Imposition of Armed Services Editions: Another Example,” PBSA, 66 (1972), 434-435.


An excursus on the format of so-called “broadsides” and “broadside books” may be in order here, because the subject has not been treated satisfactorily, either in the introductory textbooks or elsewhere. There has been, for example, some discussion—a disproportionate amount, in my opinion—about whether two terms, “broadside” and “broadsheet,” should be used to distinguish the direction in which the lines of type run, and there has been debate over whether these terms can apply to pieces that have printing on both sides. Even Pollard and Greg felt obliged to comment on such matters, and although they recognized that the direction of the printing is not an aspect of format, they nevertheless


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suggested the term “oblong broadside” to indicate “the broadsheet in which the lines of type follow the wiremarks and not the chainmarks.”[53] The direction in which the lines of type run, and the question whether the printing appears on one or both sides of the paper, are obviously matters irrelevant to a consideration of format. If one wishes to have terms that will make such distinctions, one is concerned with defining different genres of printed matter, not formats.

But determining the fraction of a full sheet that a given item occupies is indeed a format question, and here too a failure to distinguish formats from kinds of printed matter has vitiated some of the commentary. The word “broadside” is popularly used to mean any printed piece of paper—such as a poster, a handbill, and the like—intended for distribution in that form, not as part of a book. But since some of these printed pieces of paper are whole sheets and some part-sheets, this use of “broadside” is not a format term. If one wants it to be a format term (probably not a good idea, as I suggest below), one would have to use it consistently with the other format terms, from “folio” onward. Such consistency would demand that “broadside” refer only to the situation in which one type-page (or other unit of printing surface) is on the press and is intended to fill one side of a whole sheet of paper. In other words, the verbal or visual text—whether it is presented in one or more columns and whether the longer or shorter dimension of the paper is at the top—constitutes the matter for a page, which by definition is one side of a leaf. Thus in this format the leaf is a whole sheet, and the format symbol would logically be 1°.[54]

But when, as often happened, the type for two separate single-leaf pieces—two handbills, for example—was on the press at one time, the resulting printed items, after the sheets were cut, ought logically to be called folio leaves. Otherwise one would be in the position of treating a half-sheet handbill differently from a single-leaf cancel (or a single-leaf insertion) in a folio book. Many bibliographers have been in this position, however, (Principles, p. 195) and Gaskell (New Introduction, p. 81) recommended “½°” as the format notation


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for a separate half-sheet piece (whereas a leaf to be inserted in a folio book would be a “2° leaf”). The “½°” notation is as illogical as the earlier practice, condemned by all thoughtful bibliographers, of using “single sheet” to mean “half a broadside.”[55] Notations like “½°,” “¼°,” and “⅛°” are inconsistent with the standard forms “2°,” “4°,” and “8°”—or, rather, one should perhaps say that they actually constitute an alternative system for saying the same thing. Both “2°” and “½°” mean that each leaf is half a sheet, though by custom the numerator of the fraction is omitted. The act of inserting it does not logically tell one that the item consists of only one leaf, for the number of leaves involved has nothing to do with the format designation. A folio pamphlet of four leaves and a folio book of one hundred leaves are equally of folio format, and a half-sheet handbill—a one-leaf item—is also in folio format. It could be recorded as “2°: 1 leaf,” which would be consistent with established format usage; or, more conveniently perhaps, it could be called a “folio leaf,” a “2° leaf,” or a “half-sheet leaf.” (The leaves of loose-leaf manuscripts may similarly be called “folio leaves” or “half-sheet leaves,” and so on, though the size of full sheets may not always be ascertainable, especially if the paper is not handmade.)

To be realistic, one cannot stop the widespread use of “broadside” as the generic term covering nearly any kind of single-leaf printed item, including such part-sheet pieces. I think bibliographers might therefore consider not using it as a format term and using it instead in this general sense (since it is convenient anyway to have some term to cover all such loose pieces). Then it would be possible to refer to “full-sheet broadsides,” “folio broadsides,” “quarto broadsides,” and so on. “Broadside” would then be a term parallel with “book” or “pamphlet,” distinguishing loose single printed leaves from multi-leaf assemblages, and the conventional format terms can be applied to the former as readily as the latter.

By “multi-leaf assemblages,” I of course refer both to books constructed from gatherings sewn through the gutter-folds and to books made up of disjunct leaves held together by stabbing or oversewing, by sewing through folds created by turned-over edges, or by pasting to sewn stubs.[56] Many books constructed of disjunct leaves exist, often consisting


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of engraved or lithographed plates, such as books of music, maps, or botanical, zoological, or topographical illustrations.[57] Any consideration of broadsides must take up these books since their structure might cause one to think of them as collections of broadsides. They are indeed sometimes called “broadside books” (or “broadsheet books”); but if (as I think desirable) we wish to restrict “broadside” to single-leaf pieces, we cannot speak of a “broadside book” except perhaps in those instances where the book is in fact made up of single-leaf pieces that had been published and distributed separately. Another name is thus needed for books that contain works requiring more than one leaf for their presentation and that are made up of disjunct leaves. They cannot be called “leaf books” because that term already has an established meaning, referring to the unfortunate category of book in which each copy of an edition contains (tipped or laid into it) a leaf from an earlier book. What I suggest, therefore, is “disjunct-leaf book” or, perhaps more euphoniously but less obviously, “singleton book.”[58] These terms carry no implication that the leaves are necessarily whole sheets, and they can be used for all books (manuscript or printed) made up of disjunct leaves, regardless of their formats.

It has not been common to speak of formats in connection with disjunct-leaf books, but clearly they do have formats, determined exactly as for conjugate-leaf books, by the portion of a full sheet occupied by


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each leaf and thus by the number of page-units of printing surface required to fill one side of a sheet.[59] Once one learns to think of format in terms of how many page-units are required to fill a whole sheet, not in terms of paper-folding, one sees immediately that conjugacy is not an essential aspect of format. For present purposes, we need not debate whether “codex” can be applied to disjunct-leaf books as well as to conjugate-leaf books.[60] There seems little doubt that the conjugate-leaf codex evolved from the practice of fastening wooden tablets with thongs running through holes along one side; and in any case both structures share the principal characteristic that is usually thought to distinguish the codex from the roll—the division of the reading surface into leaves held together at one edge. Disjunct-leaf books (not only plate books but modern paperbacks as well) sit on library shelves along with conjugate- leaf books, and bibliographers often have to describe them in the same bibliographies. The concept of and the notation for format ought to be the same in both cases, since the manner in which leaves are held together is not the determinant of format.

Allan Stevenson, when he faced the task of describing the eighteenth-century books in the Hunt collection, recognized the need for a standard system for dealing with what he called “broadsheet books,” since many of them were naturally present in a collection of botanical books. His proposal (in his introduction to the 1961 volume of the Hunt catalogue [see note 24 above]) left something to be desired, however, for he recommended using a superscript “1” in the collation formulas for such books, as in “A-N1.” He said, “This is almost the only situation in which, there being no folding of the sheet, we use odd numbers as indexes” (p. clx). But this point is an admission that disjunct-leaf books are not being treated uniformly with conjugate-leaf books. There is, after all, an established form for reporting individual leaves: the numeral is placed on the line, as in “A1.” The description of disjunct-leaf books provides no reason to relax the rule of restricting superscript figures to sewing-fold conjugacies, and thus to even numbers. In speaking of the notation for referring, outside the formula, to individual leaves of disjunct-leaf books, Stevenson suggested using only the signatures—that is, “A” rather than “A1”—because he felt that the numeral was superfluous in such cases. He seemed not to realize the inconsistency he was left with, since


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the superscript “1” in the formula was equally unnecessary: there is no ambiguity in stating “1°: A-N.”

There would be an ambiguity (or at least potential confusion), however, if the leaves were part-sheets and the format figure were therefore something other than “1°.”[61] A system for treating disjunct-leaf books uniformly with conjugate-leaf books requires that provision be made for books consisting of disjunct leaves that are each less than a full sheet (a situation that Stevenson does not cover). In fact, a ready-made system already exists: the standard plan for recording the collation of conjugate-leaf books requires no adjustment to handle disjunct-leaf books, except recognizing the use of a dash to link references to single leaves, in the same way that signatures are linked in conventional formulas to signify a series between the first and last one named. Thus a book made up of half-sheet disjunct leaves would be described as follows (the first line referring to one with signed leaves, the second to one with unsigned leaves, the third to one with both):

2°: A1-T1

2°: [11-191] or 2°: 19 disjunct leaves

2°: A1-D1 χ1 E1-L1 [M1] N1-S1

If each leaf were a quarter-sheet, the format would be 4°, and so on. Anyone familiar with the established system would have no doubt about what is being recorded here and would be able to adapt this plan to other complications.[62] I wish to emphasize that these formulas should not be


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thought of as an innovation. They simply emerge logically from coherent thinking about format. If format is taken to refer to the number of page-units needed to fill one side of a sheet, it follows that a disjunct leaf and a conjugate leaf are the same format if they both consist of the same fraction of a sheet. This point has always been understood when a few disjunct leaves are tipped into a book largely constructed of folded gatherings, but it should apply equally to a book made up entirely of disjunct leaves. Eliminating the idea of folding as an element of format makes clear that the essential concept comprehends without difficulty both broadsides and disjunct-leaf books as well as books made up of sewn gatherings.


That is, of course, when a full sheet is used. See Alfred W. Pollard and W. W. Greg, “Some Points in Bibliographical Descriptions,” Transaction of the Bibliographical Society, 9 (1906-8), 31-52 (see “Broadsides and Folio Sheets,” pp. 39-40); reprinted in Alfred William Pollard: A Selection of His Essay, ed. Fred W. Roper (1976), pp. 116-129 (pp. 123- 124). Cf. McKerrow's Introduction, p. 30, n. 1.


W. W. Greg, in the “Provisional Memoranda” prefaced to the first volume (1939) of his Bibliography of the English Printed Drama to the Restoration, specified “`1°' to indicate unfolded sheets” (p. xvi). Later, in the full introduction placed in the fourth volume (1959), he reaffirmed his use of “1° for a book consisting of unfolded sheets, for which there is no recognized term” (p. lv).


Yet tradition dies hard: J. D. Cowley's Bibliographical Description and Cataloguing (1949) recognized that the usage was “quite illogical” (p. 94) but nevertheless recommended “S.s.” (standing for “Single sheet”) to refer to “half a sheet with letterpress parallel with shorter sides” (p. 208).


The creation of bifolia by pasting one printed item to the turned- over edge of another should be distinguished from the pasting together of two pieces of paper before printing: in the former instance, format is determined by the portion of a full sheet occupied by each of the disjunct leaves; in the latter, format is based on the full sheets created by the pasting (see the discussion to which note 38 above is attached). On the use of a full set of sewn stubs, to which all leaves are attached, see note 62 below. But if all the disjunct leaves to be held together are given folds near the gutter edge, a collection of disjunct leaves can be secured by sewing through those folds without the need of pasting; and the format would of course be the same as if the leaves had been pasted to turned-over edges or stabbed through. (The insertion of cancels in incunables by turned-over edges is discussed by Martin Boghardt in “Blattersetzung und Neusatz in frühen Inkunabeln,” Bibliothek und Wissenschaft, 29 (1996), 24-58 [see especially the diagrams in section 3, pp. 28-39].)


Another large category of disjunct-leaf books consists of most twentieth-century paperbacks. Unlike many disjunct-leaf books made up of engraved or lithographed plates, however, their leaves were not printed individually. The collation formulas for such books offer no more problems than do those of any other disjunct-leaf books; but the format designations pose all the difficulties associated with other machine-printed books. If the techniques suggested earlier for determining format for these books, such as the identification of offset-slur, do not prove conclusive, one is forced to leave out any format designation. (Sometimes one finds such revealing errors as the one I found in a copy of the second 1972 printing of the Penguin edition of Great Expectations, where pages 321 through 368 are missing—this gap suggesting gatherings of twenty-four leaves. But of course even this information does not in itself tell one the number of pages in a forme, and the same could be said of a section of leaves on different paper.)


One could use these terms even if a book also contained some gatherings of conjugate leaves, as long as the bulk of the book consisted of disjunct leaves—just as the presence of a few tipped-in engraved plates in a book otherwise made up of folded letterpress gatherings does not affect what one calls the book as a whole.


Not necessarily type-pages, since disjunct-leaf books are more likely to have been printed from engraved or lithographic surfaces.


In Colin H. Roberts and T. C. Skeat's The Birth of the Codex (1983), the codex form is defined as “a collection of sheets of any material, folded double and fastened together at the back or spine, and usually protected by covers” (p. 1). But they state, in discussing ancient waxed writing tablets, “The correct designation in Latin for a plurality of tablets or for multi-leaved tablets was codex” (p. 12).


One could of course make a rule that the absence of superscript figures means that the leaves are disjunct. But such a practice would not avoid ambiguity in the signature-notation system as a whole, since a signature letter (or number) would then refer sometimes to a gathering and sometimes to a single leaf.


Such as books that consist of a combination of letterpress and engraved leaves. If the letterpress consists primarily of disjunct unsigned or unnumbered leaves, one could follow Stevenson's suggestions for what he called “lambda books” (pp. clx-clxi) and combine the Greek letter lambda with a plate number to designate the leaf of letterpress that is associated with a given plate. In the case of plate-books where the plates are interspersed within folded letterpress gatherings, one may follow Stevenson's principle of recording the letterpress and the disjunct plates separately (p. clxix) and my more detailed suggestion for implementing this idea by employing two linked collations, each of which can be preceded by its own format designation (see pp. 39-40 of “The Description of Non-Letterpress Material in Books,” SB, 35 [1982], 1-42). (The linking consists of placing in the plate formula parenthetical page references—using signature notation keyed to the other formula—that indicate which page is faced by each plate.) Another situation that may be treated in analogous fashion occurs in the kind of book in which the plates are attached to gathered and sewn conjugate stubs (in effect, a book in which all leaves are cancels): one collation formula would record the structure of the gathered stubs, another the sequence of the plates. (The links from the latter formula to the former would consist of parenthetical leaf references preceded by “±”.) On the sewing of disjunct leaves through folds created by turned-over edges, see note 56 above; this situation would not be reflected in the formula (just as stabbing or the spine-gluing of so-called “perfect bindings”—or the manner of securing cancels, for that matter—would not be), but the means of fastening should be described in words.


If the complications in defining format were limited to those so far discussed—primarily created by double, quad, rolled, and cut-down paper, by paper from two-sheet moulds, and by broadsides and disjunct-leaf books—there would be little more to say beyond recognizing that type-formes must be given a greater role in the definition than they traditionally have been. But there is another situation that has to be accommodated, one that to some extent throws the emphasis back on the paper: when the type placed on the press is less than the amount required for one side of a sheet of paper of the size selected for a particular job. Although a printer of any period could naturally choose to operate this way on certain occasions, bibliographers are not likely to encounter the practice very often except when they are dealing with books from the earliest years of printing. Before the early 1470s printers regularly printed one page at a time, and only one type-page was on the press at a time.[63] The fact that printers in the 1450s and 1460s printed one page at a time has been recognized by incunabulists since the days of Bradshaw and Blades;[64] and McKerrow in his 1927 Introduction discussed the matter as a well-known, if not always clearly analyzed, phenomenon (pp. 57-61), regarding it as “certain” that “some at least of the earliest books were printed one page at a time” (p. 60). By the late twen-


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tieth century, Paul Needham was able to say, “One of our surest items of knowledge with regard to the earliest European printing is that in the first two decades all printing was done one page at a time, and not in imposed formes” (“Res papirea” [see note 4 above], p. 128). Under these circumstances, format for printed books of this period obviously cannot be defined in terms of the number of type-pages on the press. When four type-pages were required to fill one side of a sheet, the format has to be called quarto, even though no forme of four type-pages was ever placed on the press.

The difficulty for bibliographers arises from an associated practice of the early printers: cutting sheets for quartos and octavos before printing. Thus a quarto would be printed one page at a time on half-sheets, each accommodating two pages per side. The type-pages that were printed on each half-sheet were often chosen (one cannot say “imposed”) so as to allow for the quiring of four or five half-sheets, producing gatherings made up of two or two and a half whole sheets.[65] This result does not in itself pose any greater problems for bibliographers who wish to designate format than the common later situation in which two or more sheets printed from imposed formes were quired together. But it does reinforce a principle suggested above in connection with the turned chainlines in sixteenth-, seventeenth-, and eighteenth-century books: that, when paper is cut before printing, the original size is relevant to format only in those instances where the cutting is equivalent to folding after printing. In the case of unusually large sheets, for example, the fact that what went on the press was only part of the sheet as manufactured does not affect the designation of format because the function of the cutting was to create a new size of sheet; the format is therefore indicated by the number of pages needed to fill each side of those new sheets, or in other words by the number of imposed type-pages.[66] Or when sheets of a normal size were altered to create a supply of the smaller paper needed for a given job, the cutting was not the equivalent of folding after printing, and again here it is the number of pages required to fill one side of the cut sheets that determines format.

In the case of half-sheet pieces of paper placed on the press in early


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printing, on the other hand, the decisive factor is not how many type-pages it would take to print one side of each half-sheet, since here the cutting of the sheets before printing was the equivalent of folding after printing. The sheets were cut only to simplify the process of printing from formes that contained fewer type-pages than the number needed for one side of a sheet of the selected size (or, to speak casually, “partial formes”); and the end result was the same as if uncut sheets had been printed from fully imposed formes, and then cut. (The result was the same, that is, except for some tell-tale clues, such as the distribution of watermarks and of mould and felt sides: when half-sheets are used, some copies are likely to display more or fewer watermarks per gathering than would be possible if the sheets had not been slit until after folding, or patterns of mould and felt sides that could not occur if whole sheets had been placed on the press.) In this situation, there was neither a full sheet (as defined for the job) nor a full forme (the amount of printing surface that would fill one side of such a sheet) on the press; but there was nevertheless a key to format in the fact that the cutting of the sheet was the equivalent of folding, and therefore the number of pages that would fit on one side of a full sheet is the relevant figure.

This principle applies even if the number of type-pages on the press, instead of being only one, were the number required to fill one side of the part-sheet placed on the press—if, for example, a quarto were printed on half-sheets with two type-pages on the press at a time. A few bibliographers have postulated that such two-page formes were standard in the early decades of printing,[67] but that contention can readily be disproved by studying the type-indentations in the printed paper (noting, that is, that the same side of the piece of paper displays both first-side and secondside printing).[68] Nevertheless, printing by two-page formes was possible as long as the coffin of the press would accommodate them, and for some printers this practice[69] may well have characterized a transition phase between single- page printing and the full-forme printing that was to


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become the norm. (The term “full-forme,” as I suggested above, is short-hand for “full-sheet-forme,” meaning a forme that would fully print one side of a sheet of the chosen size.)

The size of the platen relative to the size of the coffin (that is, to the type-area that the coffin would hold) is not in itself relevant to this question, though confusion on this point has weakened some analyses. Lotte Hellinga, for instance, in her study of the origins of full-forme printing, remarks on “the distinction between half-sheets and full sheets, and therefore the use of the one-pull and the two-pull press.”[70] But the size of the paper laid on the press is not limited by the number of type-pages in the coffin, for the paper could be large enough to accommodate more type-pages than those on the press at one time—or than the total that the coffin would hold, in cases where the frisket was not affixed to the tympan, or the tympan to the coffin.[71] And the number of type-pages placed on the press at one time need not be enough to fill the coffin. If one wishes to use the phrases “one-pull press” and “two-pull press,” all they can mean is that in the first the coffin is the same size as the platen, and in the second the coffin is double the size of the platen. But in either case one could lay on the press fewer type-pages than the number required to fill the coffin, just as the pieces of paper employed would not have to match the area of printing surface on the press. Whether in a given instance, therefore, it took one or two pulls to print one side of a piece of paper (a sheet or a part-sheet) does not necessarily correlate with whether the press itself was a “one- pull press” or a “two-pull press.”[72]


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The design of the press is of course an interesting historical matter; but the size of the platen relative to that of the coffin is not often a fact that can enter very helpfully into bibliographical analysis, unlike the determination of which pages were on the press at one time.

The important point for a discussion of format is that if four type-pages (and the spaces surrounding them) fill the area on one side of a sheet of paper of a chosen size, the format is quarto even if only one or two type-pages were on the press at one time and even if the paper was cut in half before printing. It would be wrong to regard a book produced in this fashion as a folio simply because two type-pages were on the press and they were sufficient to fill one side of each of the pieces of paper placed on the press: clearly those production techniques were only expedients for creating as the end- product a group of books with the same shape, size, and structure as would have obtained if the full sheets had been printed from four-page formes. The resulting chainline direction and watermark position will be those that ordinarily characterize quartos, if the paper was made in the usual way; but that fact cannot be the primary reason for defining this format as quarto, since as we have seen these features are not infallible guides.

The various theoretical possibilities for imposition and for papercutting that one may imagine have probably been actually employed at one time or another. For example, Dennis E. Rhodes once concluded (on the basis of the distribution of textual variants and watermarks) that the 1479 Oxford edition of Aristotle's Ethics—a “small quarto”— was printed in formes of two pages but that some sheets were cut in half before printing and others were not (the latter would therefore have been placed on the press twice for the printing of each side).[73] I have not examined Rhodes's evidence because the question at present is not whether his conclusions were correct but what implications the situation would have for the concept of format. If one accepts the treatment of single-page printing and of two-page formes suggested above, then the use of both cut and uncut sheets would have no effect on the designation of format. In the instances discussed above, the printing of half-sheets


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one or two pages at a time[74] produced quarto format not because the sheets were cut but because the total number of pages planned for each side of the full sheets was four. Thus whether or not the sheets were cut before printing (like the question of how many type-pages were on the press at one time) is unrelated to the fact that the area contained on each side of a full sheet held four pages—and that fact is what determines format. If Rhodes is right about the Aristotle, then the entire book is a quarto; the book is not made up of two formats even though the pieces of paper placed on the press to print it were of two different sizes.

This observation leads naturally to the question whether it is ever appropriate to regard a single book as made up of sheets in more than one format. The answer was easy with the Aristotle since the paper was all the same (the original sheets were all the same size, that is; whether the paper was all of the same stock is not relevant for this particular point). And whether it was cut before printing or after binding did not affect the number of pages printed on each side of the whole sheet. But what about books printed on papers that were originally of different sizes but were cut into appropriately sized pieces for placement on the press? If, for instance, half-sheets of one size contained about the same area as whole sheets of a smaller size, the two could readily be (and commonly were) mixed in the printing of a single book.[75] And if both the whole sheets and the half-sheets were printed two pages to a side, would the book as a whole have to be considered a mixture of folio and quarto? The question has nothing to do with how many type-pages were on the press at one time[76] or whether the larger paper was cut before printing; the sole consideration is that it takes two type-pages (of the uniform size established for the book in question) to fill one side of a sheet of the smaller paper and four to fill one side of a sheet of the larger


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paper. Situations of this kind usually reveal themselves by a mixture of chainline directions and of watermark positions, and incunabulists have regularly described such books as “2° and 4°” (or, obviously, as “4° and 8°” when the number of type-pages per side is doubled).[77]

Such paired format designations are in line with the approach to format I have been outlining, in which the essential fact is the number of type-pages (and/or blank pages, of course) that are needed to fill one side of a standard sheet. Some people, however, may feel that it is awkward to have to refer to a single book, with all its leaves of uniform size, as comprising two formats. Their argument might be that the mixture of papers is simply a detail of production history that need not be reflected in the term we use for the finished product. They could say that their approach is not inconsistent with what I have argued: if cut halves are treated as whole sheets when determining the format of some sixteenth- and seventeenth-century plays, or of those seventeenth- and eighteenth-century items printed on paper cut from extra-large sheets, why cannot one say, in the situation postulated here, that sheets were cut in half only to create pieces of paper that were compatible with smallersized whole sheets—and thus call the book simply a folio?

There are several objections to this reasoning. First, the larger sheets need not be cut before printing even if only half (or fewer) of the type-pages for one side of each sheet are on the press at one time. To make the timing of the cutting a determinant of format in these cases would be to give two names to the same result. Second, the extra-large sheets of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries were made with the understanding that each would form two normal full-sized sheets, just as much as when the papermaker created the division with a deckle; but when ordinary sheets were cut before printing, the cut pieces can be treated as full sheets only when the cuts do not serve as the equivalent of folds after printing.[78] There is a distinction to be made, for example, between (1) cutting sheets in order to make them the proper size for printing plays in standard fashion from four-page formes and (2) cutting sheets as an expedient for printing four-page sides from formes of one or two pages. The former creates a new size of sheet; the latter only produces half-sheets. Third, if one does not make this distinction in the case of early books printed from “partial formes,” those examples containing paper stocks that were originally of two sizes would have to take their format


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name from the full sheets, since one would be assuming that the larger paper was cut in half only to make it the size of the smaller full sheets. The full sheets might, however, be the minority paper in the book, and one could equally well argue that they were used as a convenient supplement to the dominant paper, since they were the same size as half-sheets of it. Or, of course, the two papers could be fairly evenly mixed, in which case it would seem still more arbitrary to choose one as the determinant of format. Fourth, the whole idea that a single book must be called by a single format name is reminiscent of the vague use of “format” to refer to shape and size.

If format designations are to signify something precise about the relation of process and product, I see no alternative to classifying certain books as being of two formats.[79] The routines of the earliest printers can be consistently and systematically accommodated to the same concept of format appropriate for later books, as long as one focuses strictly on the number of type-pages (and/or blank pages) used to fill one side of a full sheet, recognizing that any cutting before printing was only the equivalent of folding after printing.


Printing one page “at a time” could mean two different things: either that only one type-page was on the press, or that more than one were on the press but that each pull of the bar to lower the platen printed only one of them (and the coffin was cranked to a different position between pulls). Since the number of type-pages on the press is more significant for bibliographical analysis than the number of pulls required to print them, whenever I speak of printing some number of type-pages “at a time,” I am referring to the number on the press at the same time.


In 1863 (in the second volume of The Life and Typography of William Caxton), Blades stated that “only a page at a time was worked in the earlier part of Caxton's career” (p. xlvii).


It should be noted that the arrangement of type-pages for printing on precut half-sheets is a very different matter from the later procedure called “half- sheet imposition.” Such imposition involved printing on whole sheets but with the type- pages imposed so that each sheet could later be cut to form either two separate half-sheet gatherings (“two half-sheets worked together”) or two copies of the same half-sheet text (half-sheets produced by “work-and-turn”). See Kenneth Povey, “On the Diagnosis of Half-Sheet Impositions,” Library, 5th ser., 11 (1956), 268-272.


When I speak of “imposed type-pages,” here and elsewhere, I include of course any blank pages, made up of furniture or bearers, that were a part of a complete imposed forme in a given instance.


See, for example, Jeanne Veyrin-Forrer's discussion of “livres de format in-quarto... imposées par deux pages comme des in-folio,” as reprinted in her La lettre et le texte (1987), p. 200. Lotte Hellinga, in the article cited in note 70 below, regards Veyrin-Forrer's results as “final.”


This technique has been used by incunabulists since at least 1900, when Heinrich Wallau explained it in “Die zweifarbigen Initialen der Psalterdrucke von Johann Fust und Peter Schöffer,” in Festschrift sum fünfhundertjährigen Geburtstage von Johann Gutenberg (1900), pp. 261-304 (see p. 280). An example of a more recent use of this test is Paul Needham's report on Conrad Braem's first two books, in Appendix I (p. 18) of “Fragments of an Unrecorded Edition of the First Alost Press,” Quaerendo, 12 (1982), 6-21.


Or the use of four-page formes for printing an octavo on half- sheets. Ursula Baurmeister reported such an instance from 1471 in “Clement de Padoue, enlumineur et premier imprimeur italien?”, Bulletin de bibliophile, 1990, 1:19-28 (see pp. 23-24).


“Press and Text in the First Decades of Printing,” in Libri, tipografi, biblioteche: ricerche storiche dedicate a Luigi Balsamo, ed. A. Ganda and E. Grignani (1997), pp. 1-23 (quotation from p. 5). The same misconception underlies various other statements, such as her assertion that the use of a two-pull press would “require” setting by formes from cast-off copy (p. 4), as if printing could not take place with fewer type-pages than the maximum number that the press would hold (there is of course the further assumption that there was never enough type to set full formes in page-number order). It is curious that Hellinga does not take advantage of the indentation test for determining single-page printing and that in a footnote she exaggerates the difficulty of using it (p. 5). She seems to give greater weight to the use of marked printer's copy (which of course is not usually available), as when she says, “It is particularly difficult to establish this [whether full formes were used] beyond doubt in editions in-folio, unless printer's copy survives to enlighten us about the procedure used” (p. 5). Printer's copy, however, is not primary evidence (cast-off copy does not prove setting by formes), whereas type-indentations do reveal what actually happened.


For some comments on the use of an unattached tympan (a “removable frame” as Martin Boghardt's translator calls it), see Boghardt's “Pinhole Patterns in Large-Format Incunabula,” Library, 7th ser., 1 (200), 263-289 (esp. pp. 267, 269, 278); this article is a revision and translation (by John L. Flood) of “Punkturmuster in grossformatigen Inkunabeln und die Datierung des Mainzer Catholicon,Gutenberg Jahrbuch, 1999, pp. 75-88.


Hellinga's assumption of such a correlation, combined with her focus on quartos, leads to awkwardness in her argument. For example, she says that when we can show a given quarto to have been printed on full sheets, “we can be certain that the printer had a press which could accommodate at least a forme corresponding to a whole sheet of the smallest and most commonly used size of paper... or to a whole sheet of one of the larger sizes” (p. 2). But two pages later she alludes to “the printer producing a folio edition, printing a page at a time on a one-pull press” (p. 4)—a situation in which uncut sheets were used on a press that could not accommodate a full-sheet forme of the size needed for those sheets. One is left to wonder why a quarto could not have been printed the same way.


“Variants in the 1479 Oxford Edition of Aristotle's Ethics,” SB, 8 (1956), 209-212.


As I hope is clear from the previous discussion, “at a time” here has nothing to do with how many pulls of the platen were needed but only with the number of type-pages on the press at the same time.


Paul Needham has discussed this situation in “Aldus Mantius's Paper Stocks” (see note 6 above), pp. 291-292.


One or two—or even four, in which case, when the smaller paper was used, two sheets would have had to be laid on the press at the same time. This theoretical possibility was mentioned by Curt F. Bühler in “Caxton Studies,” Gutenberg Jahrbuch, 1940, pp. 169-176 (reprinted, with a revised diagram, in his Early Books and Manuscripts [1973], pp. 43-52): “the printer would have been able to print four pages with two pulls of the lever; in short, he would be printing `in quarto' but with two sheets of folio paper” (p. 176; p. 51 later). Instead of saying “two sheets of folio paper,” he should have said “two sheets printed as folios” (because two type-pages filled one side of each), and the format would therefore simply be folio, regardless of the fact that four type-pages were on the press. It is misleading to speak here of printing “in quarto.” On the other hand, if the two sheets had been pasted together to create a larger sheet—as in the case of the Foxe book cited above (see note 38)—the format would be quarto.


See, for example, Paul Needham's description of a 1480 Venetian Bible in the 1989 Sotheby catalogue of The George Abrams Collection (lot 27).


The cuts need not create two equal pieces: in McKerrow's illustration quoted earlier, for example, the printer needed pieces of paper that were ⅔ the size of the original sheets. The goal here was to create a new size of sheet; the cut was therefore not the equivalent of a fold after printing, and format would relate to the cut sheet.


When this is done, it is of course also necessary to specify in some way which gatherings are in each of the formats. One could, for example, attach the relevant signatures to each format designation—as in “4° (A-G, L-M) and 2° (H-K, N)”—or (if collation formulas are to accompany the format designations) one could use two separate formulas (perhaps placing dashes in each one to show the points at which the sequence moves to the other).


The issues raised by early books bring to the fore a more basic question that underlies any attempt to conceptualize format: just how much of the production process should be entailed in the naming of formats? Clearly format is a property of books that is determined through analysis, not straightforward description. At least, that much is certain as long as we agree that format does not merely mean the leaf dimensions of a book. If format is taken to express a relation between book production and book structure, it relies on analysis, even in the simplest cases. A book that appears “obviously” to be a folio—because it seems to be like other books known to be folios—is not in fact obviously so until it has been subjected to careful examination. Such analysis may reveal, as we have seen, that chainline direction and watermark position are not always reliable guides. We may learn, among other things, that the paper was cut before printing or that the printing proceeded one page at a time or by “partial formes.” We may also learn which of the alternative imposition schemes for certain formats was used (including half-sheet imposition).


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All such discoveries are important facts about the printing history of a book, but how many of them are essential elements in designating the format of the book? Is the format of a book printed on full sheets from four-page formes to be stated differently from that of a book printed on half-sheets from two-page formes? Does format, in other words, encapsulate all that can be learned about the imposition, paper, and presswork for a given book, or does it have a more restricted meaning?

In thinking about such questions, people sometimes have a tendency to attempt to distinguish printers' concepts from bibliographers' concepts. Curt F. Bühler, for instance, in a rather unsuccessful study of what he called “mixed foldings” (gatherings with uniform leaf dimensions, constructed from sheets that were originally of different sizes) concluded that “any large-sized quarto could actually be a folio, when considered from the printer's point of view as opposed to the bibliographer's.”[80] He was referring to his point that “quarto sheets can be used for printing by `folio-imposition.'” There is no such thing as “quarto sheets,” of course, but rather sheets (of any size) that have four pages occupying each side (and his comment need not be limited to “large-sized” quartos); what he was trying to say is that such sheets can be produced by printing two pages at a time instead of four and that in such a case the result would be a folio to the printer but a quarto to the bibliographer.[81] At the end of his article, he reiterated that “`format' for the fifteenth-century printer occasionally represented something quite different from what it does to the twentieth-century bibliographer” (p. 145).

I do not think it profitable to make such a distinction. Format, to be sure, is a concept of bibliographical (that is, historical) analysis, but its whole point is to refer with clarity to something that actually happened in the past; and whether or not anyone in the past defined “format” as we may choose to do (or used the term at all) is not a significant matter. The aim is to understand what happened in the past and to convey that information clearly. A fifteenth-century printer knew how many pages he had on the press at one time and knew how many such pages it would take to fill one side of a whole sheet of the paper he was using. If he printed half-sheets from two-page formes, he obviously understood the difference between that and the use of those formes to print smaller whole sheets. Whether he thought of the one or the other—or neither—as “folio printing” is unimportant. He understood the situation in exactly the same way as the present-day bibliographer does, and it is utterly


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pointless to insist that the printer somehow saw things differently from the way the bibliographer now sees them. If that were indeed true, it would simply mean that the bibliographer had failed as a historian. The reason for constructing an analytical concept like format is to provide assistance in reporting what the printer did, and knew he was doing.

That said, the question still remains: how much of the historical situation do we find it convenient to include within the concept of format? Bühler, for example, cites with implicit approval Greg's formulation of “(2°-form) 4°” for a situation in which a two-page forme prints a half-sheet. (Greg was of course dealing with a situation that was only superficially the same as the one Bühler was confronting.) Is a “(2°- form) 4°” (in Bühler's usage) a different format from a “4°”? I think not: both are quartos and can be referred to as such with no loss of accuracy. The addition of “(2°-form)” tells one something more about the printing process, not about the format. And one could add still more: since a “(2°-form) 4°” need not have been printed on cut sheets, an indication of whether or not they were cut before printing (if that fact can be established) could be inserted into the expression. The result would simply pack more information into a compressed phrase, and whether to do it is therefore a rhetorical decision, not one that alters in any way the concept of format. Other terms, especially those designating paper sizes, have of course in the past regularly been added to format-indicators, as in phrases like “Crown 4°.” But “Crown” merely gives further information about what happened in the printing shop; it should not, I believe, be regarded as part of the format itself (a “Crown 4°” and an “Imperial 4°” are the same format). Another kind of information that has occasionally been attached to format terms is an indication of the precise imposition scheme: thus one could say “common 8°” and “inverted 8°,” “common 12°” and “long 12°,” or “ordinary 4°” and “4° imposed for half-sheet imposition by work-and-turn.” Again, I suggest, the first two are equally octavos, the next two equally duodecimos, and the last two equally quartos.[82]


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One implication of this point is worth noting here: if differing imposition schemes for the same number of type-pages do not produce different formats, then neither do differing patterns of conjugacies, which are a by-product of the imposition schemes. Conjugacies—the physical joinings of leaves at folds—can occur at any leaf-edge: there are the gutter conjugacies, which result from all impositions (except, obviously, those for broadsides and disjunct-leaf books) and which indeed must exist if gathered sheets are to be held together by sewing through folds; and there are the conjugacies of the other edges of leaves (conjugacies at fore-edges are sometimes called “bolts”), which join certain leaves in all folded gatherings except those in folio (and which are often obliterated by binders' trimming or readers' slitting). All conjugacies are aspects of book-structure, but only sewing-fold conjugacies—which are ultimately of greater structural function—have regularly been reported by bibliographers, in their collation formulas; those conjugacies of course do have a relationship to format in that the number of such conjugate pairs of leaves making up a full sheet is always half the number embedded in the format names (one for folio, two for quarto, four for octavo, and so on). One could also work out relationships between formats and outer-edge conjugacies, such as the fact that the number of upper-edge conjugacies resulting from ordinary quarto imposition is two per sheet.[83]


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The pattern of these conjugacies (how many pairs of leaves joined at the gutter-fold are combined by a single act of sewing, for example, or how many fore-edge conjugacies occur consecutively) is not, however, an attribute of format—a point already implicit in the idea that format terms do not in themselves indicate the number of leaves per gathering. A folio in sixes (in which the gatherings are quires of three sheets) entails a different imposition scheme—a different ordering of type-pages—from a folio in single-sheet gatherings, and it has a different pattern of sewing-fold conjugacies; and a duodecimo with gatherings of twelve leaves involves a different imposition scheme from a duodecimo in alternating gatherings of eight and four leaves, and it displays a different pattern not only of sewing-fold conjugacies but of outer-edge conjugacies as well. In other words, format—as I am defining it here—refers only to the number of page-units required for one side of a full sheet, not to their precise arrangement. One may properly use phrases that combine format names with the word “imposition,” such as “folio imposition,” but such phrases only identify the number of pages on each side of a sheet, not the particular pages. There is, for example, no one folio imposition but several different folio impositions—such as the second and third pages of a gathering (the imposition for the inner forme of a sheet designed for single-sheet gatherings) or the second and eleventh pages of a gathering (the imposition for the inner forme of a sheet designed to be the outer sheet of a folio-in-sixes gathering).[84] Restricting format to the number of pages, regardless of their arrangement, gives it a usefully discrete function in bibliographical analysis, one that it could not have if it were encumbered by other details of the printing process.

All these considerations lead me to propose the following formal definition:

Format is a designation of the number of page-units (whether of printing surface, handwritten text, or blank space) that the producers of a printed or


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manuscript item decided upon to fill each side of a sheet of paper or vellum of the selected size(s); if paper came to a printing press in rolls rather than sheets, format can only refer to the number of page-units placed on the press at one time for the purpose of printing one side of the paper.

For simplicity's sake, I have not included any explanations in this basic definition. But one might wish to append to it the following paragraphs of commentary:

The “designation” of the number of page-units determining each format generally takes the form of one of a series of traditional terms (most of which express the fraction of a whole sheet occupied by one leaf), such as full-sheet leaf, folio, quarto, octavo, duodecimo, sextodecimo, and so forth (or their abbreviations, such as 1°, 2° or F, 4° or 4to or Q, 8° or 8vo, 12° or 12mo, 16° or 16mo, etc.).[85]

The phrase “printing surface” is used instead of “type” in order to accommodate the possibility not only of other kinds of relief surfaces (such as woodblocks or stereotype plates) but also of intaglio and planographic surfaces (such as engraved plates and lithographic stones); the fact that the three basic kinds of surface cannot be printed together on one press, or that multiple page-units of the same kind of surface may not in some instances be on the press at the same time, does not affect the designation of format.

In the reference to sheets of a “selected” size, “selected” is meant to encompass the various situations that occur: the size selected may coincide with the dimensions of a particular stock of paper as it was manufactured or as it arrived at the printing shop or scriptorium from the manufacturer; or the size selected may be smaller and therefore require cutting by the printer or scribe before use; or it may be larger and require the pasting of papers together. Thus for the purpose of designating format, the relevant sheet size is not necessarily the manufactured size, as when extra-large paper was cut down to a more usual size, or when ordinary-sized paper was altered to another size and then treated as a full sheet. However, cutting before printing or writing was not always done to create a new size of sheet but rather as an expedient for using the original size, as when the earliest printers cut sheets only to simplify the process of printing from one- or two-page formes; in such cases, the original size remains the one “selected.” In other words, when cutting before printing or writing was the equivalent of folding afterward, the original size is relevant for format; but when such cutting was performed for the purpose of creating a new size of sheet (and thus was not the equivalent of later folding), it is the cut size that is relevant for format.

The possible plural of “size(s)” is meant to recognize that an item may


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have been printed or written on sheets of different sizes and that it therefore is of two or more formats. For printed items, this possibility is applicable primarily to books from the earliest decades of printing, when formes of the same size might print a small full sheet and half a larger sheet that could not easily be printed in any other way; but after that period, when formes normally contained the page-units for all of one side of a selected sheet (as defined above), the situation would seem to arise only if the size of the forme were altered or if two sheets were placed on the press simultaneously.

The final phrase “for the purpose of printing one side of the paper” is necessary because composite cylinder presses, with a forme on each of two cylinder-units, can print both sides of the paper at one time; but format refers only to the number of type-pages in one such forme, not to the total number of type-pages on the press.

Adoption of this definition would cause no disruption in the way most bibliographers treat format and no change in the way most printed books are already classified. What I hope it accomplishes is to state the concept in a fashion that makes it equally applicable to all situations, including those that in the past have been thought to challenge it and require special treatment. For clarity of analytical thinking, one must have concepts that can be applied uniformly to divergent circumstances.

Agreeing to this conception of format does not, of course, have anything to do with deciding how many other details of the presswork process should be reported. When I say that in a phrase like “inverted Crown octavo” the first two words do not refer to aspects of format, I am not downgrading the information they convey or suggesting that it need not be reported. In a full bibliographical description such details as the size of the sheet and of the leaf, the cutting of sheets before printing, and the precise manner of imposition should be commented on somewhere, probably in the paragraphs on paper and presswork.[86] Just where they are reported is a matter of writing or presentation, and one could certainly choose to include them in the format and collation paragraph; my point is that they are not logically required to be there, since they are not part of format. One might well decide, however, especially in brief descriptions, that such information ought indeed to be combined with format and signature collation to form a compact record of the most significant production details. Paul Needham, for example, has usefully recommended that entries in incunable catalogues should include state-


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ments on the pattern of “R4°(½-sh.),” meaning “Royal quarto printed on half-sheets.” Well aware of the fact that such expressions cover more than format, Needham describes his system as “combining paper size with format on the same description line.” It also, with the inclusion of “½-sh.,” gives one some information about presswork and outer-edge conjugacies as well.[87] Even in full descriptions, where such details are discussed in other paragraphs, a case can be made for the value of this kind of concise summary.

How one reports historical data is properly influenced both by the rigor of one's analytical procedures and by the depth of one's understanding of how the information can be used; but, as with every genre of writing, no one form of presentation will necessarily seem the most appropriate for every situation. What must be kept in mind above all is that procedural concepts should not be approached as puzzles that one struggles to fit evidence into, but rather as aids to clear thinking—for the goal finally is to set forth what happened at a past moment with as much clarity as possible.


“Chainlines versus Imposition in Incunabula,” SB, 23 (1970), 141-145 (quotation from p. 143). For a related instance from Bühler's writing, see note 76 above.


The printing could also have been done one page at a time: what might Bühler have said that the printer would have called this procedure?


Some variant impositions are included in Gaskell's very useful section of diagrams in his New Introduction (pp. 87-107), and some of the earlier printers' manuals (such as William Savage's of 1841) contain many others. See also David Foxon, “Some Notes on Agenda Format,” Library, 5th ser., 8 (1953), 163-173; D. F. Cook, “Inverted Imposition,” Library, 5th ser., 12 (1957), 193- 196; Richard J. Wolfe, “Parthenia In-Violata: A Seventeenth- Century Folio-Form [oblong] Quarto” (1961; see note 36 above); D. W. Krummel, “Oblong Format in Early Music Books,” (1971; see note 32 above); Hector Macdonald, “A Book Gathered in Nines,” Bibliotheck, 7.3 (1974), 76-78; Mary Pollard, “Six's, Sixmo, Sexto,” Factotum, 13 (December 1981), 10-11; Brian Hubber, “Eighteenmo in Nines: An Experimental Technique,” Bibliographical Society of Australia and New Zealand Bulletin, 7 (1983), 183-186; Brian J. McMullin, “An Eighteenmo Gathered in Twelves,” ibid., 10 (1986), 139-140, and “The Imposition of the Nosche/Athias Eighteenmo Bibles,” ibid., 20 (1996), 61-64; Conor Fahy, “Notes on Centrifugal Octavo Imposition in Sixteenth-Century Italian Printing,” Transactions of the Cambridge Bibliographical Society, 10.4 (1994), 489-504 (commenting on the use of evidence from countermarks and point-holes); Paul Needham, “Res papirea” (1994; see note 4 above), pp. 129-130; and McMullin, “`La Collection des petits formats in-18, édition de Cazin': Some Preliminary Observations” (1999; see note 40 above). For a list that includes additional references to articles on format, see my Introduction to Bibliography: Seminar Syllabus (1996—the latest revision at the time of this writing), pp. 175, 185-187, 192, 195-196.


If we accept the idea that some instances of cutting sheets before printing are the equivalent of folding them after printing, then we must recognize that in such instances any reference to outer-edge conjugacies, which would normally be limited to the edges that were still conjugate after post-printing folding and gathering, does not tell the whole story. As long as the bibliographer reports somewhere whether the sheets placed on the press were cut or uncut (when that fact can be ascertained), readers will know—using that information in conjunction with the format designation and collation formula—just how many outer-edge conjugacies remained after folding. But their precise sequence will not necessarily be known unless it is specifically reported. Thus, for example, a quarto printed on half-sheets will have no outer-edge conjugacies remaining after printing, regardless of the quiring; a quarto printed on whole sheets and gathered in sixes will have in each quire two top-edge conjugacies plus two leaves with no outer-edge conjugacies, but those two leaves could be either the first and last of the quire or the third and fourth. Patterns of outer-edge conjugacies could be concisely reported using the standard notation for sewing-fold conjugacy (the period between leaf numbers), with a label attached—e.g., “top-edge conjugacy: $1.2, 5.6”. Or else one could adopt different punctuation for each kind of conjugacy—such as “$1.2” for top-edge conjugacy, “$5:6” for fore-edge conjugacy, and “$3;4” for bottom-edge conjugacy.


I believe it is more useful to think of “arrangement” in terms of the relationship of pages in the gathering rather than their relationship in the sheet or forme. If one took the latter approach, one would say that the difference between common and inverted octavo imposition is not analogous to the difference between ordinary folio imposition and folio-in-sixes imposition. An inverted octavo forme involves all the same numbered pages as does a common octavo forme; they are just arranged differently. But in the folio example, one could argue that the arrangement of pages is no different in either case, since whether the third page or the eleventh page of a gathering (for example) occupies one half of a forme does not alter the fact that the same position is in each case being occupied by the second page in terms of page-number order within the forme. The shopmen who made up formes, however, had to think in terms of gatherings when deciding which type-pages to place in the same formes; and I think it makes sense to follow their lead and regard differences in quiring or gathering as necessitating, by definition, differences in imposition. Thus differences in imposition do not necessarily lead to different numbers of leaves in gatherings, but differences in the number of leaves per gathering always result from differences of imposition.


Expressions on the pattern of “2 up” and “4 up” should not be employed as format terms. The are sometimes used to state the number of type-pages (and/or blank pages) on the press at one time, a usage that is not fully synonymous with format terms. They are also used in two additional senses in connection with machine-printing: “2 up” can mean that pages for two independent books are placed in the same forme; “4 up” can mean that all the pages for four gatherings are on the press together.


See my “The Treatment of Typesetting and Presswork in Bibliographical Description” (see note 40 above) and “The Bibliographical Description of Paper,” SB, 24 (1971), 27-67 (reprinted in Selected Studies in Bibliography [1979], pp. 203-243). See also David L. Vander Meulen, “The Identification of Paper without Watermarks: The Example of Pope's Dunciad,SB, 37 (1984), 58-81; and Paul Needham, “Allan H. Stevenson and the Bibliographical Uses of Paper,” SB, 47 (1994), 23-64.


See Needham's “Res papirea” (see note 4 above), p. 127; the system is illustrated in use in his “ISTC as a Tool for Analytical Bibliography,” in Bibliography and the Study of 15th-Century Civilisation, ed. Lotte Hellinga and John Goldfinch (1987), pp. 39-54. Let me emphasize that “(½-sh.)” here means that the sheets were cut in half before printing; it does not imply anything about the manner of gathering, which would be made clear by the collation formula. Cf. his “Counting Incunables: The IISTC CD-ROM,” Huntington Library Quarterly, 61 (1999-2000), 456-529 (esp. “Format Field,” pp. 493-495).


My thinking about format has benefited from conversations with Paul Needham and David Vander Meulen, and they both commented on a draft of this essay; but I do not mean to suggest that they necessarily agree with all of my statements.


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