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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).