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Re: [BKARTS] Thin gatherings



Printers did indeed share work, but I don't think it would have affected
the choice of gathering size. A large book would generally be divided into
fair-sized chunks; often these are immediately apparent in the interruption
of signature and pagination sequences, since it was quite possible to
misestimate the number of sheets that a given portion of the text would
require. The printing of any one of these portions would be subject to the
habits and economies of the individual printers, though, naturally enough,
the typography and format are usually pretty consistent throughout, and
divided printing may only be detectable with a pretty sharp eye. I'm
actually not sure how overwhelmingly prevalent folios in 2s were in English
work (the Shakespeare and Jonson folios are in 6s, after all); but they
were quite common in compilations of acts of Parliament, since these were
printed as legislation was passed, for separate and collective publication.
Since the acts could be of various lengths, the best way to keep the size
of gatherings consistent (a very desirable thing in the mind of most
post-15th-c. printers) would be to go for the minimum.

Another posting linked this question with options for sheet size. What
varies, however, is the number of leaves in a sheet, that is, pages in the
forme, which was just about invariably twice the area of the platen of the
press (two pulls of the press were required for the printing of each
forme). Once you reach folio, the largest of the standard formats, you have
to decide how many sheets you want in each gathering (at this point, the
size of your paper may become a factor, since big pages eat more type,
especially of the smaller type sizes). Multiple sheets require some extra
calculating effort in working from MS copy, though as Terry Belanger
pointed out it's pretty easy to reset something line for line from printed
copy, which may obviate the need for much calculation at all. Smaller
formats could be quired as well, of course: the Spanish liked their quartos
in 8s, for instance, as did the printers of some late 18th-c. German books
that I've seen far too many of; and I've seen descriptions of (I think I've
got the dates right) late 16th-c. Venetian octavos in 24s (3 sheets); and
little Iberian Peninsula/Spanish colonial devotional books might well be
printed as small quartos in a single gathering of 16 or more leaves for
saddle stitching (sometimes with separate signatures for the component
sheets, just to add to the merriment).

The underlying mechanics of all this are well covered in Philip Gaskell's
"A New Introduction to Bibliography", which is fun to read if you're
curious about what your vocational (or avocational) ancestors were up to.

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