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The Collation

“Extravagantly Large Paper”


The large-paper copy of STC 15748 (1588) shows Tottel going back to a method used by printers one hundred years earlier, printing by partial formes. For whatever reason, he seems to have wanted to produce copies of the octavo with extra-extra-extra wide and deep margins. He did so by rotating a sheet ninety degrees, placing it on *half* of the forme, either 1-4-5-8 or 2-3-6-7, machining that half forme with one pull, and then perfecting, again with one pull. He then cut the finished sheets across the top of the pages, giving him four bilfolia: 1.8, 2.7, 3.6, and 4.5, which he then quired. Because the sheet is rotated ninety degrees, the resulting leaves have horizontal chainlines and watermarks in the gutter, but the book is in fact an octavo.

We can tell this is what he did because the extra-wide margins meant the point holes occur, not on the fore edge as one would expect with an octavo, but about 1/3 of the way into the leaf. The sheets were larger than the half forme and extended beyond the center of the chase, which had grooves to accommodate the pins as they pierced the sheet. Hence the pins pierced the sheet not between leaves but in them. The Folger copy shows points holes in every gathering located about 120 mm down from the top of the leaf and 50 mm in from the fore edges, on leaves 5, 6, 7, and 8. The point holes on 5 and 6 occur in the same spot on the leaf, as do those for 7 and 8, demonstrating they were printed on the same press with the same pin offset.

What a fun book–thanks for “pointing” this out, Caroline!

David Gants — November 18, 2015


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