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The rhythm of the First Folio

Printers developed a rhythm as they printed pages onto sheets and then assembled sheets into gatherings. This rhythm involved estimating the amount of text that would fit on one page and then printing pages on both sides of a sheet, in the order that could be read sequentially once they were folded and nested together. To help you feel that rhythm, this exercise guides you to assemble the first gathering of the Folio’s first play, The Tempest. One of the things you may note about this rhythm is that the first pages to be printed were the two in the middle of the set of twelve. Then the printers worked their way back towards the beginning and forwards towards the end of that segment of text.

Establishing a rhythm from sheet to gathering

There are three sheets, six leaves, and twelve pages in a typical gathering of the First Folio. Each sheet has two leaves. Each leaf has two pages. Note “r” is for recto, or the page on the front of a leaf, and “v” for verso, or the page on the back. On the sheets diagrams, “inner” refers to the side you first see facing up, before the flip. Following the sequence of six leaves, drag and drop pages into the blank forms below. Start with the pages in the middle, as the printers did.

1r | p. 1
1v | p. 2
2r | p. 3
2v | p. 4
3r | p. 5
3v | p. 6
4r | p. 7
4v | p. 8
5r | p. 9
5v | p. 10
6r | p. 11
6v | p. 12
Reset

3v

4r

3|4 (inner)

4v

3r

3|4 (outer)
Reset

2v

5r

2|5 (inner)

5v

2r

2|5 (outer)
Reset

1v

6r

1|6 (inner)

6v

1r

1|6 (outer)

Once all the sheets for a gathering are complete, gather them in the proper order by dragging each sheet into the proper place in the gathering diagram below. If you have trouble, you can click “Auto-gather” to have the sheets placed in the gathering diagram automatically. Click “Read” to view your work in book mode.

Gathering A6

1

2

3

4

5

6