Rare Books in Scotland
21 January 2004
Bibliographical format: Training topics and notes
Based on: Philip Gaskell, 'A New Introduction to Bibliography' (Oxford, 1972, etc.)
What is bibliographical format?
- Gaskell, 'New Introduction', p.80 '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, and is expressed in the terms folio, quarto, octavo, etc.'
- important confusion to avoid is to assume that (e.g.) A-D8 means that a book is in octavo format: quite often it will be, but it doesn't have to be
- size and/or proportions of leaves can sometimes be helpful, but requires great care
Why identify bibliographical format?
- long history as part of the description of a book (e.g. 1683 manuscript catalogue of Advocates Library; facsimiles in M Townley, 'The Best and Fynest Lawers and Other Raire Bookes' ); still preferred over dimensions (e.g. ESTC)
- Sometimes the sole feature distinguishing between issues: e.g. the 8vo and 12mo editions of Francis Hutcheson, 'Philosophiae moralis institutio compendiaria', Glasgow, 1745 = Gaskell, 'Foulis Press', no.62 [NLS copies at Hall.149.a and ABS.1.75.186] (another example is the 8vo and 12mo editions of the 'immaculate' Horace, Glasgow, 1744 = Gaskell no.50 [NLS copies at Hall.197.c and ABS.1.76.368])
- Basis for understanding unusual features of make-up (e.g. cancels)
Basics about paper
- Moulds (ill. in Gaskell, p.58)
- Laid or wove: 'Publii Virgilii Maronis Bucolica, Georgica, et Aeneis', Birmingham: J Baskerville, 1757, is the first British book printed (partly; A-2E, excluding any cancellantia) on wove paper [NLS copies at Pat.74 and T.378.c; beware false '1757' imprint], and 'Prolusions', London: J & R Tonson, 1760, is probably the first book printed wholely on wove paper [NLS copies at [Ai].3/1.14 and Nha.R78]
- Watermarks: marks and countermarks; later, actual dates, e.g. there are copies of Byron, 'English bards, and Scotch reviewers', 3rd edition, London, '1810' printed on paper watermarked 1818 (ABS.2.83.46: e.g. title leaf and first leaf of preface) and 1812 (BCL.B6776: e.g. leaves [A]1 and [A]4)
- Different sizes (see Gaskell, pp.73-75, 86)
- Deckle edges: e.g. NLS copy [F.7.e.7] of James Thomson, 'The Seasons', Parma: Bodoni, 1794
What is the relationship between sheets and printed pages, i.e. bibliographical format, and how do we work it out?
- Folding paper: 10 (no folding), 20 (folded once; fol., folio), 40 (folded again; 4to, quarto), 80 (folded again; 8vo, octavo)
- Chainlines and positions of watermarks
- Imposition (ill. in Gaskell, pp.79, 81)
Other related topics/terms
- Distinction between 'uncut' and 'unopened': e.g. NLS copy [F.7.e.7] of James Thomson, 'The Seasons', Parma: Bodoni, 1794 is uncut though not unopened; examples of folded but unopened sheets
- Loose and precise use of the term 'large paper': e.g. above copy of Thomson's 'Seasons' shows what is sometimes loosely called a 'large paper copy', and William Nicholls, 'A Commentary on the Book of Common-Prayer', London, 1710 is found in ordinary paper issue [NLS copy at AB.10.202.02] and a large paper issue (different imposition with larger gutter margins) [NLS copy at Jolly.2965]
- Conjugate leaves (important for cancels)
- Blank leaves (distignuish from endpapers)
- printing of prelims: e.g. Thomas Sharp, 'A sermon preached at St Nicholas's Church in Newcastle', Newcastle upon Tyne,  and 'Observations on the conduct and character of Judas Iscariot', Edinburgh, 1750, both have title leaf bound as last leaf of final gathering, as (it seems) printed [Nha.C175(4) and Nha.C175(6) — sheer coincidence that there are two examples in one volume?]
Signature collations are a short-hand way of recording the make-up of a book: how the leaves are folded and formed into quires or gatherings. Although signature collations may sometimes suggest the bibliographical format of a book, that needs to be separately noted (e.g. 'foolscap 4to: A2 B-2K4 2L2').
Writing/reading collational formulae (see Gaskell, 'New Introduction', pp.328-332; for illustrative material see Gaskell, 'Foulis Press', nos.372 and 473)
- 23-letter alphabet (less I/J, U/V, W)
- Identifying gatherings/quires: stitching
- Abbreviated sequence, e.g. C-F8
- Use of 2B2 and 2B2
- Use of 4 or [A]4 (inferred signatures)
- Use of p and c (n.b. difference between 'π1 2π1' and 'π2')
- Use of -, + and ±, as in D4(D3+1), D4(-D3), D4(±D3)
- Differences between B8 and B8
- Use of B4.5 (conjugate leaves)
- Use of $1, $2, etc. to mean 'all the signatures'
Use of signatures as a criterion for the localisation of printing: R A Sayce, 'Compositorial practices and the localization of printed books, 1530-1800', 'The Library', 5th series, xxi (1966), 1-45; reprinted with addenda, Oxford Bibliographical Society Occasional Publications 13 (1979) [NRR; HP3.80.1].
broad use of term
R W Chapman, 'Cancels' (1930) coined some terminology for narrow use, of leaves:
cancellans (-antia) refers to the new corrected leaf, the replacement [cancel/cancels, cancel leaf/leaves]
cancellandum (-anda) refers to the leaf intended to be excised or replaced [cancelland/cancellands]
cancellatum (-ata) refers to the leaf that has been excised or replaced [cancelled leaf/leaves]
Indications of cancellation
- Special signatures
- Watermarks, chainlines and other features of paper
'The book of common-prayer, and administration of the sacraments; and other parts of divine service for the use of the Church of Scotland'. Edinburgh: James Watson, 1712.
A cancellandum of leaf B1 is known which has the reading 'nople asure' (for 'no pleasure') on recto, col.i, line 8. Some NLS copies are as follows:
- ABS.1.83.174 has both the cancellandum and the cancellans of leaf B1
- Dry.369 has the cancellandum of leaf B1 but also has a stub which remains from excising the cancellans, i.e. the cancellans was pasted in and then excised in error for the cancellandum!
- Hall.197.i is an example of a 'normal' copy, with the cancellans of leaf B1
T M 'A letter to His Grace the Duke of Buccleugh, on national defence'. Edinburgh: J Dickson, 1778.
ESTC describes this as a reissue of the London edition of the same year with a cancel titlepage and the addition of a postscript dated: Lincoln's Inn, July 20th, 1778.
NLS 1963.23(18) has the cancellandum (London) title page bound after the cancellans title page (Edinburgh) — beware of terminology as the original title leaf was a singleton not forming part of a gathering
Marbach, Ulrich. 'Vlrici Marbachii D F introitus ad iurisprudentiam apertus'. Ienae, 1717.
NLS copy at Nha.K250 has cancellanda Bb5 and Bb6 slit but not removed; the cancellantia are bound within the Index. The last part of the Index occupies 6 leaves of an 8-leaf gathering (no part of the index is missing), and it looks as though the remaining two leaves of the sheet (note that the final leaf of index was printed in a single size of type so as not to run over onto another leaf) were used to print the cancellantia. The present sequence of leaves may come from an imposition error: i.e. to keep leaves conjugate the intention was to impose the six leaves of index as 2M1, 2M2, 2M3, 2M6, 2M7, 2M8 [while signing the last three as 2M4, 2M5, 2M6] and the two cancellantia as 2M4 and 2M5 [while signing them 2B5 and 2B6], but this was not correctly carried out.