1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Colophon (paragraph)

COLOPHON, a final paragraph in some manuscripts and many early printed books (see Book), giving particulars as to authorship, date and place of production, &c. Before the invention of printing, a scribe when he had finished copying a book occasionally added a final paragraph at the end of the text in which he recorded the fact, and (if he were so minded) expressed his thankfulness to God, or asked for the prayers of readers. In the famous Bodleian MS. 264 of the Roman d’Alexandre there is an unusually full note of this kind recording the completion of the copy on the 18th of December 1338 and ending—

Explicit iste liber, scriptor sit crimine liber,
Christus scriptorem custodiat ac det honorem.”

Both in manuscripts and also in early printed books authors made use of such a final paragraph for expressing similar feelings. Thus the Guillermus who made a famous collection of sermons on the gospels for Sundays and saints’ days records its completion in 1437 and submits it to the correction of charitable readers, and Sir Thomas Malory notes that his Morte d’Arthur “was ended the ix yere of the reygne of Kyng Edward the fourth,” and bids his readers “praye for me whyle I am on lyue that God sende me good delyuerance, and whan I am deed I praye you all praye for my soule.” So again Jacobus Bergomensis records that his Supplementum Chronicarum was finished “anno salutis nostre 1483. 3º Kalendas Julii in ciuitate Bergomi: mihi vero a natiuitate quadragesimo nono,” and in the subsequent editions which he revised brings both the year and his own age up to date. Before printing was invented, however, such paragraphs were exceptional, and many of the early printers, notably Gutenberg himself, were content to allow their books to go out without any mention of their own names. Fust and Schoeffer, on the other hand, printed at the end of their famous psalter of 1457 the following paragraph in red ink:—Presens spalmorum (sic for psalmorum) codex venustate capitalium decoratus Rubricationibusque sufficienter distinctus, Adinuentione artificiosa imprimendi ac caracterizandi absque calami vlla exaracione sic effigiatus, Et ad eusebiam dei industrie est consummatus, Per Iohannem fust ciuem maguntinum, Et Petrum Schoffer de Gernszheim Anno domini Millesimo. cccc. lvii In vigilia Assumpcionis. Similar paragraphs in praise of printing and of Mainz as the city where the art was brought to perfection appear in most of the books issued by the partners and after Fust’s death by Schoeffer alone, and were widely imitated by other printers. In their Latin Bible of 1462 Fust and Schoeffer added a device of two shields at the end of the paragraph, and this addition was also widely copied. Many of these final paragraphs give information of great value for the history of printing; many also, especially those to the early editions of the classics printed in Italy, are written in verse. As the practice grew up of devoting a separate leaf or page to the title of a book at its beginning, the importance of these final paragraphs slowly diminished, and the information they gave was gradually transferred to the title-page. Complete title-pages bearing the date and name of the publishers are found in most books printed after 1520, and the final paragraph, if retained at all, was gradually reduced to a bare statement of the name of the printer. From the use of the word in the sense of a “finishing stroke,” such a final paragraph as has been described is called by bibliographers a “colophon” (Gr. κολοφών), but at what period this name for it was first used has not been ascertained. It is quite possibly not earlier than the 18th century. (For origin see Colophon [city].)  (A. W. Po.)