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numbers were required, e.g. the Paraphrases of Erasmus, the First Prayer-book of Edward VI., and the “Songs and Sonnets” known as Tottell’s Miscellany, each forme was set up two or more different times. The formes were then used at haphazard for printing, and both at this stage and when the printed sheets came to be stitched almost any number of different combinations might be made. The books named were all printed in the middle of the 16th century, but probably later instances could be produced.

Description.—The ideal towards which all bibliographical work should be directed is the provision in an accessible form of a standard description of a perfect copy of every book of literary, historical or typographical interest as it first issued from the press, and of all the variant issues and editions of it. When such standard descriptions shall have been made, adequately checked and printed, it will be possible to describe every individual copy by a simple reference to them, with a statement of its differences, if any, and an insistence on the points bearing on the special object with which it is being re-described. Only in a few cases has any approach been made to a collection of such standard descriptions. One instance which may be cited is that of the entries of the 15th century books in the Repertorium Bibliographicum of Ludwig Hain (1826-1838), which the addition of an asterisk marks as having been examined by Hain himself in the copies in the Royal library at Munich. The high standard of accuracy of these asterisked entries (save for the omission to note blank leaves at the beginning or end) has been so well established, and the Repertorium is so widely known, that in many catalogues of incunabula the short title of the book together with the number of Hain’s entry has been usefully substituted for a long description. Books printed at Oxford up to 1640 can be equally well described by their short titles and a reference to Mr Falconer Madan’s Early Oxford Press published in 1895. At present the number of works which can thus be taken as a standard is only small, owing partly to the greater and more accurate detail now demanded, partly to the absence of any system of co-operation among libraries, each of which is only willing to pay for catalogues relating exclusively to its own collections. It may be hoped that through the foundation of bibliographical institutes more work of this kind may be done.

A standard description of any book must, as a rule, consist of the following sections, though in the case of works which have no typographical interest, some of the details may be advantageously omitted:—(a) A literal transcript of the title-page, also of the colophon, if any, and of any headings or other portions of the book serving to distinguish it from other issues; (b) Statements as to the size or form of the book, the gatherings or quires of which it is made up, with the total number of leaves, the measurement of an uncut copy or of the type-page, a note of the types in which different parts of the book are printed, and a reference to any trustworthy information already in print; (c) A statement of the literary contents of the book and of the points at which they respectively begin; (d) A note giving any additional information which may be needed.

(a) In transcribing the title-page and other parts of the book it is desirable not to omit intermediate words; if an omission is made it should be indicated by three dots placed close together. The end of a line should be indicated by an upright stroke.[1] It is a considerable gain to indicate to the eye in what types the words transcribed are printed, i.e. whether in roman, gothic letter, or italic, and in each case whether in majuscules or minuscules (“upper or lower case”). To do this, however, adds greatly not only to the cost of printing, but also to the liability of error. If roman minuscules are used throughout, or roman for the text and italic for the imprint of colophon, the method of transliteration which the printer himself would have used should be adopted. Many of the best modern catalogues and bibliographies are disfigured by the occurrence in them of such forms as “qvinqve,” “qveen,” “Evrope,” due to an unintelligent transliteration of the forms QVINQVE, QVEEN, EVROPE, as they occur on title-pages at a date when “V” was the majuscule form of both “v” and “u.” If it is desired to retain the V forms the words should be printed in majuscules. If minuscules are used, the words should be transliterated as quinque, queen, Europe, according to the practice of the old printers themselves.

A troublesome question often arises as to what notice should be taken in reproducing the misprints which frequently occur in the original titles. Bibliographers who have satisfied themselves (and their readers) of their own accuracy may reproduce them in silence, though it will need constant watchfulness to prevent the printer from “setting them right.” Transcribers of only average accuracy will consult their happiness by indicating the misprint in some way, and the frequent use of (sic), more especially when printed in italics, or of the German (!), being ugly, probably the simplest plan is to add a note at the end stating that the misprints in question occur in the original.

(b) The “size” of a book is a technical expression for the relation of the individual leaves to the sheet of paper of which they form a part. A book in-folio means one in which the paper has been folded once, so that each sheet has made two leaves. In a book in-quarto, each sheet has been folded twice so as to make four leaves. In an octavo another fold has produced eight leaves, and so on for books in 16mo, 32mo and 64mo. For books in twelves, twenty-fours, &c., the paper has at some stage to be folded in three instead of in two, and there will be some difference in form according to the way in which this is done. The size of a book printed on handmade paper “is very simply recognized by holding up a page to the light. Certain white lines, called wire-lines, will be noticed, occurring as a rule about an inch apart, and running at right angles to the fine lines. These wire-lines are perpendicular in a folio, octavo, 32mo, and horizontal in a quarto and 16mo. In a 12mo, as the name implies, the sheet is folded in twelve; and in the earlier part at least of the 16th century this was done in such a way that the wire-lines are perpendicular, the height of the sheet forming two pages, as is the case in an octavo, while the width is divided into six instead of into four as in an octavo. The later habit has been to fold the sheet differently, the height of the sheet forming the width of four pages, and the width of the sheet the height of three pages, consequently the wire-lines are horizontal” (E.G. Duff, Early Printed Books, pp. 206-207).

The recognition of what is meant by the size of a book has been obscured by the erroneous idea that the quires or gatherings of which books are made up necessarily consist of single sheets.[2] If this were so all folios would be in gatherings of two leaves each; all quartos in gatherings of four leaves; all octavos in gatherings of eights. In the case of books printed on handmade paper, this is generally true of octavos, but to reduce the amount of sewing the earliest folios were usually arranged in tens, i.e. in gatherings of five sheets or ten leaves, while in Shakespeare’s time English folios were mostly in sixes. In the same way quartos are often found made up in eights, and on the other hand the use of a half-sheet produces a gathering of only two leaves.

When a manuscript or early printed book was being prepared for binding, it was usual for the order in which the quires or gatherings were to be arranged to be indicated by signing them with the letters of the alphabet in their order, the alphabet generally used being the Latin, in which I stands for both I and J; V for both U and V, and there is no W. If more than twenty-three letters were needed the contractions for et, con, rum and (less often) that for us, were used as additional signs, and for large books minuscules were used as well as majuscules, and the letters were doubled. In 1472 printed signatures came into use. If the quires or gatherings in the book to be described are signed in print, the signatures used should be quoted without brackets. If they are not signed, the order of the gatherings should be noted by the letters of the alphabet in square brackets. In each case the number of leaves in each gathering should be shown by index-figures. Thus, six gatherings of eight leaves followed by one of four should be represented by the symbols A-F8 G4. The “make-up” of an old book in original binding is usually sufficiently shown by the strings in the middle of each quire. In books which have been rebound help may sometimes be obtained from the fact that between (roughly) 1750 and 1850, a period during which there was much rebinding of early books, the gatherings before being put into their new quires were mostly separately pressed, with the result that the outer pages of each gathering are much smoother than the rest. But the only safe guide to the make-up of an old book without printed signatures is a collation by means of the watermarks, i.e. the devices with which the papermaker as a rule marked each sheet (see Paper). In a folio book one of every pair of leaves should have a watermark in the middle of the paper. In a quarto some pairs of leaves will have no watermark; in others it will be found divided by the fold of the paper. As the great majority of books without printed signatures are in folio or quarto,

  1. Some bibliographers prefer to use double strokes to avoid confusion with the old-fashioned long commas. Others use a single stroke to indicate the space between two lines and increase the number of strokes where the space left is wider than this.
  2. It may be noted that some confusion is caused in descriptions of books by the word “sheet,” which should be restricted to the original sheet of paper which by folding becomes folio, quarto, &c., being applied also to the double-leaf of four pages. A word specially appropriated to this is greatly needed, and as gatherings of two, three, four, &c., of such double-leaves are known technically as duernions, ternions, quaternions, &c., the double-leaf itself might well be called a “unit.”