Sunday, September 30, 2012

Gatherings or Quires

I know that we discussed format in class. There were a few lingering questions about imposition, signatures and collation. While I believe that you all know this by now, let me try to describe deciphering a gathering or signature one more time.

Let me see if I can explain the page and page numbers and gatherings so they make sense. Take three sheets of paper and fold them in half so they make a pamphlet. That's a GATHERING. Now, number each page on the bottom corner, RECTO and VERSO in order from 1 through 12. Now take them apart. Each sheet now consists of two leaves or four pages. The first sheet has page numbers 1,2,11,12, which could be signed A. When you COMPOSE the type (IMPOSE the pages) you have just printed those specific pages. Now you print the next sheet, A2 will contain page numbers 3,4, 9, 10 and sheet A3 will contain page numbers 5,6,7,8. 

The GATHERING of a FOLIO consists of sheets signed A,A2,A3 nested inside one another. Now you try it. 

When you have a book that's format is a QUARTO, that is a sheet folded twice to make 4 leaves or 8 pages, the imposition and pagination works in the same way as described above. If the gathering of a QUARTO has 16 pages, it is said to have gatherings of 16, that is two sheets nested inside one another. If there are 24 pages, then how many sheets are nested together?  

This practice becomes more difficult when your book's format is an OCTAVO or DUODECIMO. Consult MOXON or GASKELL if you want to learn the mechanics of imposition.

A Weekend Together

Wow! I'm so tired and happy about how our two day in-person session went. There was a good mix of lecture and hands on. All the materials I wanted to cover were at least touched upon and you had a chance to see rare books, special books, reference tools, and lots of bibliographies. 

More than anything else, this was a weekend to meet one another, learn from each other, and begin to build stronger working and collegial relationships. Now that you've all met, the discussion boards should be even livelier. I cannot wait to see the changes in your discussions and interactions with one another.

I hope you all feel this was a useful and productive weekend. Now you can relax, reflect, and think about what you learned and how you will use some of the new knowledge in your professional activities. I hope you recognize that some of the reference tools aren't in public libraries, but in academic libraries; that you may never learn about them again but should explore and examine every reference tool for its usefulness, contents, organization, and audience. Do that, and you are half way to mastering any subject.

The one subject we didn't really cover were the bibliographic databases of EBBO, ESTC, ISTC, and ECCO (Eighteenth century collection that incorporates or uses the Eighteenth Century Short Title Catalog). There are two sets of bibliographic tools for Nineteenth century literature and written materials. They are NCCO, the Nineteenth Century Collection Online and N I N E S, Nineteenth Century Scholarship Online They are slightly different in scope and use. While Kent State faculty and students don't have access to the resources on NCCO, we do have access to Nineteenth Century Literary Criticism, a Gale publication, through our library website.  These databases, along with the resources we discussed and specific website you discover will enhance your exhibitions and projects.

What did I take away from our two days in person? I better sense of who you all are, the importance of time for hands-on exercises, and an appreciation of how hard you are working. 

What else can I do for you to make the course better, stronger, clearer, or more useful? What can I do to enhance your learning experience and appreciation for the book? Send me e-mails, write me, let me know.

Until next time

Sunday, September 16, 2012

making paper

A number of you asked about making paper, designing font, and other technical aspects of the book.

I thought you would enjoy this video of students and apprentices at the University of Iowa Center for the Book making paper.   The video teaches the viewer that there were many steps needed to create paper that is used for printing on the hand press. Imagine how many sheets are needed for each book a printer made. First you have to calculate the number of copies, say 250. Then look at the manuscript to determine how many pages there are in the book, say 64. Now calculate how many pages fit on a sheet when you impose the book as a quarto or octavo (divide by either 8 or 16 - my math fails me here). Finally, you need to make extra sheets because there will be errors. And that's a short book. Now imagine a book of 300 pages. 

This second video describes how to make recycled paper on a continuous roll

For those of you curious about how type is cast, you'll want to watch these videos from the Plantin-Moretus Museum in Holland part 1 and part 2 and part 3
Watch the wrist action as the type caster forces the liquid into the mold. 

This 35 minute video describes how linotype is made and pages are composed. This type of printing began in the late 19th century and continued until computerized printing in the early 1960s.

Please let me know if you find more visual examples or videos that explain how paper is made or type is case.


Friday, September 14, 2012

exhibitions of books

Over the past two days, I've had the pleasure of viewing a fascinating exhibit of Hebrew and Judaica manuscripts at Columbia University Here were unique manuscripts (the terms should be synonymous) of travelogues, prayers, prayer books, Kabbalah texts, Biblical and Talmudic texts, and more. The librarian explained that this exhibition was two years in the making, which included all the conservation work that was preformed. The manuscripts ranged from the 10th century through the 19th in many different languages. The range of Hebrew scripts was astounding. Of course, some were in vernaculars (French, Spanish, Italian, Arabic) where others were in Judeo-(fill in the language). There were a few illustrations but mostly texts to be puzzled out and compared to extant printed texts. /1345045665430.jpg The virtual exhibit is not available yet. Columbia University has many thousands of Hebrew and Judaic items from which to select materials for their exhibition. It will be interesting to compare their captions and selection decisions with other exhibits both in person and virtual.

Just yesterday, Monash University in Australia, announced their virtual exhibition of 17th through 20th century travel books and labels. Their exhibit is virtual with a pleasing layout and easy navigation. Note the text you wish to examine is full size on the left, and a "filmstrip" of other titles or images on the right. When you select a title, the caption and background or catalog materials appear. My favorites are the seventeenth and eighteenth century travelogues. The university curators included maps and illustrations to provide flavor for the viewer. Note that you can click through to the catalog record. 

What will you make of your exhibition? While the wiki site I selected is limiting, there is much you can do to enhance the viewer's experience. I leave that creativity up to you.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

The printing trade

The men (and women) who ran the presses were from the merchant classes. They were educated and literate. Many had their fingers in multiple endeavors. Some were painters and engravers who drifted into the business.  You might read some of the short biographies, particularly those of Gutenberg to get a sense of these men. One book you might read is by John Man Gutenberg: How One Man Remade the World with Words (NY: Wiley, 2002). The book provides a view of the man, the printing business, and that period in history.

It's important to remember that printing isn't really illegal, it's what is printed that comes into question. England did have a prohibition on presses for a number of years, but that was lifted by the late 1400s. You'll find prohibition of printing and owning certain texts or parts of texts throughout the early modern period. These prohibitions were ordered by both church and crown. And in England, you needed a license to print any thing, similar to copyright today. We'll be reading more about these aspects of printing later in the semester.

As to the math of setting up or imposing the pages. Joseph Moxon wrote a treatise in the 1680s called Mechanick Exercises on the Whole Art of Printing printed 1683-1684. Many libraries have copies on their shelves. The book describes to the printer and apprentice how to lay out pages, etc. I guess the ideas of imposition are complex because we aren't familiar with the techniques. We just type on the computer and the pages come out in order. But if we are trying to put together a booklet of multiple pages, layout becomes more complicated. Thus the use of signature marks and catchwords to help with both imposition and collation. Printing is a skilled trade. Remember that boys apprenticed in the print shop, or any business for many years, from about 8 or 10 years old. By the time they were in their late teens, they had a good knowledge of the trade and became Journeymen, because they traveled from place to place, learning under different 'masters' of the trade. If they were lucky, they became masters of their own shops and had apprentices of their own. This system is still in place in the building trades today.

When we meet in person, we'll review many of these concepts and they will make a little more sense. Remember to focus on the concepts and ideas, not the minutia. We won't be layout pages of type or imposing them. But it's a good idea to understand how books and pages are constructed.

Thursday, September 06, 2012

Studying the book

As we continue to study the book and understand its place in special collections and rare book rooms,  it is important to see the results of a study.  Common-place a newsletter from the American Antiquarian Society has four amazing articles about books including one about Harriet Beecher Stowe and Uncle Tom's Cabin entitled "Containing Multitudes: The Biography of a Book"

According to the article, the author studied the various editions and printings of Uncle Tom's Cabin to understand how the book changed over time and how it was received. This is a great example of what you could do with your exhibit, on a smaller scale, of course. I bring up the article because I want you to see the relevance of studying books, objects, buildings, and other pieces of cultural and literary history. 

Daniel Traister clearly teaches us in his article entitled "The Rare Book Librarian's Day" (RBML 1:2 (Sept. 1986): 93-105), that curators and librarians do not usually have the time to study materials in our own collections let alone multiple collections. It is our researchers who have that opportunity. Even if you get a tenure track position that requires publication, you may not have the time or the resources to study multiple copies of a specific book. Researchers get to explore the riches of our collections and place our literary heritage into a cultural or historical context. So when do we get to do this? When we create exhibitions or pull materials for classes and instructors. These activities constitute publication, outreach, promotion, and education for a variety of audiences. That is why you are spending the semester studying a book.

Monday, September 03, 2012

Visual appeal of books

When we study books and enumerate their features, we tend to focus on the details or minutia.  What sets this edition or this issue, a particular book in your hands, apart from the next copy and the next. In their articles about bibliography, Terry Belanger and William Proctor Williams use very precise vocabulary to describe these differences. Indeed,  when textual scholars study the extant issues of specific edition or impression, they are looking at  minute differences. Broken type and misspelled words are one thing. Blobs of ink and blurred pages indicate press work done in haste or hurrying and neglecting to wipe off excess ink. Misplaced page numbers, incorrect signature marks, and mismatched catchwords are indications of what? A different state, a cancel (reset or reprinted page after the run is over), or just sloppy composition. 

Is this all we as students of the book should look at when studying the book? I think it's important to look at the differences between editions, editors, and printers. We must consider how printers and publishers treat the text. Some texts are reset to appeal to readers in different countries, or of a different age group.  Consider the Three Musketeers. Color illustrations and lots of swordplay appeals to a younger male audience, where illustrations that emphasize jewelry, clothing, and hair style may attract female readers. The lack of illustrations denotes a serious text that scholars may wish to study. Are there extensive notes? Maybe the edition is aimed at schools or literature courses. Reader reception is an entire field of the history of the book that looks at who read the book or to whom it might appeal. Of course, if there are notes in the margin, that makes this study a little simpler.

Many historians of the book now focus on cover art, whether it's the publisher's binding or book jackets. Of course marketing studies might tell us that different color covers attract different demographics of readers. And today, if it's digital, then yet another audience might pick up the book and read it. 

No matter who is studying the book, there's lots to discover on the covers and within.