In making the printed sheets of a work up into copies in the warehouse for delivery, a number of them in orderly succession are folded together, which is called a gathering; a volume may be complete in one gathering, or it may consist of two, three, four, or more.
When there are more than one gathering in a volume, the warehouseman endeavours to have the number of sheets in each nearly equal; and he very rarely puts less than ten, or more than fifteen, in one gathering.
He lays down upon the gathering table a heap of each signature, commencing with B, or whatever signature the body of the work may begin with, following each other in regular order, according to the letters of the alphabet, and as many as he intends to include in the first gathering, with the first page of each to the front of the table. If it be a long number, he seldom lays down more than a bundle of each signature at once, that the top sheets may not be higher than the boys can conveniently reach.
The first signature is placed at the extreme end of the table to the left hand, that if there be any space more than is actually wanted upon the table, it may be at the end where the gathering concludes, to allow the boys to knock up the sheets without crowding each other.
In commencing gathering it is necessary that the boys should have clean hands, otherwise they will dirty many sheets with the end of the right thumb.
A boy wets the end of his right thumb with the tip of his tongue, and pushes up with it the right hand corner of the first sheet, the fingers of his left hand being laid upon the sheet to prevent its slipping away, and he catches it up with the thumb of his left hand underneath it, and draws it upon the next heap; he does the same by this, and so continues drawing the accumulating sheets in his left hand over the successive heaps, and taking one from each, till he gets to the end; he then knocks this gathering up even at the ends and sides, and lays it down at the end of the table, which being what is styled a horse-shoe table, he has only to turn himself round, when he is again facing the first signature, to recommence the operation, always knocking up his gathering, and laying it evenly upon the other, till it accumulates to a pile.
In the regular routine of business, where despatch is necessary, three or four boys are generally put to one gathering table, who follow each other regularly, knocking up their gatherings, and piling them up on the end of the table. Among them there is frequently an inexperienced boy; to prevent delay, this boy is ordered to lay his gathering down at the end, and the next boy knocks it up with his own: if the boy has quickness and spirit, he exerts himself to become expert, and to equal the others.
If the collation of the book is going on at the same time, it prevents the pile of gatherings from accumulating too much; if it be not, the pile must be removed occasionally, to prevent it getting too high for the boys to deposit their gatherings.
They thus proceed till one, or more, of the heaps is exhausted, when the remnant of the others is folded in the middle, each signature by itself, and tied up in a bundle, enclosed in wrappers; but if the book be collating, the drawn sheets are previously laid down, which enables them generally to gather off a few more copies.
In the course of gathering, if a boy perceives that the sheets in any of the heaps are turned the wrong way, he should immediately announce it, that they may be placed right; he should be likewise very particular to take one sheet from each heap, as also to avoid taking two: any of these errors causes a great deal of extra trouble in collating, and of course a consequent loss of time, in addition to making the work unpleasant.
After the gatherings are collated, they are knocked up carefully at the ends and sides, and folded evenly in the middle; folios, quartos, and octavos, in the regular fold of the paper, and twelves the long way in the back; for a gathering is never folded in a page, neither lengthways nor crossways. They are then put into a press, a moderate quantity being placed between each two boards, and the press wrung well down; after having lain in the press a sufficient time, they are taken out, and piled away till the work is completed, and they are wanted for Booking.
If copies of a work are required to be delivered as soon as the last sheet is put to press, which at the present day is commonly the case, the warehouseman should be prepared to meet the wishes of his employer's customers, by having the book gathered close up to the last gathering; having them all pressed and booked; and as fast as the last sheet is worked off, keep hanging it up very thin in the most favourable part of his poling for drying, and even dry a few by the fire to commence with.
He will thus have the last gathering only to put together, and in some cases he may have part of that done; so that if he put his boys to gather, himself to collate, another to fold the gatherings and put them into the press, he may in less than two hours, in a case of emergency, deliver fifty or a hundred copies of a work without difficulty, and obtain credit to the house and to himself for despatch and attention, both of which cannot but be gratifying to him. See Booking. Collating. Lay Down.