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is the arrangement of the pages of a sheet, or of a form, in their proper order on the stone, and the wedging of them up in a chase, with a view to their being printed.
The knowledge of thus laying down pages, so that the sheets may fold correctly when printed, is of essential consequence to every compositor engaged on book work.
A workman would be held inexcusable who did not know how to lay down with accuracy all the common sizes; viz. quartos, octavos, and duodecimos: but even with this knowledge he is frequently at a loss when at work upon sizes that do not frequently occur; and more particularly so at the close of a volume where there are fragments, which are required to be imposed together, for the purpose of saving presswork and warehouse work.
A youth, who has just gone to the business, feels a natural pride in showing that he is making progress; and he wishes to improve himself without having continually to appeal to his instructor; but he does not possess the means.
The young man from the country, who has been educated in a house where there has not been much book work done, which is generally the case, and who, of course, is not very expert at his profession, when he comes to work in an extensive book house in town, feels his deficiency, and more particularly if he has to lay down his pages in a large companionship; he does not like to acknowledge “his ignorance, nor to ask for information: he has consequently to work his way at a great disadvantage.
Under these circumstances it frequently happens that the pages are laid down wrong, which causes a great deal of trouble and loss of time in their rectification; and this trouble is considerably increased if the work be on a small type and solid. In this case, if the cords have been taken off, it is not advisable to transpose the pages without wetting them, for fear of breaking the matter, or at least squabbling it; the form has then to be dried, before the pressman can pull another proof.
All the works on Printing hitherto published, are deficient in giving a sufficient variety of tables for imposing, as a reference for the workman, as well as for the reader and the master printer. This deficiency of reference occasionally causes the compositor to re-impose his forms, as I just now observed, and also in many instances to cut up new furniture.
To remedy this inconvenience I have considerably exceeded the number of what has been given in any other work, by adding such tables as are likely to occur in practice, and to which there has hitherto been no reference.
I have given all the Tables of Imposition that are in Luckombe and in Stower, except a half-sheet of sixty-fours, although I disapprove of the arrangement of the pages in many of them, from their not cutting up or folding in the most convenient manner; yet, as they have been acted on in a great number of instances, I would not reject them, it being advisable in reprints to preserve uniformity, which may enable the proprietor to make up a few more copies from the waste of both editions. I have added several, in which I think there is an improvement in these particulars.
I have also endeavoured to make each size complete, by giving a sheet, a half sheet, a quarter of a sheet, and the usual fragments that occur; varying the arrangement of the pages in a great number of instances, to suit the different ways of folding the paper.
The whole of the signatures in each form are given, that they may serve as a guide in laying down the pages, particularly where there are a great number in a sheet; they might then all be taken out, if thought proper, except the first, and the first in the offcut, which are the only ones I would retain, and all that are necessary, the others causing the bottoms of the pages to look unsightly; for the person who folds the sheets has only to keep the signature at the outside, and the pages must be folded right.
When works are in half sheets, it is advantageous to work two together, as it enables the bookseller to deliver a single copy in sheets without cutting up the back; and also at the conclusion of a work that is in sheets where there are two half sheets, as it saves time and trouble in the warehouse; it not being necessary to divide the sheet and insert a half in each volume, but the whole sheet may be gathered in the volume to which either of the signatures belongs; by which means there will be fewer mistakes, and fewer imperfections required.
When we arrive at a great number of pages in a sheet, they resolve themselves into the same order as quartos, octavos, and duodecimos; and in these cases I have repeated the imposition rather than refer to another size, which is not always very clearly understood when two, three, or more sheets are combined. Upon this principle I have repeated the half sheets, quarter sheets, and fragments, so as to make each size complete in itself.
It is usual when a fragment at the end of a volume makes six pages to impose it as eight; in this case there are two blank pages. Sometimes the author fills these up, by adding to the text; at other times the bookseller occupies them with advertisements of other publications in which he is interested.
When a compositor lays down his pages, it might prevent mistakes if he looked over them to see that they were right before he untied the page cords: and it is a good check to examine the folios of every two adjoining pages in a quarter, to see that their sum makes one more than the number of pages in the sheet, or half sheet: thus, in a sheet of folio, 1 and 4, equal to 5, are imposed together; in a quarto, 1 and 8; in an octavo, 1 and 16; in a duodecimo, 1 and 24; in sixteens, 1 and 32; in eighteens, 1 and 36; and so in every other size: and this combination continues through all the other adjoining pages, according to the order, in which they lie on the stone, calling the first page in the sheet 1, the second 2, and so on in succession.
The short cross is always better in the middle of the chase, if the margin will allow it; as it divides the matter more equally, and the form is safer when it is locked up.
If it be the first sheet of a work that is to be imposed, or it be found necessary to increase the number of sheets in chase, the compositor applies to the overseer, or to the person who has the care of the materials, for a pair of chases.
The pages being laid upon the stone in their proper order, and as near the required distance from each other as can be determined by the eye, the compositor then places his chases; he takes one with both hands and lays the off side or end, as it may be, on the stone at the outer side of his pages, and lowers the near side gradually, till it lies flat on the stone, taking care that the inner edges of the chase and the cross bars do not rest on the face of the pages to injure them, and that the grooves in the short cross are upwards.
The furniture has now to be cut for the sheet; but previous to doing this it is necessary to ascertain what kinds of it will be wanted, by trying the margin with a sheet of paper of the work, otherwise a great risk is run of cutting an expensive article to waste, and of incurring also a loss of time, both of which should be avoided if possible. The manner of making margin will be explained under its proper head. See Margin.
I would recommend that the headsticks in octavos should be in two pieces, each of them a little longer than the page is wide; this will allow the gutters to be a little longer than the page, so that they will come close to the footsticks at the bottom, and at the other end will go between the headsticks, thus securing the inside of the two pages, without any risk of the gutters binding when locked up, which they are apt to do when cut to the precise length of the page, as is the custom when the headsticks for each quarter are in one piece. The gutters thus being equal to about three picas more in length than the page, will answer for other works where the page is of the same width, but different in length.
The headsticks and gutters being arranged, the compositor will cut his backs a little longer than the page, and these abutting against the headsticks that project beyond the page towards the cross, will secure that side. The sidesticks should be of the full length of the page, and abut against the headsticks on the outside of the form. The footsticks may be a trifle shorter than the width of two pages and the gutter; for as there should always be a line of quadrats, or a reglet cut to measure, at the foot of each page, the footstick may be a pica shorter without danger, on this account, of any thing falling out, when the form is lifted, and it thus prevents the side and footsticks from binding when locked up.
By cutting the furniture in this manner, the compositor will at once perceive that all his pages will be secure, and that the furniture cannot bind in any place when locked up. The gutter is pushed down to the footstick, and extends beyond the top of the pages; the two headsticks abut against the gutter, and project a little beyond the sides of their pages; the back is pushed up to the headstick, and extends a little below the bottom of the page; the footstick abuts against the back, and by being about a pica short prevents the sidestick from binding against it; and the sidestick abuts against the head, and extends the full length of the page: neither is there any impediment to driving the quoins.
I would never cut the heads and the backs of such a length as to project beyond the side and footsticks; for when they do, they are in the way of the shooting stick, if a quoin has been driven close up, when the form has to be unlocked. Neither should the headstick project so much as the thickness of the back; nor the extra length of the gutter be so much as the headstick; otherwise they will bind and prevent the form from rising.
When the sidestick or footstick is so long as to project one beyond the other, it prevents the quoin from passing, and in unlocking causes a great deal of trouble to get it out; I have, in such cases, frequently seen the sidestick broken or spoiled in the attempt, and a page squabbled or broken. This arises from carelessness or idleness, both which generally cause more trouble ultimately than if the work were properly performed in the first instance. If it be thought unnecessary or wasteful to cut down side or footsticks for a job, or a pamphlet, when there are none of a proper length in the house, a piece of furniture taken out of the drawer of the proper length and width, and placed inside next the page, will remedy the inconvenience, and cause the quoin to be driven with ease.
When placing the furniture about the pages leave the ends of the page cords out, so that they may be easily taken off, without the necessity of disturbing the pages to find the end, which will be the case if they be tucked in.
The furniture being now round the pages, I would recommend to the compositor to put some quoins round the form, not with any particular care that they fit, but merely to secure the pages, and by their means to push them up close to the heads, backs, and gutters.
After having taken a page cord from a page push up that page close to the furniture at the back and head, by means of the side and footstick, to prevent the letters at the ends of the lines from falling down, and also tighten the quoins gently with your fingers.
All the page cords being taken off, and the pages pushed up close at the sides and heads, it will next be necessary to examine particularly that the margin be right; as also to put one or two scaleboards in all the backs and the heads between the furniture and the crosses. These scaleboards enable the pressmen to make register if there be any inequality in the furniture or the crosses, by changing their situations, or taking some of them away; they also enable the compositor to make the distance between the pages in the backs and heads uniform, which should always be the case; and no form of book work that has to be printed on both sides of the paper should ever be imposed without them. But scaleboard is never used in the gutters.
The form has now to be quoined, which many compositors are in the habit of doing very carelessly, thinking that if the form lifts it is quite sufficient. This is an erroneous opinion, and frequently causes errors from the slovenly manner in which the quoining is done, letters and even lines dropping out when the form is laid on the press, or taken off, which do not always get replaced correctly; and the pages are more likely to fall out if they stand a few days at the end of a bulk. As I have previously described the imposing of an octavo, I shall continue my observations with respect to that size, but the principle is the same whatever the size may be. I would have two quoins for each sidestick, not put in indiscriminately, but the furthest quoin when driven tight, to be about three quarters of an inch from the broad end of the sidestick, which will allow room for the shooting stick in unlocking, as also for the form being tightened if the furniture shrinks; and the other quoin when driven tight to be its whole length fairly within the sidestick, because this end of the stick being thin will be liable to spring from the page if the quoin be driven far in, and thus leave the letters behind insecure, and in danger of falling out: I would have two for the footstick in the same situations, and a third in the middle to cover the end of the gutter. Each quarter, of a form of octavo, thus quoined, will be perfectly secure when the quoins are driven tight, provided the pages be made up to the same length, and the lines properly justified; should this not be tile case, the compositor will be obliged to vary the quoining, to meet the evil of bad workmanship.
Before he tightens his quoins he examines whether the pages in the same quarter be of equal length, which he does by pressing against the footstick with his thumbs, and raising it a little from the stone; if it lifts up with it equally the ends of both the pages against which if it presses, he is satisfied they are right, and tries the other quarters in the same manner; if he finds any of the pages short, he examines them to find out where the deficiency is and supplies it; sometimes a lead is wanting, sometimes a line. This will arise occasionally from the carelessness of some compositors who will not take the trouble of cutting a gauge by which to make up their pages, but do it by counting the lines; they sometimes omit a line, sometimes have a line too much, and sometimes are equally incorrect with their leads: in other cases I have known gauges cut carelessly of an improper length, which causes the same evil; and it also occasionally arises from having the gauges of three or four different works cut on the same piece of reglet, and mistaking one for the other. See Gauge.
I should now push the quoins up all round with my fingers, to confine the pages slightly, and then plane the form down gently by striking the planer with the fist; if any letters stand up they are easily pressed down by this mode of proceeding, without injuring their face; after this is done, it is necessary to examine the sides of the pages, to see that no letters have slipped out of their places at the ends of the lines, which is frequently the case when pages which have been tied up have lain under the frame some time; it may also happen in taking the page cords off, particularly if they be knotted. Having examined the pages, and rectified any thing that was found amiss, which is easily done in this state of the form, I should gently tighten the quoins all round the form in an equal manner with the mallet and shooting stick, and then plane down, but not violently; if any letters stand up, from some substance being underneath, as a space, or a letter, or a bit of the page paper, which will sometimes get torn off and remain, it will be better to omit planing that part down for the present, as it would only injure the type and answer no good purpose: the quoins should then be driven as tight as is necessary, still doing it regularly and equally all round the form, when the form should be planed down again, which may be done with firmer blows than before, still omitting the part where the letters stand up.
The form may now be lifted from the stone at the front edge, just sufficient to allow the compositor to see whether it will rise or not, but not so high as that a letter would drop out; if it dances, it must be dropped down again upon the stone, and the lines tightened by thrusting the point of a bodkin between some of the words, and tightening the quoins; thus bad workmanship causes fudges, and in this case is never safe, for the letters are always in danger of being drawn out at press. But it may arise from a letter having slipped down at the end of a line: in this case the remedy is easy, to unlock the quarter and put the letter in its proper place; when this is done, and the form will rise, take the substance that was under it completely away, lay the form down again, loosen the quoins in that quarter, then plane it down, and lock it up as before directed.
The forms should now be brushed over with the letter brush, and taken to the proof press, and the pressman should be told to pull them, — In some houses the proof press is in the press room, in that case the compositor either calls out “Proof,” or asks, “Who's in Proofs? ” and then tells the party how it is to be pulled, First Proof, or Clean; sometimes the proof press is in the composing room, and the compositor either calls out “Proof” to them, or rings a bell, different houses having different customs in this respect.
I would always put the flat side of the furniture upwards, as it is more convenient for the pressmen, when it is necessary to place bearers on the frisket; since they operate better on this surface than on the hollow side, and can be placed on any part of it.
In my opinion it is preferable to have each part of the furniture in one piece, where it is practicable; as, for instance, the gutters, the backs, and the heads; which prevents the pieces from being transposed, and the margin from getting wrong: but sometimes pieces will be wanted of a width that is not equal to any regular size, and then two must be used.
To prevent as much as possible one piece of furniture from being mistaken for another in the hurry of business, I would cut all the gutters of one sheet of a precise length; so also would I do with the backs, as also with the heads; but each sort should be of a different length from that of the others; — thus, though all the gutters would be exactly of a length, yet would they be of a different length from that of the heads and backs, and so of the others; and thus they would be easily distinguished from each other, and mistakes would be prevented.
The sheet being now imposed, the stone must be cleared; the saw and saw block put in their places — the shears — the mallet, planer, and shooting stick — the surplus furniture — the scaleboard — the quoins — and every other article; for in most houses there is a fine for leaving a foul stone. The compositor will tie up his page cords, and if he has any companions will return to them their proportion.
In imposing a sheet from the furniture of one that has been worked off, in the regular process of business, there are certain circumstances to be attended to, which are frequently omitted: — The chase and furniture of one form should always be used for a similar form; that is, the chase and furniture of the outer form should be again used for an outer form, and the chase and furniture of the inner form should be again used for an inner form; they should also be put round the pages in the same order in which they were put about those of the preceding forms. For want of care or thought in these apparently trifling circumstances a great deal of trouble, inconvenience, and loss of time, are frequently incurred; for the register will be almost sure to be wrong when this is neglected, and then the forms must be unlocked, and the scaleboards changed, some of them having to be taken out, or fresh ones to be inserted, and this accompanied by a great deal of dissatisfaction.
I have found it to be a saving of time to be a little methodical in imposing; I take out my quoins and lay them on the adjoining pages in their regular order, then, after the chase has been put over the pages, and the furniture about them, there is no loss of time in replacing the quoins, or in finding the proper situation for each of them: the page cords are then taken off; the quoins tightened; the form planed down, &c., as detailed in the preceding paragraphs for imposing the first sheet of a work.
It should always be borne in mind that the quoins ought to be tightened regularly and uniformly round the form; for if one quarter be locked up at once before the quoins are tightened in the other quarters, the whole will be distorted, and the pressmen will have great difficulty in making register.
After the furniture has been taken from a form for the purpose of imposing another, it will be the means of preventing the matter for distribution from going into pie if the compositor tie a cord about each page; at least it may prevent an accident, and save him some trouble.
The chases for a sheet ought always to be in pairs; for if they be of different sizes, or the rims of different thickness, it causes the pressmen to lose time in making register, when both forms are worked at the same press, and often occasions the spoiling of two or three sheets of paper before that object is accomplished.
Before the compositor locks up his form, but after the pages are pushed up close to the backs and the heads, he should cut a gauge to fit exactly the intervals between the backs and the heads; and a sheet should never be carried into the press room for press, without the margin having been tried by this gauge to see that it is right, and to correct it, if it should be wrong: for as the pressmen have frequently occasion to alter the scaleboards in working the reiteration, this alteration will necessarily affect the furniture of the succeeding sheet. I have always used two small pieces of clean reglet, brevier or longprimer, and have cut them to the precise length; I wrote on both in ink the name of the work to prevent mistakes, as also the words “Back” and “Head” on each respectively; made a hole through them with my bodkin, tied them together with a piece of page cord, and hung them on a nail within my frame, so that they were always ready for use.
I shall now enumerate the tables of imposition in the following pages, and add observations where it may appear necessary, to make them as clear as it is in my power to do, not only to facilitate the operation, but in many instances to give information that may be of service; and in some cases to accommodate the bookbinder, who is seldom thought of in a printing office, but who, in my opinion, ought to be constantly considered: for I hold that the binding of a book should be always kept in view, as we are all anxious to see how our work looks when it is splendidly dressed by his skill; and it would consequently not be just if we did not do all in our power to accommodate him: stating this opinion will also show my reason for making some of the observations, as it is a point that has hitherto been neglected in all practical works on printing.
I shall also notice the errors, where they occur, of my predecessors, not for the sake of finding fault, or of depreciating their labours, but to save trouble to the workman; for, by some unaccountable cause, wherever Luckombe has made a mistake, or committed an error, it has been copied by subsequent writers, who do not appear to have examined his arrangement of the pages, but to have taken it for granted they were right, and have thus continued his errors.
The writers since Smith have not, I think, reasoned correctly on this part of a practical work, they seem to have made a merit of not adding to this department, by attending too strictly to an observation of his, saying that there may be many more fanciful ways of folding a sheet of paper. So there may, with which it may not be necessary to encumber a book; but why reject those that are useful and of frequent occurrence? why omit giving the mode of imposing fragments that continually occur at the end of a work? and that generally cause loss of time in arranging them, which might easily have been avoided; which omission I have endeavoured to supply: for this is the part of a work on printing that may be equally useful as a reference to the experienced workman as to the novice, and which I have frequently seen much wanted.
Smith's words are, after enumerating the different Tables of Imposition which he has given — “More Irregular Sizes we have not thought fit to introduce; else we might have drawn out Schemes for Imposing Six's, 10's, 14's, 20's, 28's, 30's, 40's, 42's, 50's, 56's, 60's, 80's, l00's, and 112's; these, and several more being Sizes that have been found out not so much for use as out of fancy, to show the possibility of folding a piece of paper into so many various forms.” — p. 257. Upon this passage have all subsequent writers formed their excuse for leaving the different methods of imposing pages in an imperfect and erroneous state: the errors commenced with Luckombe.
As it may facilitate reference, I have given in the following enumeration the initials of the different authors in whose works the same forms will be found. — M. refers to Moxon; Sm. to Smith; L. to Luckombe; St. to Stower; J. to Johnson; H. to Hansard; Ma. to Magrath; and Mas. to Mason. Where there are no initials, the arrangement has not, to my knowledge, been given before in any English book, and is only to be found in this work.
When imposing the first sheet of a new work, it may be serviceable to refer to the preceding observations, for a choice of the best method; and also for directions how to transpose the pages in working the reiteration, when a transposition is required.
The running Number corresponds with that in the Enumeration.
Enumeration of the above TABLES OF IMPOSITION, with Observations, and links to the diagrams in which each will be found.