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Re: Questions regarding terminology
Dear Biblian Friend:
Please note that the terms "8vo." and "4to." aren't so much "new"
technology but are actually quite "ancient" dating from the period of the
printing press and moveable type.
Both refer to the number of pages contained in a single sheet of
stock upon which several pages are printed and then folded to the proper
size. An 8vo. mean "octavo" and has 8 pages to a side meaning that there
would be 16 pages total on one sheet of paper after it is folded three
times, but how large was the paper upon which the 8vo. was printed?
The answer will indicate the size of the sheet in relation to the resultant
size of the page. complicated? kind of, but once you get a grip on it it'll
never seem that way again.
4to. goes the same way: 4to. means "quarto" and has 4 pages to one
side of the sheet resulting in 8 pages after the sheet is folded twice and
But first some basics about the sheets themselves, for you see, there
isn't any one particular standard of size in the printing industry and to
say a book is just "8vo." or just "4to." is to understate the reality because
of the following differences in stock-sheet size.
This table will help to clarify the matter:
"Old style" sheets from which the terms 8vo. and 4to. are derived were
originated in the 14th and 15th Centuries by Italian Renaissance types.
"Di Quatrocento" (1400's = 15th Century) was that period in which printing
flourished and Gutenberg's invention of the press and moveable type was a
boon that continues to this day, for even the computer will never fully
replace the press and the type that leaves its impression upon the page.
Quions and keys with their furnishings might go the way of the dinosaur,
but the press and its speed, coupled with the ease of composing a chase,
will never die, the printed word is here forever although time and tide
may cause it to evolve.
I digress, old paper styles:
(note the differences, they will indicate the difference in size I alluded
foolscap 17 x 13.5"
large post 21 x 16.5"
demy 22.5 x 17.5"
medium 23 x 18"
royal 25 x 20"
crown 20 x 15"
imperial 30 x 22"
double elephant 40 x 27"
Now there are other sizes as well, such as that used by the Thomson-Shore
printery and bindery. There standard is 23 x 35"
and if you take an 8.5 x 11 sheet of standard typing paper and imagine it
to be the 23 x 35" sheet used by T-Shore the following exercise might prove
to be insructive.
8.5 x 11" ~ 23 x 35"
first fold = folio: (fold the page in half)
8.5 x 5.5" ~ 23 x 17.5"
second fold = 4to. or quarto: (fold the preceeding in half)
5.5 x 4.25" ~ 17.5 x 11.5"
third fold = 8vo. or octavo: (again, fold in half)
4.25 x 2.75" ~ 11.5 x 8.75"
fourth fold = 16mo. or sextodecimo or even "sixteenmo" (fold in half once more)
2.75 x 2.125" ~ 8.75 x 5.75"
Trimming can then take place so that 8.75 x 5.75 can be 8.5 x 5 or 8.5 x 5.5.
I hope that I've helped, I'm not an expert at this but I have learned alot
in the past few months regarding paper size and folding. I like origami
so I guess this folding can be considered simplistic origami, but as with
origami, always make sharp creases when you fold, they're important.
Also as the bulk of the folds becomes obvious it does hurt anything to
cut half-way + a smidge up the first fold, this will help to keep the paper
from bunching and getting all fouled in itself.
There is also an effort underway to standardize paper size into metric
units, its more efficient than the "old way" but if the US printing
industry switches to the metric standard will that entail re-tooling the
chase and the press to accomodate the new paper? I don't know, but I do
know that the US is the only country in the western hemisphere that still
uses the avoirdupois and imperial standards of measurement, and we the
people have seemed reluctant to undertake any conversion. Oh well.
Perhaps though things will change. I'd rather buy my gas by the litre
anyway and to measure distances and weights accordingly, it really is
easier than one might think and conversion tables seem intimidating but
aren't and what one really needs in to immerse oneself in the culture
of metric units and to just see, and experience from a metric mind-set.
easier said than done, but then again, like binding and sewing and knocking
the swell down and rounding the spine, if there isn't a challenge involved
in learning something most people will give up due to boredom. Therefore
as anyone would learn the book-arts, so too should they learn the metric
system, in steps, working their way to a level of proficiency and understanding
Ok, so I editorialize. sorry to anyone who might dislike my meanderings,
I tend to get carried away.
Look at Arthur W. Johnson's "The Thames and Hudson Manual of Bookbinding"
and Douglas Cockerell's "Bookbinding and the Care of Books"
for more information on paper sizing, the metric (ISO) standard and how
a sheet is folded to make pages. Also the sections on guarding and tipping-
in are also fascinating.
Rommel John Miller
a guy who loves books and the stuff they're made of.