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October 26th, 2013 by Nicholas Cotoulas

Paper During the Machine Press Period

 

The Odyssey of Homer Frontispiece

In this week’s class we discussed the machine press period (1800-1950) of printing and book-production, and how there are great increases in paper production during this time, along with the changes in book production that arise in this period.

We first talked about paper, and how there is an increase in the amount and availability of paper during this time, because of advance made in paper making, and how this subsequently led to advancements being made in book production. Professor Neuman talked about how the increases in the amount of the paper available made books cheaper to produce, assisted in the speeding up of production, and allowed for more risks to be taken. Also, we talked about how the increases in paper production impacted the role of the stationer, who was the person that people went to acquire their paper when they wanted something printed during the hand-press period. During the machine press period, the stationer is still used by small presses as a middle man between the press and the paper manufacturer, however the larger presses often had a distribution deal with the paper manufacturer. People also still used hand-made, laid-paper during this period for writing letters and correspondence, which results in stationers becoming more specialized.

We went on to look at several machine-press books and examined the chain-lines, watermarks, and paper. One of the books we examined was a 2nd ed. of John Hill Burton’s The Book Hunter. The book’s marbled cover and paper of the binding suggests that it is from the late 19th c., and the text-block at first appeared to be earlier then the binding because of it has chain-lines, deckle edges, and watermarks. However, Professor Neuman pointed out that a lot of the aspects of book making that were characteristic to the hand-press period were often faked during the machine-press period, and the chain-lines for this particular book are too straight and clean to be from the hand-press period, which supports the theory that the book’s text-block is in fact from the same period as the binding. Presses and printers started faking chain-lines and watermarks during the machine press period, because it gave the books a fake higher sense of value and quality to the book seller and book collector. We discerned that the main reason why these fake aspects of book production were included for this particular book, was because it is a book about book collecting and what makes books valuable, and therefore these aspects although they are faked are self-reflective of the book’s context. Also, these fake aspects pay homage to the hand-press period as being a time in which there was a great deal of emphasis placed upon the time and effort that was put into guaranteeing the high quality of the book.

The Book Hunter also has only the top edge of the paper gilded, while the fore-edge and bottom edge of the paper is left rough and uncut.  Professor Neuman said that most books that were gilded only had the top edge gilded, because it is more practical in that it makes it easier to dust the top of the book.

In this week’s lab, I work on doing descriptive bibliography work for a five volume set of Alexander Pope’s translation of Homer’s Odyssey, which includes a comment chapter following each book in the epic poem, printed in 1725. I was able to get through three of the volumes, and they are all formatted in quarto gathered in fours. I have included a few pictures from the first volume. The photo at the beginning of my post is the frontispiece for the first volume printed in black and red ink, and the second photo below is a plate of a bust of Homer.

Plate from Homer's Odyssey

 

 

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