Friday, October 16, 2009

The Publisher's Art

Several years ago, our dear friend the late Kitty Preyer gave us a copy of Henry Dagge's Considerations on Criminal Law. Published in London in 1772, this copy is particularly interesting because it reveals some intermediary stages in the printing and selling of law books. The printer bound the book in humble cardboard covers colored a striking vivid blue. In most cases a client would buy the book in printer's boards like this and have it bound to his or her particular taste and budget, mostly likely in full calf-leather covers. That did not happen here.

Most books have their pages cut to a uniform size and shape, which gives them a smooth block-like appearance. This book did not get that far. Its pages are uncut, showing rough, uneven edges when viewed closed. Some of the pages are unopened, which means the edges of a large sheet of paper that had been folded into two or more pages were not cut during the manufacturing process, rendering the pages nearly impossible to read. Cutting and opening would usually happen during the binding process.

Perhaps this humble copy never left the shelves of the printer until long after it was printed, or its early owner(s) lacked the means or the interest to bind, cut, and open its pages. Either way, it survives as an interesting example of a rarely seen stage in the life of a book.

No comments:

Post a Comment