A Primer on Pagination

by Craig Stark

29 April 2013

If You Can't Collate, Consider Paginating

Printer Friendly Version

Machine made paper produced in continuous rolls was introduced in the early 19th century and quickly replaced handmade paper as the publisher's preferred method of production. At about the same time (though recent scholarship suggests it was somewhat earlier) so-called edition bindings came into being - specifically, mass-produced casings that were applied to mass-produced text blocks.

There are two important things to take away from this. One, the original concept of format, which refers to the manner in which discrete sheets of handmade paper are printed and later folded to comprise a gathering, gets tossed out the window and "format" more or less evolves to become synonymous with size, though this usage is far from universal. And two, the concept of completeness evolves to include the binding as well as the text (and later the dust jacket). Prior to the edition binding era, bindings were more typically produced as one offs, usually by somebody other than the printer, and were thus not, in a broader bibliographical sense, original issue, let alone uniform.

What does this mean for most of us? Most of us buy and sell books made with machine made paper cased in edition bindings. Collation is still possible, but it doesn't involve what it does for handmade paper era books, namely, examining and recording signatures, those sometimes mystifying printer's letters or numbers in the margins, and constructing an elaborate collational formula to account for every last leaf.

If anything near equivalent matters in modern books, it's pagination, but let's face it: Almost nobody paginates the books they sell. And it's safe to assume that many booksellers don't take the trouble to examine the books they sell for completeness in the first place, whether it's counting leaves, plates or whatever, because one rarely comes across a statement in a description that asserts completeness. But, if a book is collectible, a collector necessarily wants a complete book, and it stands to reason that, if more or less serious money is involved, it would make sense to at least investigate it for completeness, state that it's complete as issued, and perhaps take one more step to include a pagination formula.

Unlike collation, pagination is relatively painless. In its shorthand form (one of several in practice), taking Allen and Patricia Ahearn's Collected Books 4th Edition as an example, it would look something like this:

xiv, 817 pp.

Thus there are 14 preliminary pages (not leaves) followed by 817 numbered pages, and adding this to a description would assure a buyer that everything was there. Note that this formula does not include the front free endpaper, which, bibliographically speaking, is part of the binding, not the text block - though clearly, if it was missing, disclosure would be mandatory.

But it's nearly as easy to take this one step further and actually collate this book:

Collation: pp. [i-ix] x-xii [xiii] xiv [1] 2-817; 228 x 153 mm.

Here, the bracketed numbers refer to pages that are not numbered in type, and the measurement at the end refers to the size of a leaf, not the binding, with the vertical measurement appearing first. (Measurements are sometimes essential for distinguishing trade editions from book club editions.) If the book also included inserted plates (not bound in illustrations) these would also be noted in the collational formula.

The minute one spends to do this may add a level of comfort for some buyers and make enough difference to secure a sale. Please consider it!

          < to previous article       to next article >

Questions or comments?
Contact the editor, Craig Stark

Forum | Store | BookLinks | BookSearch | BookTopics | Archives
Advertise | AboutUs | ContactUs | Search Site | BookShelf | BookThinker

Copyright 2003-2013 by BookThink LLC


Comment Comment Comment Comment Comment Comment Comment Comment Comment