What can a battered old copy of Pilgrim’s Progress tell us about how books were printed in the past?

An interesting post explaining why we talk about ‘folio’ and ’12mo’ sized books. A nice accompaniment to my previous post ‘Adventures with auld Acts: Pre-1707 Acts of the Scottish Parliament’

University of Glasgow Library

Both big books and small books usually started out being printed on sheets the same size Both of these early printed books could have been printed on the same size sheets of paper

When you look at an old printed book you’re not really looking at a single book but a series of smaller ‘booklets’ joined together. Books weren’t printed one page at a time but on large sheets of paper subsequently folded into booklets (called gatherings). Therefore pages aren’t the building blocks of early printed books; sheets are. Whether it’s a teeny wee pocket book or a heavy big lectern book, it may well have started out being printed on on the same size sheet of paper.1

A big book, like a lectern Bible, will often contain a series of four page booklets joined together, each booklet formed from two pages printed on either side of a sheet of paper which has then been folded once (books made in this way are described as folio format).2

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