The Printed Book

by Harry G. Aldis, M.A. Cambridge at the University Press 1916

Construction of a Book Part 6

In printing a book it is customary to start with the beginning of the text of the work, leaving the title and other 'preliminary matter' to be printed last. The preliminary matter includes the half-title (or bastard title), the title page, preface, and lists of contents and illustrations. Corrections of proofs may, if numerous or extensive, entail considerable expense, and it is therefore desirable that they should be kept within the narrowest possible limits. This can be done in two ways: first, by carefully 1 Nowadays the date of publication, together with the dates of previous editions of the work, are often printed on the verso of the title page. It is more satisfactory to have the date on the title page itself; but it is the entire suppression of the date that is to be condemned revising the manuscript for the printer, attending to punctuation and capitals, and marking clearly new paragraphs and other sections. It is a common excuse for neglect, to say that the printer will see to all that. But it cannot be considered the printer's duty to act the part of revising editor; and, besides, to send in a carelessly written and ill-prepared manuscript is most inconsiderate, and extremely unfair to the compositor, to whom it is a loss of time and money to have to puzzle out an illegible scrawl and to phrase out paragraphs devoid of punctuation marks.

The second method of avoiding unnecessary expense in the correction of proofs is to be careful of the way in which alterations are made. Each letter of type consists of a small block of metal, rather less than an inch high, with the letter in relief on the end of it. Each of these letters occupies a definite portion of the length of the line: an m takes more room than an i, and a t is narrower than a w. between each word is a 'space,' that is a narrow piece of metal like the shank of a letter but not so high. Being lower than the face of the letters the 'spaces' do not. get inked, and therefore leave the necessary intervals between the words. These spaces also facilitate small corrections in proof. For instance, if 'when' has to be substituted for 'and' in a line, the four letters can probably be inserted in place of the three by slightly reducing the spaces between some of the words. The converse can be affected by increasing the spaces. But to add or to cut out one or more words it may be necessary to 'overrun' (that is, to alter the contents of) several lines, and this means a certain amount of trouble, time, and expense. Overrunning can sometimes be avoided by adding words of similar length to those deleted, or by cutting out words to make room for those which have to be inserted. This is not of so much importance when the correction is near the end of a paragraph, unless it will alter the number of lines.