The Printed Book

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

Construction of a Book Part 9

This paper has, naturally, little strength, and books made of it begin to fall to pieces as soon as they reach the reader's hand. The so-called' art paper,' with its shiny surface so trying to the eye and disagreeable to the touch, is made by coating the paper with a preparation of china clay and glue which gives a solid even surface and is therefore much used for process illustrations. If a book printed on this paper gets damp the leaves stick together and cannot be separated without irreparable damage; and if the volume gets thoroughly wet it becomes practically a solid block. With the object of bringing books within small compass the use of very thin paper is frequently resorted to, and the necessary qualities of strength and opaqueness have been combined with extraordinary success in the India paper now so largely used.

The number of copies of a book printed at any one time is called an edition or impression. An edition may consist of any number that it is decided to print. When an unusually small number is printed, attention is generally called to the fact as enhancing the value of the book, and sometimes the copies are numbered consecutively. The description 'limited edition' now often used in a vague and specious way, is a loose term of no value whatever, as every edition must be limited, even the mammoth editions of 100,000 copies which have been printed of some popular novels: there can be no such thing as an unlimited edition. When the demand for a book is expected to exceed the number first printed, the type is sometimes kept standing in readiness for a further impression; but if the work is of a nature not to require much amendment or alteration it is more usual to make stereotype plates from which additional copies can be printed, in order to set free the type for other work.

To distinguish between a mere verbatim reprint of a book and a reprint in which the work has undergone some revision, the terms 'impression' and 'edition' respectively are sometimes used. It would be a decided advantage if this practice were uniformly adopted. When a portfolio of an impression is published in a form differing from the original issue it is called a re-issue. Sometimes, and not altogether honestly, it is passed off as a new edition. Another form of republication to be deprecated is the issue of a novel in book form under a different title from that which it carried while appearing as a serial story in a periodical publication.

The antistatic process, sometimes resorted to as a cheap method of making reprints of a book, is happily less in favor in this country than on the continent. In this process the ink from the page of an original copy is transferred to a zinc plate which is then, by treatment with acid, converted into a surface from which impressions can be taken. The result is, however, anything but satisfactory, for these reprints, full of imperfect letters, have a wretchedly feeble appearance and are irritating to read.

Occasionally a few copies of a book are printed on larger paper than the rest of the impression, and sold at a fancy price. But these 'large-paper' copies, which shout so loud in booksellers' catalogues, are cumbersome things with an overgrown, purseproud look, and are infinitely less desirable than copies with the right proportion of margin printed on better paper than that used for ordinary copies. Illustrations and binding, both of which are important elements in the construction of a book, form the subjects of separate chapters.