Tuesday, October 12, 2010


Before you take a book apart to clean and mend the pages, re-do the sewing and provide a new binding, you've got to collate it.  Modern books have page numbers to keep everything in order, but back in the good old days, conventions were different; the preface, dedication, introduction might be numbered with lower case Roman numerals or not at all.
the signature is noted with an "A", the catchword corresponds to the first word on the next page

 "And" bottom left corresponds to "And" on the top right
The main text might have page numbers, but more often there would be letters to mark the signatures, and catchwords to help the printer and binder keep everything in order as the book was being printed and assembled.
Plates also add another layer of complexity, sometimes they are numbered sequentially, and sometimes the printer comes up with another system.  In this instance the plate is numbered according to the page it is supposed to be facing, which is a great idea, I just have to make a note as to which page the plate is actually bound with.

Books are made up of many, many moving parts that need to fit together and while page numbers and signature marks may seem like enough to re-assemble all the pieces, it is better to be safe than staring at a pile of sheets and loose plates going hmmm....
do you see the quill from someone cutting a new point?

So, collating, in the conservation context, is a precise documentation of how each page fits into the overall sequence and structure of a book. It can seem a little painstaking to some, but I enjoy it.  It is a great way to commune with a book that I am about to work on, learn something new, and notice all sorts of little details and surprises.


Lorem Ipsum said...

Great to see the work in progress! Will it be possible to keep the quill point with the book, as part of its history of use?

rosemary said...

That's really interesting! I guess I assumed collating was very straightforward (i.e everything was numbered sequentially). Can't wait to see the restored version :)

atthebench said...

@Lorem: I will make a note of where I found the quill point and then when the book is done, put it in an envelope with the note. It was pure luck that the quill managed to stay in the book for so long and I don't want to risk loosing it by keeping it loose

@rosemary: the page numbers tell you how everything should look when the book is bound, but not how the plates are worked into the rest of the pages- stay tuned!