Sunday, 21 November 2010

Make your own book

The English Atlas, the first volume of which was printed in Oxford in 1680, was an ill-fated venture that ultimately contributed to the bankruptcy of its promoter, the bookseller and printer Moses Pitt. An oversize folio, the sheets took so long to emerge from the press that the following frank admission of the book’s inaccuracy had to be made in the second volume:

The sheets were too large to be bound conventionally in signatures of 8, 16, or 32 pages; instead, each leaf of 4 pages, supplied separately, was pasted on to a guard, which was attached to the spine of the binding. Furthermore, the text was printed letterpress and the maps from copper engravings, two quite separate printing processes. (The printing shops would have been at different locations in the city.) This required a clear plan for assembling the book:

But the nature of the task meant that purchasers could decide exactly what to do with the plates and text, as this final note freely admits:

E. G. R. Taylor. ‘ “The English Atlas” of Moses Pitt, 1680–3.’ The Geographical Journal, 95, 4 (April 1940), 292–9

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