Category Archives: books

watermark woodcut indigo octavo

You know how sometimes you can get ideas for a subject you are interested in by studying a different but related subject? So, strangely enough, I’ve found myself reading about paper conservation. Specifically, at the moment, a book called Books and Documents: dating, permanence and preservation by Julius Grant. It was printed in 1937, so I guess a lot of the material is dated now (haha)…but somehow it’s only making it that much more interesting to read.

There are long sections detailing experiments on paper and ink to determine their composition, in order to roughly estimate when a document was likely to have been created. On pages 41-44 he provides a list of supplementary evidence that can be used.

There are of course many other minor sources of evidence which may prove helpful in establishing the date of a book or document, but to discuss them all in full detail would bring this volume outside its professed scope. It has, however, been thought desirable to summarize the more important of them in the form of a chronological table, which may be used in conjunction with the information on paper and ink already provided.

The list was so delightful, and oddly thought provoking, that I took the time to transcribe it below. I randomly linked some of the terms and names to Wikipedia to ensure you get completely lost.

Seventh century. The first bound books and introduction of quill pens.

863. The oldest printed book known (printed from blocks by Wang Chieh of Kansau, China).

1020. Beginning of the gradual transition from carbon to iron-gall writing inks.

1282. The earliest known watermark.

1307. Names of paper-makers first incorporated into watermarks.

1341. Invention of printing from movable type (by Pi Sheng) in China.

1400 (circ.). Introduction of alum-tanned white pig-skin bindings.

1440 (circ.). Invention of printing from movable type in Europe (Johann Gutenberg, Mainz).

1445-1500. Alternate light and dark striations in the look-through of paper due to construction of the mould.

1454. The first dated publication produced with movable type.

1457. The first book bearing the name of the printer.

1461. The first illustrated book (crude woodcuts).

1463. The first book with a title-page.

1465. The earliest blotting paper (vide infra, 1800) ; this is sometimes found in old books and manuscripts and its presence may help to date them, although of course, the blotting paper may have been inserted subsequently to the date of origin.

1470 (circ.). Great increase in the number of bound books produced, following the advent of printing ; vellum and leather used principally.

1470. The first book with pagination and headlines.

1472. The first book bearing printed signatures to serve as a guide to the binder.

1474. The first book published in English (by William Caxton, in Bruges).

1476. The first work printed in England (by William Caxton).

1483. The first double watermark.

1500. Introduction of the small octavo.

1500. Introduction of Italics.

1536. The first book printed in America.

1545 (circ.). Introduction of custom of using italics only for emphasis. Mineral oil and rosin first used in printing inks.

1560. Introduction of the sexto decimo.

1570. Introduction of the I2mo.

1570. Introduction of thin papers.

1575 (circ.). The first gold-tooling.

1580. Introduction of the modern forms of “i,” “j,” “u,” and “v.”

1580. (circ.). The first pasteboards.

1600 (circ.). Copper-plate illustration sufficiently perfected to replace crude woodcuts. Introduction of red morocco bindings.

1650. Wood covers (covered with silk, plush or tapestry) used for binding.

1670. Introduction of the hollander.

1720. Perfection of the vignette illustration.

1734. Caslon type introduced.

1750 (circ.). The first coth-backed paper (used only for maps).

1750 (circ.). Gradual disappearance of vellum for binding and introduction of millboard covered with calf; or half-covered with leather and half with marbled paper, etc. The first wove paper (Baskerville).

1763. Logwood inks probably first introduced.

1770. Indigo first used in inks (Eisler).

1780. Steel pens invented.

1796. The first lithographic machine.

1796. The first embossed binding.

1800. Blotting-paper in general use (vide supra, 1465) in England, following an accidental rediscovery at Hagbourne, Berkshire.

1803 (circ.). Metal pens first placed on the market.

1816 (circ.). Coloured inks first manufactured in England using pigments.

1820 (circ.). Linen-canvas first used instead of parchment to hold the back of the book into the cover. Introduction of straight-grained red morocco bindings (see 1600).

1820. The invention of modern type of metal nib.

1825. The first permanent photographic image (Niepce).

1830 (circ.). The first linen cover. Beginning of the era of poor leather bindings which have since deteriorated.

1830. Title printed on paper labels which were stuck on the cloth for the first time.

1835 (circ.). Decoration by machinery introduced.

1836. Introduction of iron-gall inks containing indigo (Stephens).

1839. Invention of photography (Daguerre).

1840. Titles first stamped on cloth.

1845. Linen board cover in common use. At about this time it became usual to trim the edges of books, and the practice of binding in quarter-leather declined.

1852. Invention of photogravure, leading to the development of lithographic etchings, colour prints, line engravings, etc. (Fox-Talbot).

1855. Cotton first used as a cover for binding-boards.

1856. Discovery of the first coal-tar dyestuff (Perkin’s mauve), leading to the use of such dyestuffs in coloured inks.

1860. Beginning of the custom of paring calf binding leathers to the thickness of paper.

1861. Introduction of synthetic indigo for inks.

1878. Invention of the stylographic pen.

1885. Invention of the half-tone process (F. E. Ives).

1905. The first offset litho press.

More about the other subject later …