Yesterday's Technology . . . Today!

Book Impositions

Dave Gladwell, who spent his printing days in large book publishing houses, sheds some light on large impsosition schemes, and more.

Cundall folds

Said Dave: "Given to me when Composing apprentice at Billings of Guildford when I moved on to the "Stones" for tuition, now coming on to 60 years ago!

"The question of a "Boy" was why these pages had to be laid in such a complex order on the Stone.

This explains why, because the sheets needed to be folded in a specific way to relate to the chosen imposition Scheme and form a "signature".

The book lays out what extent the Stonehand's life was governed by an exceptional memory and dexterity of hand with his tied-up pages slid from the galley into position, chased and locked into the forme.

These days I doubt whether a Clicker, or Journeyman would have the time and interest to produce by hand an explanatory document on his own typewriter, for the good of a succession of Apprentices under his charge.

I think it was Ralph Wheatley who went on to be Composing Manager at Billings the massive book and bible printers in Guildford, who produced the explanatory chart originally.

Note the final sheets of 4 feet by 2 feet 6inches. Even larger were monsters for the 128-page backed up imposition "N", often churned out from the pair of sliding beds on the large letterpress flatbeds that broke your back in half if you were unlucky enough to be lumbered with the "Machine Revise", not to mention doing it over a forme recently scrubbed with trichoethylene!

At Billings letterpress machines were situated in an old building's bottom floor. In the 1960s and 70s the same system existed when I was at Richard Clays Bungay, the great Machine hall there was over 100 yards long, and bore these roaring monsters both sides, floating off the delivery tapes and rollers massive sheets of black on white words.

Interspersed with their lesser brethren with 1 bed and only 16pp or 32pp to view and the smell, of ink strong on the air, such were the days of pride in our Craft, Trade and Industry!

Dave sent his copy of Book Impositions 1962, from the British Federation of Master Printers with this article. Click here to download the PDF (approx. 5MB).

Copyright © Dave Hughes 2000-2015. All rights reserved.