The Acquisitions Table: Treatise on the Imposition of Forms

Bidwell, George, d. 1885. Treatise on the imposition of forms … also, tables of signatures, etc., useful to compositors, pressmen, and publishers. New York: Raymond & Caulon, 1865.

Rare first edition of one of the few dedicated handbooks for printers on “imposition,” that is, the arrangement of text pages in the “forme” placed on the bed of a press so that, when both sides of a sheet are printed and the sheet folded, pages will fall in the proper sequence. Such information commonly appeared in printer’s manuals, but typically in far less detail than is given here. Nineteenth-century innovations in printing technology—such as the casting of stereotype plates and the invention of large, steam-powered presses—gave printers many new options for imposing a text, but rarely does a machine-press-era printed and bound book preserve the physical evidence necessary for determining the imposition scheme employed. Bidwell’s Treatise offers an important window into how mid-19th century American printers understood imposition and what were considered the best contemporary practices. Published at the direction of the New York Typographical Society, this copy bears the March 18, 1865 ownership signature of a New York printer.

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