F&M College Library

History of the Book - Hand Press Period, 1450-1800

This guide is designed to provide a broad overview of printing technologies during the hand press period, and assist with the ENG 206 "Material Texts" assignment in particular.

Library Hours

Shadek-Fackenthal Library
Mon-Thurs 8 am - midnight
Fri 8 am - 10 pm
Sat 10 am - 10 pm
Sun 10 am - midnight
Martin Library of the Sciences
Mon-Thurs 8 am - midnight
Fri 8 am - 10 pm
Sat 10 am - 10 pm
Sun 10 am - midnight
Archives & Special Collections
Mon-Thurs 9 am - 5 pm
Fri 9 am - 5 pm
Sat CLOSED
Sun CLOSED
 

Format

Format: The format is the technical and bibliographical term for the shape of the book, defined by the number of times each printed sheet is folded.  Determined during the "casting off" or planning period, format determined the amount of paper used, affecting both the cost and size of the final book.  Common formats include:

folio - one fold  
quarto - two folds  

octavo - three folds 

The folio was often used for expensive, presentation volumes and important religious books.  Quartos were used for popular books, such as novels, tracts, and plays.  Octavo books fit nicely in the hand, and were prized for their portability and reduced production costs. 

Format or Book Sizes

Format - Folding (Folio, Quarto, Octavo)

How to Understand Book Sizes (2:09 sec)