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Home :: Archive :: 2000 :: January ::
Re: sig.
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 11.0158  Tuesday, 25 January 2000.

[1]     From:   Marti Markus <
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        Date:   Monday, 24 Jan 2000 16:03:40 +0100
        Subj:   Re: SHK 11.0152 Q: sig.

[2]     From:   Ronald Dwelle <
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        Date:   Monday, 24 Jan 2000 10:41:52 -0500
        Subj:   RE: SHK 11.0152 Q: sig.

[3]     From:   William Proctor Williams <
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        Date:   Monday, 24 Jan 2000 11:13:50 +0000
        Subj:   Re: SHK 11.0152 Q: sig.

[4]     From:   Herman Asarnow <
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        Date:   Monday, 24 Jan 2000 08:53:55 -0800 (PST)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 11.0152 Q: sig.

[5]     From:   Katherine West Scheil <
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        Date:   Monday, 24 Jan 2000 16:57:59 +0000
        Subj:   Re: SHK 11.0152 Q: sig.

[6]     From:   Jim Lusardi <
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        Date:   Monday, 24 Jan 2000 15:48:50 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 11.0152 Q: sig.


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Marti Markus <
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Date:           Monday, 24 Jan 2000 16:03:40 +0100
Subject: 11.0152 Q: sig.
Comment:        Re: SHK 11.0152 Q: sig.

> At the end of citations to early modern books, one often sees the
> abbreviation sig. or sigs. followed by numbers and letters.  Can someone
> explain this?
>
> Allan Blackman

OED: SIGNATURE, 6a:
A letter or figure, a set or combination of letters or figures, placed
by the printer at the foot of the first page (and frequently on one or
more of the succeeding pages) of every sheet in a book for the purpose
of showing the order in which these are to be placed or bound. ABB: sig.
sig. MM

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Ronald Dwelle <
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Date:           Monday, 24 Jan 2000 10:41:52 -0500
Subject: 11.0152 Q: sig.
Comment:        RE: SHK 11.0152 Q: sig.

In early printing, a sheet of paper (usually 17 x 13.5 inches) was
printed both sides; then folded once, twice, thrice, or four times, to
make pages.  This sheet (and the resulting pages) is called a
"signature," and usually identified by a signature mark at the beginning
of each sheet.

So a signature mark is a way of locating material, like a page reference
in modern books.

Probably the most concise explanation is ion Ronald McKerrow's Intro to
Bibliogaphy, page 164 (I don't have the sig number).

I recall that Hinman also has a good concise explanation, but I cannot
locate it at the moment.

Cheers,
Ron Dwelle

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           William Proctor Williams <
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Date:           Monday, 24 Jan 2000 11:13:50 +0000
Subject: 11.0152 Q: sig.
Comment:        Re: SHK 11.0152 Q: sig.

Early printed books quite often have errors in pagination or no
pagination at all (I believe the first edition of Shakespeare's Sonnets
has no pagination).  Hence, the modern use of p. and pp. is replaced
with signature designations which are always far more accurate.  Thus,
the third page of the second gathering of a quarto signed A, B, C, etc.
would be cited as: sig. B2r  (sorry, the "r" should be superscript but I
can't manage that on my machine).  This would mean the third page,
second recto, front side of second leaf, of the second gathering in the
book.  This method of reference allows one to more accurately cite the
contents of early printed book.  I trust I make myself opaque?

William Proctor Williams

[Editor's Note: Indeed, Shakespeare's Sonnets that includes a Lover's
Complaint is not paginated. See
http://library.utoronto.ca/www/utel/ret/shakespeare/1609inti.html -HMC]

[4]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Herman Asarnow <
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Date:           Monday, 24 Jan 2000 08:53:55 -0800 (PST)
Subject: 11.0152 Q: sig.
Comment:        Re: SHK 11.0152 Q: sig.

Here's something on "signature" vis a vis early modern books.  (I've
lifted it from my essay "Fishing the Shelves" (South Dakota Review,
Summer 1996):

"Signature" in book making has a definition asserting sequence and
change rather than the permanence of a phrase like "one's mark."

In the earlier days of printing, when the pages of books were printed
and collated and sewn together by hand, a bound book consisted of sheets
of pages sewn together.  Each such group of pages was once a single
sheet of paper that was folded, then sewn with one or more other sheets
into the spine of a cloth or leather binding, then cut for reading.
(Many of us still remember the occasional book needing to have its pages
cut before it could be read.)   Sheets of sewn-together pages were
called quires, and the first page of each sheet that helped form a quire
of sheets had printed at the bottom a letter of the alphabet termed its
signature.  Thus the printer and his boy, having set aside to dry the
still wet sheets from the press, would be able to collate the sheets
properly as they lay scattered about the shop.  Another feature to help
this sorting of sheets and pages was the catchword, the first word of a
page printed in the bottom right-hand corner of the preceding page.
Later, whoever was to bind the book would read the signatures and
catchwords and be able to sew together the quires, and later sew the
quires consecutively into the binding.

--Herman Asarnow

[5]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Katherine West Scheil <
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Date:           Monday, 24 Jan 2000 16:57:59 +0000
Subject: 11.0152 Q: sig.
Comment:        Re: SHK 11.0152 Q: sig.

Sig. is the abbreviation for signature, the method used for organizing
sheets of a book, usually using letters of the alphabet.  See Philip
Gaskell, _A New Introduction to Bibliography_ (Oxford, 1972), p. 51-2.
Hope this helps.

Katherine West Scheil
University of Rhode Island

[6]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Jim Lusardi <
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Date:           Monday, 24 Jan 2000 15:48:50 -0500
Subject: 11.0152 Q: sig.
Comment:        Re: SHK 11.0152 Q: sig.

Dear Allan:

The reference is to signatures, which indicate how the book was put
together.  In early modern texts, signatures are often more reliable
than page numbers.  See R. B. McKerrow, An Introduction to Bibliography
for Literary Students, Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1927.

Yours--Jim Lusardi, Shakespeare Bulletin
 

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