Until the 1830s, most books were bound in plain boards because it was expected that the owner would rebind the book to fit their personal library. These boards, or what is called ‘original boards’, are quite coveted today by book collectors due to their originality and scarcity. Interestingly enough, at the time a book in its original boards meant the owner was too cheap or too poor to have the book rebound.

Pride and Prejudice, 1813 Original Boards

 The signatures, or many pages sewed together, were “covered by gray, blue or marbled paper-covered pasteboards, with a paper or (sometimes calf) spine and a handwritten printed-paper label”. The maker of the book intended for these coverings to be disposable. You can see from the picture above that these boards were not made to last, which makes them scarce to find.

………….A Few Examples of Rebound First Editions of Pride and Prejudice

Pride & Prejudice: A Novel.

Pictured here is a first edition copy of Pride and Prejudice being sold by Peter Harrington. The binding is contemporary calf. Calf is the most commonly used leather in binding. It left a smooth surface and is naturally brown before treatment.

AUSTEN (JANE) Pride and Prejudice, 3 vol. in 1, first edition, T. Egerton, 1813

This copy of Pride and Prejudice sold by Bonhams is bound in mottled calf gilt. To achieve the mottled affect, the same acid that is used in marbling is used except to achieve a random pattern instead of the swirls of marbling. Gilding the edges is where gold is applied to any of the edges of the book. The process can be watched in the video below.

Book collectors can go into great expense in rebinding their books. In the second picture above we can see the gold leaf used on the spine. Book bindings are an expression of personal preference, but they can also tell us the richness of the library the book was housed in.

“Guide to Understanding Bindings.” AbeBooks: Book Collecting Guide –. AbeBooks, n.d. Web. 12 Apr. 2015.
“Sold At Auction.” Ian McKay’s Auction Report Covers Modern First Editions, Maps, and Travel Narratives – Fine Books and Collections. N.p., Dec. 2010. Web. 12 Apr. 2015.
“Types of Bindings.” Types of Bindings. N.p., n.d. Web. 12 Apr. 2015.
“Pride and Prejudice”. Peter Harrington. N.p., n.d. Web, 12 Apr. 2015


The first illustrated editions of Pride and Prejudice were published by Richard Bentley in 1833.

P and P edited
Click to see lines of engraving.

An illustration can bring to life a books characters. Illustrations entice the reader who might wonder what the handsome Mr. Darcy looks like. They can add one more layer of artistry to a well made book or enhance a poorly made book…..Or in some cases, the illustrations are the book itself as the story is carried through pictures.

Wood cutting would have been used in the early 19th century and wood engraving was more popular in the latter half of the century and even gave way to metal engraving. Since the first illustrated copy of Pride and Prejudice was published in the mid-19th century, I will focus on woodcutting and wood engraving in this blog.

Either woodcut or wood engraving processes could have been used to design the above illustration. Although if I were to guess, I would say wood engraving as the picture seems to be more detailed. Also, you can see the individual engraved lines.

In wood engraving, the end grain of the wood is used rather than the side grain of the wood, which is used in wood cutting.

First, the picture to be engraved is transferred to the block through some process. Each illustrator or engraver uses their own technique.

Wood cut

Next is the engraving or cutting…Both are a form of relief printing. The parts not wanted in the picture are cut away from the block, leaving the wanted pieces raised off the surface. As you can see in the above picture, the lines that are white on the block were cut away. On the printed piece of paper the dark areas not cut away are the picture.

The transfer of ink to the piece of wood after engraving or cutting can be done by hand with a brayer or it can be put into the press and then ink is applied. Pressure, by hand or by the press is used to transfer the ink to paper in the form of the carving.

It is hard to image that such detail can be had with carving a piece of wood. However, we can see that some of the engravings were quite detailed and exquisitely done.

birket foster wood engraving

This is an engraving done by the famous Dalziel Brothers, whom were well known engravers in the 19th century.

The tricky part would be keeping in mind which parts of the block needs to be cut away and which needs to be kept. Also, the engraver would have had to have knowledge of the role shadowing can play in a picture.

Obviously, a famous engraving such as this would not only increase the value of the book, but would also increase the quality and beautifulness of the book.

“Old Prints & Maps – Woodcuts and Wood Engraving.” Old Prints & Maps – Woodcuts and Wood Engraving. N.p., n.d. Web. 08 Mar. 2015.
Kent, Norman. “Color Printing from Relief Blocks.” Color Printing from Relief Blocks. N.p., 1945. Web. 08 Mar. 2015.
Steins, John. “How Is a Woodcut Print Different from an Engraving? – John Steins.” John Steins. N.p., 17 Dec. 2010. Web. 08 Mar. 2015.
“About Wood Engraving.” About Wood Engraving. N.p., n.d. Web. 08 Mar. 2015.
English, Andy. “How a Wood Engraving Is Made.” How a Wood Engraving Is Made. N.p., n.d. Web. 08 Mar. 2015.
Allingham, Philip V. “The Technologies of Nineteenth-Century Illustration: Woodblock Engraving, Steel Engraving, and Other Processes.” The Technologies of Nineteenth-Century Illustration: Woodblock Engraving, Steel Engraving, and Other Processes. Lakehead University, n.d. Web. 08 Mar. 2015.
“Complete Set of the 1833 Bentley Edition of The Six to Be Auctioned in Dublin.” Austenonly. N.p., 16 Oct. 2012. Web. 08 Mar. 2015.

Type: Applying the Written Word

       There is some discrepancy in which typeface was used to produce the first edition of Pride and Prejudice. However, it is ascertained by the Cambridge Press that the first volume of the first edition (the first edition being a three volume series) was printed in Caslon Roman typeface, the latter two volumes having been produced with a slightly different typeface. It was said that the average reader would have not noticed.

Cropped P and P
First Page, Pride and Prejudice

‘Typeface’ in itself means a family of type, so the exact type or font used to produce the book is still not given. The Caslon typeface came from William Caslon in the early 18th century as he tried to rectify English dependence on Dutch typefaces.

Caslon Font
Caslon Typeface

Until the mid-1800s, after the publishing of the first edition of Pride and Prejudice, relatively the same typography method was used since the invention of the Gutenberg Press. The movable type is cast as is depicted and explained below.

A. Punch B. Matrix C., D., E., Type Mold

“A steel punch (A) is used to stamp an impression of the letterform into a softer brass matrix (B). After the matrix (B) is slipped into the bottom of the two-part type mold (C), the mold (D & E) is filled with the molten lead alloy to cast a piece of type. After the lead alloy cools, the type mold (D & E) is opened and the type is removed.” —California State University

Typecase box
Composing Stick over a Type Case

….From Cast to Press

These pieces of type would have been placed in a type case, until they were needed for printing. The typographer would have then laid out the type on a composing stick where it was then transferred to the press bed for inking.

Type has to be chosen carefully, as some are wider and take up more space than others. It is noted that Baskerville,  a wider type, was used to fill out books that had less content so people would feel as if they got their money’s worth. Type has to be legible, but not plain. Often the type chosen can alter the way you feel about the book itself.

Ward, Beatrice. “On the Choice of Typeface.” Cleveland and New York: The World Publishing Company, n.d. Web. 01 Mar. 2015.
Austen, Jane, and Pat Rogers. Pride and Prejudice. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2006. Web. 01 Mar. 2015.
“Early Typographers : Design Is History.” Early Typographers : Design Is History. N.p., n.d. Web. 01 Mar. 2015.
“The History of Visual Communication – The Printing Press.” The History of Visual Communication – The Printing Press. N.p., n.d. Web. 01 Mar. 2015.
 “Websites on Gutenberg.” Moveable Type. N.p., n.d. Web. 01 Mar. 2015.

The Papers

        “Up in the corner of this sheet, impressed permanently in its surface, was the indentation of a person’s thumb, probably that of the layer. Placing my own thumb in that same indentation was like slipping on another man’s shoe. In that gesture, I was connected in a most intimate way, with one of the original makers.” –Timothy Barrett, Paper Through Time

When studying Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen it is important to discuss the paper. Not only the paper which acts as a medium for Austen’s words, but also how important paper was to the author herself. Austen used both laid and woven paper in her personal correspondences. She would also describe in great detail the type of paper her characters used, to elude to status and gender.

At the time Austen’s work was published, the early 19th century, paper was made primarily with linen rags. However, some paper makers preferred to add cotton to the linen rag mixture in order to make the paper more firm.

Rags were separated by either material (linen or cotton) or by quality (for example, a mill in France separated their rags into: fine, medium, and coarse). Of course the better the quality of the rag the better the finished product. Mostly before the 19th century rags went through a process called retting, where the rags were allowed to ferment and rot.

Here is a picture of a retting room…where lime and other organisms from rotting materials covered the walls.

Figure 4. Rettery for fermentation of rags, which were pushed down from the sorting and cutting rooms above through the hole in the ceiling.

This process gave way to cooking and bleaching during the early 19th century, however, some sources say that bleaching did not reach England till the mid-19th century.  Either way the processes of retting or bleaching and washing were used to break down the material of the rags to be made into pulp.

Next, the fermented paper was washed and beaten with stampers. It is said that stamped paper lasts longer because the mixture is made more smooth. The rag and water mixture was placed in troughs upon which the hammers of the stampers would come down and ‘break’ the mixture into more finite pieces.  The hammers often had abrasive objects attached to them, such as nails.  The material was constantly rinsed with fresh water as it allowed for lightening and cleansing of the rags.

Stamper head with nails                                       Here is the stampers landing in the troughs.

Figure 10. Stamper and nail head configurations.

Figure 6. Diderot Encyclopédie stampers showing perspective view

Note: These pictures depict equipment that was used during the 1400s-1800s. Although Austen’s books were published in the early 19th century it is commented that the equipment was most likely still used into the 18th century out of tradition and costs.

A mold, consisting of a wooden frame and wires, was fitted into a deckle, another wooden frame and then dipped into the vat. Earlier frames consisted of wires that were strung one way on the wooden frame, however in 1757 James Whatman developed a woven frame, which allowed the paper to dry and lay more smooth. This in turn let the ink adhere to the page during printing. The improving of processes like this in papermaking affected the way the finish product of a book would look. The vatman would shake the mold to get the mixture to spread across the frame.

Figure 16. Mould, deckle, and mould surface manufacture.

The coucher then would shake the wet sheets onto wet felt, and continue to do so layer each sheet of wet paper with a layer of felt. . The layer of felt and wet sheets was called a post. The posts were then pressed to remove excess water. Afterwards, the sheets were hung in spurs, or groupings of seven to eight sheets over cord to dry. As you can see this process is extensive and could have taken

It is important to note that any part of this process could determine the quality of the paper produced and in doing so the quality of the book the paper is used in.

For example…as previously mentioned Austen used both laid paper and woven paper.

Sheets of Laid and Wove paper side by side

On the left is laid paper and the right is woven paper. We can see that the one way grooves on the laid paper were due to the mold used which only had wired running one way across the wooden frame. Obviously, woven paper would be easier to write on and to read from.

“Paper through Time: Non-destructive Analysis of 14th- through 19th-Century Papers.” European Papermaking Techniques 1300-1800, T. Barrett. N.p., n.d. Web. 26 Feb. 2015.
“The Whatmans and Wove Paper.” About Wove Paper. N.p., n.d. Web. 26 Feb. 2015.
“BAPH.” History of Papermaking in the United Kingdom. N.p., n.d. Web. 26 Feb. 2015.
“Jane Austen’s Writing: A Technical Perspective.” Jane Austen’s Writing: A Technical Perspective. N.p., n.d. Web. 26 Feb. 2015.

The Press

The first editions of Pride and Prejudice were published by Thomas Egerton, who used the printer Charles Rosworth.  Book publishing was an expensive endeavor in these times. Authors had few choices in getting publishers to agree to publish their work. Austen chose to sell the copyright of Pride and Prejudice to Egerton.  Although Austen was highly involved in the first publishing of Pride and Prejudice,  the second and third editions were printed with little involvement from her as Egerton owned the copy right.

The printing press was widely used in the early 19th century, however, it was not a fast process and only few copies were printed at once. Often if the book was popular second and third editions were published in the same year as the first, as was the case for Austen’s Pride and Prejudice.  The steam printing press, which greatly increased hourly production, would not come until after Austen’s time.

Beginning in the late 1700s and the early 1800s, printing presses were improved by turning some of the wooden parts into metal. And in 1800, the Stanhope press was invented. A picture of which can be found here.

It is most likely that Pride and Prejudice was printed using some type of wood/metal or all metal printing press.

Another work of Austen Emma was printed in duodecimo, which means a single sheet from the printing press is folded into twenty four pages. The process of which can be found here

Would Austen and countless other authors have chosen to sold their copyrights to their publishers if books could be produced in mass market productions so common today?

….Or have the mass market productions lost the beauty of a hand carved block or plate ornately decorated for special placement in a few books?

Just imagine the knowledge gained when books became more readily available to the community and individuals had access to them at home.

Giese, Kenneth. “Format: An Example of Common Duodecimo with an Uncommon Frontispiece.” Mapping Special Collections. WordPress, 27 Jan. 2010. Web. 15 Feb. 2015.
Sutherland, Kathryn. “Jane Austen’s Textual Lives: : From Aeschylus to Bollywood.” Google Books. N.p., n.d. Web. 15 Feb. 2015.
“Harry Ransom CenterThe University of Texas at Austin.” Harry Ransom Center RSS. Harry Ransom Center, n.d. Web. 11 Feb. 2015.
“First Impressions: Early Editions of ‘Pride and Prejudice’ (Sarah Ogar ’13) – From Tablet to Tablet: A History of the Book.” First Impressions: Early Editions of ‘Pride and Prejudice’ (Sarah Ogar ’13) – From Tablet to Tablet: A History of the Book. N.p., n.d. Web. 15 Feb. 2015.

Provenance and Ex Libris…a personal touch in the book

Have you ever wanted to make a book truly yours and write your name in it? Or maybe you find yourself taking notes in the margins of a textbook? No matter the form, written personal touches such as these are known as provenance. Provenance can give us clues as to the books journey to its current library, including information on previous owners.

Ex libris, a form of provenance,  is a bookplate placed in a book as a mark of ownership.

This first edition copy of Pride and Prejudice houses provenance in the form of two bookplates and a penciled in Abbey code. The first bookplate is owned by a Edward Turner McGowan. Little could be ascertained on the actual Edward Turner McGowan.

Pride and Prejudice Bookplates 2

However, the second bookplate belongs to John Roland Abbey. Abbey was an avid and famous book collector. He was mostly known for his collections of color plate books, illuminated manuscripts, and fine bindings. However, he also collected minor works in their original warn out bindings. It is most likely that this is how Pride and Prejudice found its way into his library. Pictured here is another one of his bookplates. The books published under his name in color plate books and book bindings are often used a reference materials in their fields.

Braganca, J. (2008, January 2). Ex Libris//Bookplates. Retrieved February 9, 2015, from
Abbey, John Roland. (n.d.). Retrieved February 9, 2015, from

Bonhams : AUSTEN (JANE) Pride and Prejudice, 3 vol. in 1, first edition, T. Egerton, 1813. (n.d.). Retrieved February 9, 2015, from

A Story within a Story…experimenting with Die Cuts

Tree of Codes by Jonathan Safran Foer is a novel within a novel. Using the words from Street of Crocodiles by Bruno Schulz, Foer carved out his own story. Each page of Foer’s book features a different die cut, and when layered together the story unfolds. What makes this book unique is the intricacy in which Foer would have had to strategically place the words. Once one layer is removed with the turning of the page, the layers underneath still have to be able to combine to continue the story.

  Visual_Editions_Tree_of_Codes_3 “On the brink of the end of paper, I was attracted to the idea of a book that can’t forget it has a body.” says Foer in a New York Times interview. tree of codes two

Foer’s publisher, Visual Editions, was rejected by many printing companies. It was said it could not be done, until they found Die Keure, a Belguim printing company who relished the challenge.

How its done….

“Images.” Visual Editions : Tree of Codes. Visual Editions, n.d. Web. 28 Jan. 2015.Heller, Steven. “Jonathan Safran Foer’s Book as Art Object.” ArtsBeat Jonathan Safran Foers Book as Art Object Comments. New York Times, 24 Nov. 2010. Web. 28 Jan. 2015.