Old Printing Press Terms
These terms are used to describe books produced by traditional methods of paper making and printing, before the beginning of the 20th century, and they refer to the way a sheet of paper is folded (also known as the format) and cut to become part of a printed book.
A sheet folded once gives two leaves, that is four pages, each measuring half the surface of the sheet. Likewise, a sheet folded twice results in four leaves and a sheet folded three times results in eight leaves. A folio (from Latin folium, which means ‘leaf’) is a book made of sheets folded one single time. A book consisting of sheets folded twice is called a quarto (from Latin quartus ‘a fourth’), because its leaves measure a quarter of a sheet. Similarly an octavo is a book consisting of leaves that measure one eighth of a sheet.
The actual measurements of a folio, quarto, etc., depend, of course, on the size of its original sheets.
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