Mysterious markings in old German books

oprion's picture

I was looking through the Google book archive, and found a curious thing:
Most German books printed in 1800s have the following numeration(?)
scheme printed at the bottom of the pages. Initially, I assumed those letter and number combination to be binders marks, destined to aid in folding pages. But the irregularity of their appearance seems odd. They always appear on the recto page, never seem to go above 5, and are followed by a varying number of unmarked pages until the next letter is introduced.

Does anyone have an idea what those are?

Recto: A
Verso: Nothing
Recto: A 2
Verso: Nothing
Recto: A 3
Verso: Nothing
Recto: A 4
Verso: Nothing
Recto: A 5
Verso: Nothing
Recto: Nothing
Verso: Nothing
Recto: B
Verso: Nothing
Recto: B 2
Verso: Nothing
Recto: B 3
Verso: Nothing
Recto: B 4
Verso: Nothing
Recto: B 5
Verso: Nothing
Recto: Nothing
Verso: Nothing
Recto: Nothing
Verso: Nothing
Recto: Nothing
Verso: Nothing
Recto: C
Verso: Nothing
...

hrant's picture

I'm guessing they're binding instructions.

hhp

Theunis de Jong's picture

It must be some sort of folio numbering, although I cannot recognize the system used.
If so, the first A-folio contains twelve pages, and the 2nd, B, sixteen pages. Kind of odd -- both are possible, but are generally the same for the larger part of a book. (The decision to print either a 12-page or a 16-page sheet depends on the sheet size and the size of individual pages.)

Bleisetzer's picture

No, I don't believe in bookbinder remarks.
Its too close inside the printed area and would apear in the printed book atleast. I think the bookbinders around 1800 were professional enough, to avoid this solution and find a better one.

Can it be, this are remarks for footnotes, which are listed anywhere at the end of the book, explaining or analysing this text part?

There are to gramar mistakes "...auf diesen kanapee". It should be "...auf dieseM Kanapee" (on this Canapée). But alright, N is Akkusativ, but it must be M = Dativ. But I do not know enough german gramar of the 19th century, sry.

Georg
_______________________________________________
„Ich bin ein Preuße, kennt Ihr meine Farben...“

hrant's picture

Maybe the poor grammar makes it more likely that the binder was
somewhat incompetent too (and hence needed help not messing up)?

hhp

Florian Hardwig's picture

The grammar (ACC) is correct.

Uli's picture

> Does anyone have an idea what those are?

This relates to imposition. Some keywords: prime, recto and verso printing, perfecting, etc. Since the whole imposition stuff requires much explaining, I only reproduce one of the various old imposition schemes:

see http://www.sanskritweb.net/temporary/imposition.gif

Beauclair's picture

As Ulrich Stiehl rightly pointed out, these are instructions for the binding, very common in German books from the late 17th – early 19th century. Not only are these extremely common, sometimes they are set even in bigger type than the example.

By the way, the sample text is from the beginning of Christoph Martin Wieland’s verse epic »Oberon« (1780), and the edition is most certainly from about 1800. The grammar (accusative) is sound – not only for 18th century standards.

oprion's picture

Thanks everyone!
The mystery is solved.
I was leaning towards the idea of a binding scheme myself, but was a bit confused by the apparent irregularity and more so the size and prominence of these markings, often appearing in larger sizes then the body text.
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