Bookbinding and the Conservation of Books
A Dictionary of Descriptive Terminology

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press mark

1. A design impressed into a wet web of paper, usually at the second or third roll of the papermaking machine, by means of a rubber collar which carries the design. See also: WATERMARK .

2. The symbol given to a book to indicate its location in British (rarely American) usage. In the late medieval period manuscripts were often kept in large chests (presses), and when books later came to be shelved in book cases, the term press continued to be used. The press mark is still used in some older libraries to indicate the "press," and often the shelf and the numerical position of the volume on the shelf. As a location system it indicates the precise position of the volume (and it can also be used to maximize the number of volumes that can be shelved in a given area), but it lacks flexibility and is completely useless as a browsing system. The simplest form is a letter followed by two numbers, indicating the section, the shelf, and the volume on the shelf, as A.2.13, or section A, second shelf, thirteenth volume. Other, more complex, systems are also used, sometimes to indicate subjects, sizes, etc. Press marks are found on the spine of the volume, on a label attached to the spine, on the flyleaf or the pastedown, on the title page or its verso, or on the fore edge of books that were at one time shelved fore edge outward (usually because they were chained). Press marks can often be a valuable indication of provenance. (17 )

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