Bookbinding and the Conservation of Books
A Dictionary of Descriptive Terminology

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signature mark

The letter or number, or the combination of letters and numbers, printed at the foot of the first page (and sometimes on subsequent leaves of a section) as a guide to the bookbinder in the process of gathering. Signature marks were written or stamped in until 1472, when Johann Koeloff of Cologne printed a signature as the last line of a text page. The binders of manuscripts usually cut off the signature letters.

Each section has a different signature, and when letters are used for identification, as is the usual practice, they progress in alphabetical order, with J, V, and W usually omitted to avoid confusion, although their exclusion does have an historical basis, in that manuscripts and early printed books were usually in Latin, in which I stands for both I and J, V for both U and V, and there is no W.

When all designated letters of the alphabet have been used, a lower case sequence or a new sequence of double letters followed by triple letters, or sequences combining capital and lower case letters are used, e.g., AA, BB, Aa, Bb, 2A, 2B, etc. If the same sequence is used again, it is known as duplicated or triplicated signatures. The preliminary leaves are sometimes not signed, in which case the text may begin with section B; however, the preliminaries are sometimes assigned a lower case letter or letters and are occasionally signed with an asterisk (*) or similar symbol. The title leaf is almost never signed (especially in 16th and 17th century English publications). In the United States, when they are used at all, which today is very infrequently, printers have tended to use all the letters of the alphabet.

When the quire includes additional sheets or a portion of a sheet (inset), these are also signed to indicate how they are to be folded and inserted. Also called "signature" (1). See also: COLLATION (1) ; DESIGNATION MARK ; VOLUME SIGNATURE . (140 , 278 )

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