Making a Quarto: Transcript

Includes Casey Kaleba, Folger teaching artist, and Mary Schaller, Folger docent.

CASEY KALEBA: Hi. I’m Casey Kaleba here with Mary Schaller, and we’re going to show you how to make a quarto. Now, a quarto is a kind of book. The word comes from the Latin quartus, meaning one-fourth. And it was a way of printing eight pages on a single sheet of paper.

[Folds sheet of paper twice, creating eight pages]
So the idea was, you would print all eight pages on one sheet. And then you would fold that sheet of paper over. Fold it again. So you have a little book. Cut the seam. Cut the seam. And you’d be able to unfold this into eight pages. The problem, of course, is that when you print it, you’re having to print it in a very strange way because the pages aren’t going to line up.

[Numbers the eight pages with a marker]
So, we’re going to number the pages just to show you how it lays out for an actual printer. That’s page 1, page 4, page 5, page 8. I’ve got 1, 8, 4, and 5 on one side. And, on the inside, I’ve got 2, 3, 6, and 7. You can see that 2 and 7 are reading this way, 6 and 3 read this way. Same here, 4 and 5, 1 and 8. But if you put all that together, I’ve got 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, and 8.

MARY: [To students] All right, so let’s start folding your paper. And remember, you fold it top to bottom. Make a nice clean fold and make it sharp. We aren’t going to worry about cutting it yet. That will come at the end. Now, so you can decide which stamp you want to have for your cover... Now remember to put it on the correct page, so that it’s not going to be upside down.

The interesting thing about a quarto is that you’ve got to know where the correct pages are going to be, if you were trying to do a book that would go in sequence.

[To student] Now, where, you said you wanted her on page 8? [Student agrees] That’s right here.

So, that’s part of the challenge of doing a quarto.

[To students] All right now, taking one of these, this would be like your paper cutter. You are going to cut like that. Okay? Right down to the edge. Do not cut this part, folks! Okay? All right.

STUDENT: What are we cutting?

ANOTHER STUDENT: We’re cutting this.

MARY: You’re cutting the top folds only. All right. There you go.

CASEY: [To students] So, the last step, now that we’ve actually printed our book, and we’ve cut those top seams, we’re actually going to bind it.

[Voice-over, Folger 1611 King James Bible]
Now, the King James Bible would have been bound with cloth. They would have actually stitched down all of those pages that make up that book.

[To students] We’re going to do a quick, modern version, which is our stapler.

MARY: Today we used a stapler to bind the quartos together. You could bind your quartos together by using a very small piece of ribbon and create two holes right where the crease and the spine is. It looks pretty and it’s fun to do.

[Students display their quartos, with Casey and Mary]
CASEY: The invention of the printing press and movable type changed the way that information was distributed. The King James Bible was originally printed as a folio, but it was very quickly distributed in smaller forms, the quarto, and even an octavo—folding the quarto over one more time to give you more pages. As you can see, it’s a lot of work to physically print a book and to fold it, cut it, and stitch it.