studies of technicalities of printing Skt. in pothi form?

Thrasher, Allen athr at LOC.GOV
Wed Dec 1 01:41:10 UTC 2010

Today I was collating two Laksmivenkatesvara-Srivenkatesvara Press versions of Puranas prior to the Library of Congress digitizing the entire books because an illustration from each was in our exhibit of several years ago, posted online, "World Treasures of the Library of Congress: Beginnings," < >.  To the extent possible we are digitizing all the works displayed in this exhibit in their entirety.

The books had never been bound but instead were in old U.S. Government Printing Office slipcases (the GPO used to do the binding for LOC). They were issued in pothi format (vertical dimension of the page shorter than horizontal). In the majority of cases two successive folios were still a single sheet, but in some cases two successive folios had clearly been cut apart on the horizontal fold by hand, because the cut was quite roughly done.  In other cases it appeared that the trimming of the original large sheet that went in the press had left some folios separated without the reader having had to cut them.  Also, in  a few cases several 2-folio sheets were still attached at the top left, the connection being so small that it was easy and safe to detach them with the fingers rather than with a paper knife. It did not happen that there was connection on the whole of a side either left or right that had to be slit apart to leave the folios readable.  It appeared that perhaps sections had been read at some time, but in neither case had anyone read through the book.

I would usually presume that these were bought new from the press by Horace Poleman around 1940, but I did not think to check the acquisition date, which back then would have been written in pencil on the book.  If they were bought new they would have been consulted here in Washington.

The only annotation aside from those left by the catalogers was, strangely, a horizontal slash through the bottom of a single daNDa at the end a half-verse, made with a broad tipped pen and so decided that it indented and very slightly tore the paper.  I could not see any reason for it.  Stupidly, I did not make a note of which folio it was on.  Very odd.

I mention all this solely because I wonder if anyone has studied the technical problems and practices of printing in the traditional South Asian horizontal format, especially if it is not contemplated that the sheets will be bound at all.  How were the successive pages and folios placed so that they may be printed onto a large sheet that is to be then folded and trimmed?  Did printing in the horizontal format require a different size of initial sheet than for the vertical format and/or binding as a codex?  This has been  studied exhaustively for Western printing, of course, but is there anything for colonial India?

I have not yet consulted "The History of printing and publishing in India" by B. S. Kesavan et al., but as I recall they don't discuss this.

Pardon me for not using the technical terminology, not knowing it.

I am separately posting this on the CONSALD list for my fellow librarians.


Allen W. Thrasher, Ph.D.
Senior Reference Librarian and Team Coordinator
South Asia Team
Asian Division
Library of Congress
Washington, DC 20540-4810
tel. 202-707-3732
fax 202-707-1724
The opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of the Library of Congress.

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