Imposition is concerned with the conflicting requirements of readers
and printers, and is often considered something of a mystery.
For the home publisher producing books directly from their computer,
however, there is no doubt that it presents a number of problems.
a book is printed in sections (that is to say, any sewn Western
book) the pages of each section are printed simultaneously, often
16 at a time, on a single sheet of paper. This sheet is then repeatedly
folded, sewn alongside the other sections into the book, and the
non-spine folds cut away to enable the pages to be opened. During
the folding process, some of the pages will become inverted, so
it is necessary for them to be printed upside-down so that after
this inversion they will appear the right way up.
printed at home from a computer as one-of-a kind or very short
editions are unlikely to be printed by such an elaborate process,
but some of the constraints of imposition will still apply. Each
section will be composed of a number of sheets, bearing a total
of (usually) four pages, but these pages will not be consecutively
numbered. For example, one sheet might carry pages 7, 8, 25, and
26. Although this sort of arrangement is easy enough to achieve
with high-end publication software, eg QuarkXPress, PageMaker
etc, it can be difficult to arrange if the only tool at your disposal
is a simple wordprocessor.
any wordprocessor capable of producing text in two columns can
output work ready to bind in most Japanese styles – the
two columns form the text of the two facing pages, and the space
between them the spine gutter of the book. Moreover, the pages
need be printed on only one side, thus avoiding another complication
and source of difficulty (eg paper-jams, misalignment of the backing
text, incorrect imposition etc).
an additional advantage, text and/or images may be allowed to
run across a double-page spread with none of the risk of misregistration
inherent in this operation with a multi-section book where, except
for the centre spread of each section, the two halves of the material
will be printed on separate sheets of paper.
producing work to be bound in a pouch-book binding, there is a
slight complication in that the readers’ spreads that appear
on the computer screen will be broken during binding, although
in a very simple, sequential manner. All that is necessary, after
entering all the text etc into the form in which it is to appear,
is for the material on the first verso page to be forced onto
the next recto page, by means of a New Page command. When folded
and bound, the proper relationship of facing pages will be restored.
coincidence of printer’s and reader’s spreads in many
Japanese bookforms is a major convenience for anyone wishing to
publish work at home from a personal computer. In the future,
technological advances in domestic-level equipment may make the
imposition and double-sided printing of Western books less of
a problem, but for the moment at least their lack of need for
imposition and backing makes Japanese bookforms particularly relevant
to the home publisher.
possibility is that, subject to the restrictions of copyright
law, two-page spreads of Western-style books might be photocopied
and the copies bound into orihon, detchoso or sempuyo
books. I am indebted to Heather Woods for this suggestion.
The dark art of imposition explained in Dominique Fertel’s
La science pratique de l’Imprimerie Saint-Omer, 1723
from Computers and typography, Rosemary Sassoon, pub. Intellect.