[Based on DIY Quarto: Printing quartos in Shakespeare’s time https://www.folger.edu/publishing-shakespeare/diy-quarto]
Welcome to the Virtual Printing House
Try arranging pages into your own quarto edition of El Ingenioso Hidalgo Don Quijote de La Mancha.
We base this example on digital images of the BNE’s copy of the first printed edition of Don Quijote, in Madrid, 1605. One of our goals is to heighten the sense that you are viewing a freshly printed sheet.
Eight pages per sheet of paper
Take a single sheet of paper, print eight pages out of sequence, then with folding, create a readable text in what’s known as a gathering in quarto format. That is what the printers of Don Quijote did. To see how, drag and drop the text of four pages onto one side of a sheet of paper. Note the change in orientation for some of the pages. Then flip the sheet to “print” four additional pages. Fold to create one quarto gathering with the first eight pages of the play.
For Don Quijote, the printers followed this process for eighty-two more sheets, to create eleven more regular gatherings, with eight pages each. To keep these sheets in order, each gathering was given an identifying letter of the alphabet as a “signature” by the printers. The text of Don Quijote started here with the letter A. Unlike England, where texts often started with the signature B, as printers left the A for materials like title pages, which were often printed last. In comparison, Hamlet has 12 sheets
The sequence of regular gatherings in Don Quijote runs from A through Z, then Aa through Az, Bb etc.
After the printing was finished, the sheets were folded and assembled in alphabetic order to be ready for sale.