Page:Essays in librarianship and bibliography.djvu/219
SOME COLOPHONS OF EARLY PRINTERS
to announce their commencement on the first leaf. In expressing his satisfaction and thankfulness on the last page he would naturally mention the name of the book he had been engaged upon, and hence his successor, the printer, inherited the habit of giving all information about a book not stated in a prologue or table of contents, at the end instead of at the beginning—in a colophon rather than on a title-page. The same custom had prevailed in classic times. The ancient title, when inscribed within the covers of the manuscript, was, says Rich, "written at the end instead of the commencement, at least it is so placed in all the Herculanean MSS. which have been unrolled." Sometimes, however, it was written on a separate label affixed to the roll so as to hang down outside: and on the same principle it may be conjectured that when manuscripts came to be bound, much of the inconvenience occasioned by the want of a title was obviated by the title being written on the binding.
It must, nevertheless, seem surprising that so simple and useful a contrivance as a title-page should not have been thought of sooner. In one respect, however, the employment of the colophon for so long a period is not to be regretted. If the title-page is more practical, the colophon is more individual and characteristic. The title-page may tell us something of the character of the author when it is his own wording, but as a rule nothing of the printer beyond the bare facts of his locality and his existence. But into the colophon the early printer