The midget folio

This is a book I once saw in the rare books room of the San Francisco Library called Quads Within Quads. It was published by an oddball British printer named Andrew W. Tuer in 1884 and contains a collection of jokes about printing.

The jokes about printing that I am capable of understanding are generally pretty corny and hard to explain and not really worth the effort of explaining anyway. Take, for example, the left-hand page pictured below: you see a caption THE NEW STEAM COMPOSITOR under a robotic figure of someone standing at a weird kind of table. The joke is that steam-powered presses had been introduced earlier in the century to speed up the printing process; compositing, meanwhile, was the thankless task of assembling metal type by hand (thus, the weird table which held the type); therefore, one expects to see some sort of newly-invented machine that automates the task of compositing but instead sees a compositing automaton. Get it? No? OK, let’s just move on…

The great thing about Quads Within Quads is that it was printed with a square section cut out from the middle pages, like where you might hide a bottle of whiskey or a roll of microfilm. So, what’s placed in the cut-away square section? A miniaturized version of the same book. Apparently, this is called a ‘midget folio’ (when you produce a mini-version of a larger book). I was a little disappointed to learn that the miniaturized version does not itself contain an even smaller version, and so on and so forth like Russian dolls.

Quads Within Quads


Top photo: both versions together. Lower photo: zoom-in on midget folio.

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