Friday, August 18, 2006

Number Line aka Printers Key Harper Collins Explanation

Many thanks for your email sent via, and apologies
for the late reply.

With each successive reprint, the publisher needs to instruct the
printer to change the impression number, and the theory is that they're
less likely to make a mistake if all they're doing is removing the
lowest number rather than changing (and introducing) a new number each

So, with this arrangement, all the printer has to do is "rub off" the
outer number that's lowest in the sequence. And by changing only the
outer number it means that the fewest possible changes are made to the
page of characters, which means the smallest possible charge to the
publisher. (In the days of hot-metal printing, where each character was
a metal block, all the printer had to was literally pick out the
relevant blocks from the "sheet" and then the stack of blocks - which
would have been laboriously laid out when the page was first set up -
could be inked up for the reprint.)

I hope this helps.

HarperCollins Publishers UK

1 comment:

stephen said...


I find this very confusing, as the taking away of the lowest number at each printing seems to be at odds with some books in my possesssion.

I have several Harper Collins Bernard Cornwell hardbacks, including 3 of the Saxon series. My copies all have a single number on the numerical line (ie number 1). I have just borrowed a 4th book - the first in the series - which has a full line of numbers, from 1-10.

Which is the earlier edition amongst these?