Literature in the Flanaess: Books and Bindings
Date: Thu, March 10, 2005
Topic: The Library

This is the second article in the Greyhawk Bibliographica series. Being in the nature of a second introduction, Literature in the Flanaess: Books and Binding, discusses how books are made and described. A system for determining the price of a book once its dimensions and binding are established is also presented. Here in, the reader may discover the nature of a Chrysographic, Royally bound, Morokkon Black, Double Crown Quarto, etc.. Your PCs need never again be told, "You found a book. Its a book."

Literature in the Flanaess: Books and Bindings
By: Glenn Vincent Dammerung, aka GVDammerung
Used with Permission. Do not repost without obtaining prior permission from the author.


This article is the second introduction to the Greyhawk Bibliographica series. Its focus is on the physical makeup of books. Alone among the Greyhawk Bibliographica entries, there is a focus on numbers. Books are, in part, defined by their physical dimensions. At the same time, an attempt is made to quantify how much a given book might cost, considering how it is made.

Introduction - Sheets, Leaves, Pages and Signatures

Books may be composed of paper, papyrus, parchment or vellum. More exotic and hard to work materials may also be used but these will not be discussed. For ease of reference, we will refer to books made of paper

A single sheet of paper has two sides. This is simply called a sheet.

If a sheet of paper is folded in half, where the fold is thought of as a spine, the two fractional portions of the sheet formed by the fold are called leaves. The singular is leaf. The singular leaf refers, then, to a single fractional portion of the sheet of paper created by a fold. Each side of a leaf is called a page. Referring to a two-sided leaf as a page is common but technically incorrect in the parlance of bookbinders.

Books may be defined in terms of the number of folds in a sheet of paper that produce a number of leaves and thus pages. Of course, books are not usually constructed from a single sheet of paper folded many times. Rather, books are usually composed of a number of sheets of paper, each of which has been folded an equal number of times. A single sheet of paper, folded a specific number of times, creating a specific number of leaves and pages, is called a signature. Most books are made up of multiple, identical signatures - multiple sheets of paper, each of which have been folded the same number of times. The number of signatures is not used to define a book, however.

Books are named for the number of folds that are made in a single sheet of paper that produces a number of leaves and pages in a single signature.

Types of Books - Specific Folds

When a sheet of paper is folded, multiple leaves, and thus multiple pages, are created. For example, if a single sheet of paper is folded once (in half), the result is two leaves and four pages. This is abbreviated as 1/2/4 - meaning 1 fold, 2 leaves, 4 pages.

All books may be defined by the number of folds in a single sheet of paper. The number of folds will determine the number of leaves and thus the numbers of pages (sides). Specific names are attached to books composed of sheets of paper with specific numbers of folds, leaves and pages per sheet of paper. The most common are as follows -

Folio - 1/2/4 [Note - a Codex is a book composed of Folio signatures]
Quarto - 2/4/8
Octavo - 3/8/16
Sextodecimo - 4/16/32 [a sextodecimo is also known as a 16mo]
Duodecimo - 5/32/64 [a duodecimo is also known as a 12mo]

Sizes of Books - Paper Size

Of course, knowing the number of folds does not indicate the size of the resulting book. The size of the book will be dependent on the size of the initial sheet of paper that is folded in folio, in quarto, in octavo, in sextodecimo or in duodecimo. Sheets of paper of varying sizes have specific names. The most common are as follows (the given dimensions are in inches for the initial sheet of paper before it is folded):

Foolscap - 13.5x17
Crown - 15x20
Double Foolscap - 17x27
Royal - 20x25
Double Crown - 20x30
Imperial - 22x30
Double Royal - 25x40
Double Imperial - 30x44

There are a number of other named paper sizes but these are the most commonly found in Greyhawk.

Describing Books

Books are, thus, described by reference to both the size of the initial sheet of paper and the number of folds. For example, one could have a book that is:

A Crown Folio
A Crown Octavo
A Double Royal Folio
A Double Royal Quarto
An Imperial Duodecimo
A Foolscap Sextodecimo

The potential combinations are numerous.

The most common types of books found in the World of Greyhawk use the Royal measure in folio, in quarto, in octavo, in sextodecimo or in duodecimo. When bound and trimmed the actual size of the most common books are as follows:

Royal Folio - 15 inches tall x 12 inches wide
Royal Quarto - 12 inches tall x 9 inches wide
Royal Octavo - 9 inches tall x 6 inches wide
Royal Sextodecimo - 6 inches tall x 4 inches wide
Royal Duodecimo - 4 inches tall x 2 inches wide

To create large book sizes, the measure of the paper (royal etc.) can be increased or the folds (quarto etc.) can be decreased, or both. A Double Imperial Folio would be huge. An inverse procedure will create small books.

Unique books of unusual size can always be specially commissioned but they will be unique and commensurately expensive.


Binding a book is vital to its ability to survive intact for any length of time. A poorly bound book will simply fall apart. A well bound book may last for ages if properly cared for by the owner. Bindings are composed of two elements - the base material of the binding and the style of the binding. Common book binding materials and styles are as follows:

Binding Materials:

Calfskin (leather)
Morokkon (Goatskin leather)

Binding Styles:

Armorial Binding - A book with the arms of the author’s patron tooled into the binding.
Fanfare Binding - Interlaced ribbons forming floral or geometric shapes over the binding.
Gold Tooled Binding - A book with gold decorations tooled into the binding.
Harleian Binding - A book with a large tooled central lozenge and borders made up of one or more tooled rolls.
Inlaid Bindings - A book inlaid with different color leathers to form a mosaic.
Lyonese Binding - A book with heavy center and corner pieces.
Mosaic Binding - A book with polychrome inlays created with paint or, more rarely, metal inlays.
Royal Binding - A binding which incorporates royal or imperial arms as a pure tribute or for patronage.
Sombre Binding - A black binding tooled blind, meaning without decoration or color.

A description of a book’s particular binding may be added to the basic description (e.g. Crown Folio) given above. Thus, one might have a Crown Folio bound Armorially in red Morokkon leather.

Pricing Books

No book will be cheaply had unless you are allowing for some type of printing, block, moveable type etc. This article assumes all books are produced by hand. A base price for a book can be determined as follows:

Book Type (Folio etc.) x Book Size (Royal etc.) x Material (Parchment etc.) x Binding (material + style) = Base Price

GP costs for Book Type and Book Size are as follows:

Book Type:

Folio - 15gp
Quarto - 10gp
Octavo - 5gp
Sextodecimo - 2gp
Duodecimo - 1gp

Book Size:

Foolscap - 1gp
Crown - 2gp
Double Foolscap - 3gp
Royal - 4gp
Double Crown - 5gp
Imperial - 10gp
Double Royal - 15gp
Double Imperial - 20gp


Paper (where available) - 5gp
Papyrus - 2gp
Vellum - 5gp
Parchment - 10gp

Binding Material:

Cloth - 1gp
Sheepskin - 2gp
Calfskin (leather) - 3gp
Morokkon (Goatskin leather)
Black - 4gp
Brown/Tan - 5gp
Red - 10gp

Binding Style:

Armorial Binding - +3gp
Fanfare Binding - +1gp
Gold Tooled Binding - +10gp
Harleian Binding - +2gp
Inlaid Bindings - +1gp
Lyonese Binding - +2gp
Mosaic Binding - +1gp
Royal Binding - +5gp
Sombre Binding - +1gp

The base price does not consider the actual contents of the book. More useful or interesting contents will, obviously, increase the value of the book. The same would be true of the addition of maps, diagrams or illustrations. These factors are largely up to the individual DM.

Books that contain spells or are magical will be the most valuable of all books. It is recommended that these types of books not be found for sale in the ordinary course of an adventure, however.

Illuminating a manuscript costs a great deal more in time and in materials and is, thus, listed last. Illumination multiplies the cost of a book as follows:

Illuminated capital on each page - x2
Illuminated script, plus capital - x3
Illuminated border, plus script and capital - x5
Full Illumination, border, script and capital plus facing page illuminated picture - x10
Chrysographica - full illumination plus golden script and inlays - x25

Using the foregoing information, it is possible to create fairly detailed descriptions of books for a campaign. Later entries in the Greyhawk Bibliographica series will provide sample books to which the foregoing system can be applied.

Author’s End Note
This concludes the second introductory portion of the Greyhawk Bibliographica series. Each Greyhawk Bibliographica entry, hereafter, will present two to three paragraph descriptions of multiple books in a variety of classifications along with introductory material discussing the specific classification of the entry, for example, General Histories, or Travelogues. Each entry can stand on its own but all may also be read together. There are no “parts,” per se. A look at general historic texts in the Flanaess will next follow.

This article comes from Canonfire!

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