edition, impression, issue, state ☜☞ edición, impresión, emisión, estado

The definition of edition, impression, issue, and state as quoted from Carter’s ABC for Book Collectors, are key concepts in printing history. It takes close study (hands-on practice with setting type and printing, or at least watching a video) to better comprehend their full significance. Comedias sueltas belong in the realm of ephemera and are works that were printed with little care and can serve as illustrative examples.

An edition is all the copies of a book printed at any time (or times) from substantially the same setting of type, and includes all the various impressions, issues, and states which may have derived from that setting. As to the meaning of ‘substantially the same setting of type’, there are bound to be ambiguous cases, but we may take it as a simple rule of thumb that there is a new edition when more than half the type has been reset, but that if less than half the type has been reset, we are probably dealing with another impression, issue, or state.  

Edition, as applied to sueltas: The plays of the popular playwrights were printed by many printers all over Spain, sometimes more than once, with intervals of a few or several years. Each appearance of a play from “the same setting of type” represents an edition.  The curious twist in all of this is that some printers (most notably the Orga family) printed plays in the 1760s using long SS and other orthographic conventions of the time and reprinted these same plays in a different edition (=different setting of type) decades later with short ss and updated orthographic practices, but still printing the old date at the end of the colophon.  These are concealed reprints, and you can read all about the fraudulent editions in Miscellanies.

Impression, which means all the copies of an edition printed at any one time, is as a concept less ambiguous than edition, but impressions can be difficult to identify. In the hand-press period it was normal to distribute and re-use the type from each sheet as it was printed off, so that at that time the edition and the impression were generally the same thing.

An issue is all the copies of that part of an edition which is identifiable as a consciously planned printed unit distinct from the basic form of the ideal copy. The criteria are that the work must differ in some typographical way from copies of the edition first put on the market yet be composed largely of sheets deriving from the original setting; and that the copies forming another issue must be a purposeful publishing unit removed from the original issue either in form (separate issue) or in time (reissue).  DWC: DOES THE EXAMPLE OF THE RUNNING HEADER FROM ENTRE EL HONOR Y EL AMOR FIT THE BIIL HERE?

The term state is used to cover all other variants from the basic form of the ideal copy. There are five major classes of variant states. (1) Alterations not affecting the make-up of the pages, made intentionally or unintentionally during printing, such as: stop-press corrections; resetting as the result of accidental damage to the type; resetting of distributed matter following a decision during printing to enlarge the edition quantity. (2) The addition, deletion, or substitution of matter, affecting the make-up of the pages, but carried out during printing. (3) Alterations made after some copies had been sold (not involving a new title page) such as the insertion or cancellation of preliminaries or text pages, or the addition of errata leaves, advertisements, etc. (4) Errors of imposition, or of machining (e. g., sheets perfected the wrong way round*; but not errors of folding). (5) Special-paper copies not distinguished typographically from those on ordinary paper. Apart from class (5), differences of state are generally the attributes of individual forms, or sometimes of individual sheets.

State with examples from sueltas: No matter how careful the proofreading, a print run may have started with some mistakes that had gone unnoticed. Under the best of circumstances, if something egregious is spotted early on, the press can be stopped, the correction made, and only a few examples will bear the mistake for the world to see.

By the same token, if the press run had been in operation over many hours, a letter may become loose or pulled out in inking, and this too may go unnoticed for a while, until such time as it is noticed and corrected (or not). [DWC]

Example in colophon: Tirso, El amor médico. HSA has 2 copies, one with and one without the "o" of "original". already used as example of dropped letter, repeat here?

MATT:   Example on title page: Valiente Justiciero: title page gracioso missing “s” HSA vs Boston Athenaeum [also Michigan & Harvard] copy.  See DWC e-mail 6/2/21 for explanation.

Check: Two states of setting:  See DWC’s notes on Dartmouth Corrections C/A #7085 [desglosada, pp. [391]–476: 2 copies in Texas/Austin (659, 669), said to be from vol. 2 of TNE [what's TNE?]; UNC (8346) and Texas/Austin (814) have copies of ed with 86 pp. (although UNC pagination has been tampered with by hand). [Is this right? DWC]

*perfecting a sheet means printing the second side of the sheet after the first one has dried. Naturally, the printer must me careful to have sheet facing the correct way.