A colophon is the statement at the end of a printed work, which, at its most basic, offers information about the creation of the work: authorship, illustration(s) and artwork, printing, construction (binding, sewing, paper used), typefaces, date of printing.
Small press works are often collaborative productions, bringing together the talents of many individuals. The resulting publications (including books, broadsides, and ephemera) emphasize quality materials, attention to detail, and the craft of printing. Because small press productions are often “limited editions,” few copies are made. The colophon will usually tell you which copy you have out of how many were produced overall. The handicraft employed and fine materials used in these works limit the size of an edition. Artists’ and authors’ signatures will also often appear on the colophon.
But you can find much more in a colophon than just the facts. Check out the following examples from the Pentagram Press.
Colophons can express gratitude for labor done and friendship shared:
Colophons can allow the reader into the mindset of the author and/or printer (in this case the same person, Michael Tarachow):
And colophons can tell a little of the story of the press and its relationships with its authors. This colophon is written in the form of a letter to the author: