This all goes back to the days of hot metal typesetting and letterpress printing.  A galley was originally a long metal tray into which the lines of hot-metal type were placed after composition.  After the galley was filled with lines of type (about 2-3 pages worth depending on the page design) it would be locked up, holding the type tight within it, then inked by hand roller and a proof pulled.  This galley proof, the first proof, was commonly referred to as a galley.  It would be followed after correction, by page proofs – the galley was unlocked and the lines of type corrected and made up into pages, before a similar lock-up and hand proofing of the composed pages.

A galley of type coming from the caster. Photo: Gloucester Typesetting

A galley of type coming from the caster. Photo: Gloucester Typesetting

So galleys over the years came to mean first proofs, and as publishers began to economize by not sending revised proof to their authors, checking them in-house against the foul galleys, the word began to be synonymous with “proofs”.   Being a more romantic sounding word than just “proof”, “galley” has stuck, but has now morphed to a more specialized meaning as bound galleys – those lovely paperback books we all love to pick up at BEA.

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