Format the arguments according to string. Works like the C library printf function. Standard printf percent-sign formats are recognized in string, such as %i for integer. Escape sequences such as \n can be included in string and are automatically recognized; if you want to include them in arguments, specify a string of %b. You can escape characters in arguments to output a string suitable for input to other commands by specifying a string of %q.
printf "Previous command: %i\n" "$(($HISTCMD-1))"Previous command: 534 $
echo $PAGERless -E $
printf "%q\n" "\t$PAGER"\\tless\ -E
The last command would probably be used to record a setting in a file where it could be read and assigned by another shell script.