Beginning book design

Dan Gayle's picture

I've been studying how to become a book designer, so I figured I'd start small. Here's my edition of Edgar Allen Poe's the Raven.

It's my first attempt, but please don't be kind.

Thanks in advance. Any criticism you can provide will be helpful.

bieler's picture


Not being kind, or otherwise, just pointing out what I see.

Not a bad story to start with. The text face works, I'm blanking out on what it is. The line measure works.

I'd say the comp is okay but I'd suggest a British style rather than the American; en dash treatment rather than just the em dash, maybe use the single quotes, etc. Your spacing looks controlled (with an error or two) but the British approach might help here (see Bringhurst I guess). Maybe, maybe not, but I'd tighten the spacing up where punctuation occurs, especially before caps.

Your hyphenation needs work. Two letter beginnings aren't so good. Kick those over.

The title needs typographic pizzaz or you basically have nothing. Right now, who cares? This is where you can show your stuff, so do it.

Kern the D and G in Edgar just a tad please, if not for me, do it for Poe.

The initial letter O needs a better treatment. It's not a bad approach but it is set mechanically. Think organically. Don't let the machine dictate typography to you. Now how would Peter Schoeffer have handled that? :—)

Good luck, have fun, be proud.


Dan Gayle's picture

The punctuation space. I knew it. It comes from using a particular Emigre font famous for its 'less than ideal' spacing. I had hoped to contain a little bit of its rambunctiousness, but I can see that it just wouldn't work for anything longer than this piece.

Ens for Ems? I can try it. I don't remember, hairspace right?

As for the hyphens, I hate them always. Always. But I really, really hate wide word spacing. I have everything set to about 80% word spacing. But in order to fix some of the punctuation space errors, I started using non-breaking thin spaces. That, of course, opened up another whole can of worms, i.e., more ugly word space issues.

I'm really starting to see why spacing is an artform.

The big O is really just pissing me off. I haven't quite figured out how to get InDesign to do what I want. I converted the O to an outline, then adjusted some things, but you're right. Not organic at all. I've contemplated taking out the raised cap and just keeping the small caps for the intitial phrase.

Googled Peter Shoeffer. Guess he might know something about decorative initials. :)

Thanks. I'll post a revised version sometime or another.

bieler's picture

Hi again

Mrs Eaves? I've never had occasion to use it but I really don't have a problem with it and I thought the text had sort of the right funk to it because of the typeface. You can always adjust the kerning pairs to your liking.

The spacing isn't bad. The face has a wide look to it. I noticed more instances of getting close to overly tight spacing rather than loose spacing. I tend to space rather tightly myself. A hangover from my metal type days. But too tight, too loose, the eye catches these things. This is best controlled with the right combination of line measure and hyphenation. At some point, if you try long enough, it usually hits the right spot.

Maybe the O needs to be bigger or drop down into the text. Try it as a toned color. If Indy is screwing with it screw Indy and just make it into an image file and work around it with the text.

Plus the O is just round. You need probably a better O. Work out a different typeface for the display titling and take the O from that.

The raven needs to crackle.

Schoeffer is underrated in the historical myth telling of the Gutenberg saga but not so much in the more serious printing history research. He is where we come from.


timd's picture

I think you are fighting the ‘qualities’ of Mrs Eaves while starting book design and it might be just too much to take on in one go. The low x-height with the generous leading make for a rather bright page, you might look at Storm's Baskerville Ten as an alternative.
It seems to me that the outside margin is rather large and is pushing the text block towards the centre and the bottom margin is pushing it up. For the Decorative O you could look at dropping it down a little and a touch to the left and let it move the second line across. I would second Gerald’s comment about en dashes and in this case hairspaces might be the way to go. Run a check for ’tis, I spotted ‘Tis in the first para.

bojev's picture

Put the 'Big O" in a seperate text box and use Text Wrap to play with it as a drop cap - this will allow you more control than a menu driven drop cap.

James Scriven's picture

I have used Mrs Eaves on many occasions, let me restate that, I include it as a possibility in many projects, ive never gone through with it. It looks really nice, and then you see a whole page of it and like what was said earler, its bright. Margins seem a little large, what size is the indent?

Not sure what anyone else calls or thinks of this but watch for the pig bristles.


Dan Gayle's picture

Revision 1
I tried setting everything in Berthold's Baskerville Book, but it didn't have the same "wild" feeling the Mrs. Eaves has. Since the setting is so short, I figure it'll work fine.

So I scrapped Revision 1

Revision 2
I finally gave in and decided to modify the page size. I originally was trying, unsuccessfully, to create a text block on a 8.5 x 11" page. But, since this is practice, I modified everything to fit on a 6.8 x 11" Golden page.

The title page, etc, was re-set in Kepler. (By the way, has anyone used this typeface? It's freakin' huge! I mean, over a hundred different fonts? I don't know what I was getting into when I bought it. I haven't really heard any comments about it. Any thoughts?)

I think it crackled up the raven a bit :)

The margins are:
1.1" top & inside
1.36" outside
2.2" bottom

En dashes definitely help the color. Way too many dashes in the first place. Additionally, I don't know why there was so much punctuation used, like a hyphen after a colon, so I simplified things.

bieler's picture


I am working on a project with Kepler MM. Yeah, it's a monster, but it was much more of a monster when it first came out than it is now!!! It was quite a burden on the older systems.

It's looking very good dude. Pull Edgar Allen Poe over to visually (not mechanically) line up with the The in the title. See what that looks like. Maybe lead out the title a bit. Looks tight but what do I know.

Wow, I'm proud of you.


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