Justifying justification

blw's picture


I'm a graphic design student researching justified text, and wondered if anybody knew of some examples of brilliant (or terrible!) justified text? Previous forums have discussed whether it's a good idea or not, but I'm really looking for real examples of successful justification (possibly including pre-computers and pre-type, as one forum entry mentioned manuscripts written by monks). If anybody could recommend some books too, that'd be great.


agisaak's picture

The justification in Gutenberg's 42-Line bible worked quite well.


blank's picture

Herman Zapf’s books as rather well justified. As are most of the novels and nonfiction books published since the days of Gutenberg.

riccard0's picture

For examples of terrible justification, you can look at almost any e-book reader out there.

Christopher Adams's picture

You would be well-served to research not only examples of good justification, but also technique, everything from abbreviation to glyph scaling, from Johannes Gutenberg to Hàn Thế Thành.

There are some useful links in this thread: http://typophile.com/node/64375

Your research would also not be complete without noting Eric Gill's dissension as to the wisdom of justified text, which can be found in §6 of An Essay on Typography.

If you want to see what a modern justification engine is capable of, you can read the documentation for the microtype package in LaTeX: microtype.pdf. Even if you read the section headings and nothing else, it will give you the vocabulary to describe what such software is capable of.

The following figure illustrates what can be accomplished with tracking alone (for good or ill).

Don McCahill's picture

In the case of monk-generated manuscripts, I have seen some that approach justification through just ending one line in the middle of a word, and then continuing to the next. And then there are the books set entirely without word spacing. I tend to think these were do to semi-literate monks who merely copied letter after letter, without understanding the concept of words.

Igor Freiberger's picture


the New Left Review, published in your city, has an outstanding layout, including excellent justification. It's a model for text-only DTP.

blw's picture


Thanks for all your comments - they're really useful and you've given me some great ideas!


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