Margins for A4 paperback binding?

arjen's picture


I'm still busy with the quest of getting a half-decent phd thesis together, and am struggling a bit with the margins.
According to some traditional type setters the margins should be applied according to the golden cut, meaning a 2.3cm margin on the inside of the document.

However, I doubt that this mathematical calculation took the bit that goes missing in binding into consideration; did anyone bother to calculate the 'ideal' margins for a bound document? I do not have many footnotes or figures that would go in the margins.

The lenghth of the document is more or less not relevant, but I like it to look halfway decent.

I'm writing the thesis in pages'08 (uncurl your toes, LaTeX users!) - hey, at least it does ligatures and employs the proper styles for small caps, and I yet have to discover any rivers.

The main text of the thesis is Adobe Garamond Premiere Pro, 12 pts with a headers and page nrs in the upper and lower corners, resp.

oldnick's picture

The amount of margin will depend on the binding method: side stapling, GBC/Wire-O and, to a lesser extent, perfect binding all require more real estate than saddle-stitching or Smythe sewing...

Bert Vanderveen's picture

The problem with a A4 format is that a quite wide line measure is inevitable in a one column layout. A favored solution is to use wide margins.
Another way to use A4 favorably is by using a two column layout or a one-and-a-half column layout. The latter variety is very convenient for content with a high volume of notes (which can be placed in the half col).

My advice is to look at a stack of theses in your Uni's library and 'steal' the layout that you like most.

arjen's picture

@ bert, I don't have many footnotes, I have mainly figures, but they are the full width of a page, not small ones that can go in the footnotes.

The A4 format is given by the local 'promotionsordnung', but that is it, as far as guidelines go. However, the external reviewer needs to be able to read it, and if the thing is set halfway decent it'll also read easier...

Bert Vanderveen's picture

Full width figures combined with a narrow text column will look very nice, eg in the case of an asymmetrical layout. I have used that for a lot of reports and such.

A way to establish a column size:
1. Typeset a typical piece of text in the size you envision (eg 10,5 pt on a 15 pt transport).
2. Count the number of characters and the number of words for a sample of around 200 words.
3. Establish the average of characters per word.
4. Determine how many characters a measure of twelve or fourteen words is.
5. That value is the ideal column width.

1. Typeset two pages of your text with this column width. I would use non-justified, but you might prefer justified setting.
2. Print and use scissors to cut out the columns.
3. Play with these on a folded sheet of A3-sized paper. Combine with boxes that symbolize your illustrations (use a maximum width of 18 cm). Try to make both pages (left and right) identical, eg with the same layout.
4. At a certain point it will look 'right'. Paste everything down and measure margins etc.
5. Use these for your final layout.

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