Typography critique wanted for a theological essay....(Uploaded a revised version, please review)

zeno333's picture

Ignore the theology....I am looking only for a critique of the typography used. :) :) I just uploaded a different version...)

Acts 1-9-11 and Matthew 24-1-34 Regarding the Coming Back of Jesus 17a.pdf122.35 KB
HVB's picture

Except that the theology is intricately connected with the typography. I don't know which new testament interpretation you're using, but anything but the early 17th c. King James version written in blackletter just seems wrong and out of place to me. Contemporary English in an antique typestyle seems self-contradictory.

I was also briefly confused by the initial blackletter glyph. The verse number appeared as the letter 'g' rather than the number '9'.

Herb VB

JEH's picture
  • As previously mentioned, blackletter only makes sense if you are attempting to reproduce some specific printing of the Bible.
  • Your use of a bold weight within the body of your text is distracting. Italics are a less disruptive way of providing emphasis. Similarly, SHOUTING is rude.
  • Small numbers should generally be written out; e.g., "2" in the first sentence should be "two".
  • Consider block indenting long quotes.
  • Your double quotes are a mix of straight quotes and curly ("typographer's") quotes. You should choose one convention and stick with it; typographer's quotes lead to better looking spacing.
  • Your measure is much too long. You can fix this by increasing your left/right margins, and increasing the size of your type.
  • Your top/bottom margins seem very narrow. Play with them in order to choose a reasonable aspect ratio for your page space.
  • The absence of hyphenation (and center justification) leads to very uneven spacing between words, which is disruptive.
  • Try decreasing your inter-paragraph space and indenting your paragraphs; it would tend to flow better.
  • Your ordinal indicators could be written as superscripts.
  • Play with your leading; it seems a bit large with your main body typeface (though not in the blackletter portions...)
  • The center/bold section headings are rather typewriter-y.

These are just very quick comments. Many of the things that I've commented on look like default settings rather than deliberate choices on your part; if this is so, you may want to consider going through a couple of books on typography and print design. I've found The Elements of Typographic Style by Robert Bringhurst an excellent and accessible introduction to typography in general, and Book Typography: A Designer's Manual by Michael Mitchell and Susan Wightman to be an excellent introduction to book design.

hrant's picture

The above opinions are solid, but mainstream. Specifically:
- Blackletter can make sense beyond mere historicism - it has a flavor and relevance all its own. That said, it certainly is difficult finding a blackletter than can work in a sophisticated way.
- Although Bold is indeed almost always too disruptive, do consider using a Demi for emphasis (if available). To me that's even more elegant and functional than using Italics.


Joshua Langman's picture

Try something other than Times for your body text. A classic serifed font should work well. Perhaps then you can set the biblical extracts in a compatible sans serif — or vice versa.

I do think the blackletter is too disruptive and unreadable. I might simply use italics, or a second color. If you must use blackletter, though, why not find one that's more open and readable, like Clairvaux? Or simply set the titles ("Acts 1:9–11") in blackletter, and leave the text in roman? Or just use a blackletter drop cap or something?

I recommend old-style ("lowercase") numerals, and en dashes as opposed to hyphens in verse numbers. You use them sometimes, but not always.

You do not need quote marks around the biblical passages; a change of font (and, probably indent) is enough.

I would set the verse numbers in the text in a different color (red) or in light grey.

If you set the extracts narrower, with a large right margin, and the commentary narrower, with a large left margin, or some such arrangement, you could make an interesting visual alternation between text and commentary, while suggesting two columns or trains of thought.

The main thing, though, is to find an alternative to the blackletter you're using.

Super quick sample of a different approach, just to give you some things to think about:

hrant's picture

If you must use blackletter, though, why not find one that's more open and readable

Bingo: http://www.type-together.com/Eskapade%20Fraktur

And if even that's too much, maybe something gently evocative of blackletter, like Bremer Antiqua* or at least Emerson (the latter showing the hand of the punchcutter of the former, even though Blumenthal wouldn't explicitly admit it).

* http://www.bureau-perraudin.com/en/typo_04.html


zeno333's picture

I just uploaded a new version....I still want the bold type for emphasis.....Ed Stevens, the leading world authority on the topic of the essay, uses that technique and he recommended it to me. The topic of the essay is very "revolutionary" and sometimes in a "revolution" shouting is needed. ;) ;) The essay is trying to change well ingrained old concepts of the reader, so great emphasis is needed in certain key phrases etc.

hrant's picture

Is he the world authority on the content, or its presentation? Very different animals. If he's the world authority on the latter, please send him over here.


JamesM's picture

> the leading world authority on the topic of the essay

According to who? (Not trying to be argumentative, just curious.)

Joshua Langman's picture

The new version is a huge improvement. Well done.

I still would like to see oldstyle figures for verse numbers (which Times New Roman actually does have, in some versions), or at least reduced size lining figures.

The italic is much more readable than the blackletter, and the two-column setting helps.

Some of your quotes are still straight.

You might try reducing your type size by one or two points, but keeping the leading the same. I think that will greatly help your readability overall — smaller type, more space between the lines. This is generally easier to reads than large type, tightly spaced.

John Hudson's picture

The bold type is a very bad idea: it fragments the text and actually reduces the readability of the document. As soon as one engages with the page, one's eye is drawn to these passages, but they don't make sense without the connecting text. This is lousy text articulation, and there is good reason why, in +550 years, this has never become one of the norms of typography.

As for reflecting a 'revolutionary' content of the theology... well, no, it just makes you look like a typographical crank, the documentary equivalent of someone ranting on a street corner. Theological arguments must hold their own in the norms of reasoned discourse, and dressing them up with idiosyncratic emphasis is likely to make readers question that ability.

Joshua Langman's picture

Just a suggestion — as you update the design, keep the old versions posted so future readers can follow the progression of the thread.

Karl Stange's picture

Where and in what medium is this likely to be published?

hrant's picture

It's quite possible Eskapade has become the best solution to this project:


Renaissance Man's picture

I know you said, "Ignore the theology....I am looking only for a critique of the typography used," but I think the typography matches the writing style and the theology.

Even so, listen to John Hudson.

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