The Typography of The Shipwright and Other Stories
Sunday, August 30, 2020 at 9:55am
It is now six days until the release of the new edition of The
Shipwright and Other Stories. This edition features not only a new
cover by Zhivko Zhelev, but also a brand new interior layout. In this
post, I’m going to talk about some of the typographic decisions I made
for that design.
The text block size and positioning adheres closely to the van de Graaf Canon,
except for the fact that I have moved the text block toward the outer
edge due to the roll of a paperback spine. The idea has been to simulate
the look of the Canon when the book is held open—legibility first. This
is the same text block positioning I used for the new edition of
Schrödinger’s City, which I discussed in detail in a previous post.
It is best practice throughout a book design for all elements on every
page to adhere to the same blocking. The text block doesn’t just define
the size and placement of the text block in the middle of chapters—it
binds the placement of items in all front matter and back matter, too.
Unlike Schrödinger, Shipwright’s got a map. When I was laying out
The Other, I made the discovery that forcing a map into the shape of
the text block is decidedly unappealing. As you can see, the map is
placed so that it will be as large as it can be on the page without
going into to the unsafe print zone or rolling into the spine. This
clashes with the text block, but it is decidedly more appealing when put
Zhivko Zhelev introduced me to the Optimus Princeps font, which he
used for the title. I then applied it throughout the interior as a
display font. The text font is
Apollo, which looks
great and has a nice resonance with the stories’ Classical inspiration.
One of the principles of book typography is that, if your design
distracts the reader from the text, you’ve failed. The book designer is
in the difficult position of needing to do something unique and
interesting, but also needing to make sure that those unique and
interesting elements are a subtle as possible.
It feels almost ridiculous to write this, but for Shipwright, I tried
1-pixel-thick horizontal lines. I placed a long one below each story
title on the story’s opening page, and I placed two short ones above and
below the page number. I was pleasantly surprised with how appealing
these look. They add Classical flavor without getting anywhere near
overwhelming or distracting.
The text of the Shipwright is unaltered from the 2019 edition. Neither
is there any new material. In contrast to all my other books, I decided
to keep the afterword that was included in the 2019 edition. I found it
still reads well to me now. I suspect the reason is that, unlike all my
other books, whose afterwords I wrote in 2017 shortly after shutting
down Fuzzy Hedgehog Press, I wrote the afterword for Shipwright in
2019 during the run up to its publication.
The new edition of The Shipwright and Other Stories will go up on
Amazon this coming Friday, September 4. As with before, I will hit the
buttons in the morning, and then it will take a business day or two for
everything to get sorted within Amazon’s systems. Based on previous
experience, I expect the ebook to receive the cover update within a day
and the paperback to be available by the following Monday or Tuesday.