Book printing

I have sometimes wondered if there should be a set layout of books, and to what extent this applies to booklets.

Perhaps it depends on whether the book is to be as traditional as possible, or if it is to be an economical product.

Should the various parts be chosen from the following list:

Hard cover
End papers
Bastard title (the word is less offensive in Australia)
Full title
Table of Contents (usually headed just Contents)
List of abbreviations used in the book (including ibid and cf)
List of photographs/illustrations
The actual text of the book
Sometimes an “afterword”
References (if not placed as footnotes)
Acknowledgements of sources of photographs

On the turn-over of the dust cover are often printed something about the origin of the book, and a brief resume of the author. Sometimes a list of the books written by the author, or a list of books of a similar nature published by the publisher, is given on some of the pages towards the back of the book. Occasionally a registration card is provided. Some publishers invite readers to join a “club”.

Some references to the colophon page describe it as belonging to the back of the book; most colophons I have seen are at the front. The colophon should include a great deal of information, the publisher’s name and address, the author’s details, an ISBN number, whether it is first edition or a later reprint/edition, possibly the Dewey number, a statement about copyright, where the type was set and the typeface and leading (ledding) and size of type, often expressed as a type size and the type body, 10 on 12 point for example. Sometimes an acknowledgement of a sponsor is included. The name and details of the printer are usually included. A dedication is sometimes included (always on a discrete page), with or without an explanation.

Are there other details to be included? Maps, for example, where appropriate.

Some things puzzle me; a book of high standard usually has the chapters starting on a right-hand page, cheaper books just follow on from the end of the previous chapter. Page numbers should be placed where they can be read easily. [A book about the history and development of numbers and counting systems had the page numbers placed close to the spine, obviously a printer was not consulted.] Should the title of the book and the titles of the chapters be at the top of the pages? Usually the book title on left-hand pages, the chapter heading on right-hand.

This all started from my wondering about the style of setting of the Contents page; many books have chapters with a few words as some of the chapter headings, and many words for other headings. When typeset in a table, should the words be joined to the corresponding page numbers by a string of leaders (small dots which form a link across from one side to the other)? To my mind, a large patch of leader dots is ugly, but the dots are needed to direct the eye of the reader. Sometimes the long chapter headings may be typeset on two lines (with a hanging indent) so that the strings of leaders are not very long and very short.

It is normal practice to typeset quotations or extracts in a size of type smaller than the body type, the suggestion is to use a similar but distinct typeface of the same apparent size as the body type. Please do not use a bold face for these interspersed paragraphs. Why are footnotes often typeset in a very tiny size?

And one of my “pet hates” is books which have been published as paperbacks on cheap paper, then a later edition is printed letterpress using plastic plates made from photographing/photocopying the pages of the book; this makes the typeface difficult to read because of the gain resulting from the spread of the ink, compounded because of the original letterpress print and a further step using the letterpress plastic plates.

I have “printed” a small booklet of my own authorship, about 32 pages A5 using a computer printer because I required only a few copies, less than 100. Putting a cover on this taxed my resources somewhat. But I was able to include a map in later “editions” and glue-in leaves of trees relevant to the story. Some of the leaves and twigs (one each per book) came from a tree which (if the story had been factual) might have been used by the Jolly Swagman who camped by a Billabong, under the shade of a coolibah tree.

The following layout may not transfer to the topics section of Briar Press, but I’ll try. [The heading should be centred, but I know not how to do that.] Should the chapter headings be capitalised traditionally?

The First Day …………………………… 1
The Second Day ………………………. 5
The Following Days, of Importance. 9
The Climax of Days ………………….. 25
The Last Day …………………………… 31

The First Day ………… 1
The Second Day ……. 2
The Following Days,
of Importance …….. 9
The Climax of Days .. 25
The Last Day ………… 31

Let us see what comes of that.


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There is no one absolute standard, and all comes down to house style. This is why there are Style Manuals to explain what the form should be for a given shop. And even these change over time. So, from several University of Chicago, GPO, and other house style manuals I can find a justification for pretty much whatever I want to do.
Copyright page and colophon are usually different, the copyright being the verso of the title, and the colophon being at the end. But then I’ve also seen a press mark identified as a colophon.
The pet hate about cheap reprint editions shouldn’t refer to letterpress but instead to rubber-plate printing, not the same thing as used in mass-market publishing. And even offset reprints may have serious loss of quality, typographically. I just saw a P. G. Wodehouse offset reprint that had been scanned and output as grayscale, so the whole book was printed by halftone screen.

Heh I once made a book that contained most of the things on your list:

A dust cover, hard cover (foil stamped), marbled endpapers, half-title, title, edition notice, dedication, preface, author’s note, table of contents, bibliography, index, colophon.

In addition, the book was housed in a buckram-covered clam shell case.

Given all that, the actual copy was just a page long :D


Other than pursuing the manuals of style and other reference books, probably the best thing to do is examine books that you think are very well designed. Try and determine how that happened.

Parallel is correct about the reprinting thing. A while back a University Press wanted to buy the rights to reprint the paperback version of a book produced from repros of a limited edition version I had set and printed in metal type.


I still had the letterpress printed repros for the paperback and asked them if they wanted those as well. Nope, they just went ahead and cut one of the paperbacks apart, scanned it, and had it reproduced. Really, really, really looked awful.