The Printed Book

by Harry G. Aldis, M.A. Cambridge at the University Press 1916

Construction of a Book Part 5

When the lines of type in a page are set close together without any space between them, they are said to be solid. Sometimes the lines are slightly separated by means of thin strips of metal, called 'leads,' placed between them; the type is then said to be 'leaded.' A moderate sized type leaded is often pleasanter to read than a large faced type set solid; though votaries of the book beautiful would probably declare for the' all-overish' appearance of the large type. A page of leaded matter contains fewer lines than a similar page of solid matter. The difference caused by leading out is exemp1ified in pages 84 and 85. Page 84 is set solid and contains thirty-two lines; while page 85 is thick leaded and contains only twenty-five lines. The other pages of this book are thin leaded.

Leading may be adopted either to improve the look of the page, or to make it more legible, or, yet again, in order to spin out the book to a greater number of pages. For a book of poems or choice essays leading the lines and general spacing out is quite allowable and may produce a pleasing effect. The practice, in a less legitimate form, -may not infrequently be observed in certain novels and volumes of short stories, the appearance of which is familiar to most readers. Outside, the book is like unto other six- shilling novels. But on opening it, it is seen to be printed in large type, and the short lines which leave more than ample margin are heavily leaded; blank pages abound at the beginning and are introduced between the chapters and at every other opportunity; and, by printing the book on thick spongy paper, the attenuated matter is padded out to simulate an ordinary novel of a hundred thousand words.

If it be a volume of short stories, it quite possibly practices the further deception of appearing under the title of the first story only, as though it were a whole novel of that name. On making the acquaintance of a book we usually look first at the title page-hardened novel readers go straight to page I-for there we expect to find some account of its scope and character, just as we scan the face of a person for some indication of his personality. In this important page the book tells us, or should do so, its name, subject, author, where and by whom published, and, if it be honest, the date of publication. To express the scope and aim of a book concisely, clearly, and amply within the compass of a dozen words may tax the author's ingenuity; but to marshal these few words into an artistic and successful title page is no less a test of the printer's skill.. The composing of a really good title page is, indeed, one of the most difficult tasks in the whole craft of printing. Above all, a title must not be garrulous and straggle down from top to bottom of the page; nor should it be cryptically reticent. A satisfying title page tells its tale at once, like a well-composed picture, with the component parts carefully balanced and grouped into an harmonious and organic whole.