Layout and Typesetting

Book designed in the traditional style, based on eighteenth century designs. Notice the wide margins, narrower on the inside and top of the page than on the outside and bottom. This was typical of books before the twentieth century.The layout of text in a book differs greatly from the standard formatting in microsoft word or other word processing programs. These programs emulate the page layout of typewriters, intended to be read as single pages, whereas the page layout found in bound books dates back long before computers or typewriters--back to the days of movable type printing presses when each letter had to be placed individually on the printing block, a process known as typesetting.

Rather than the tedious process of arranging letters individually, a practice that continued until only a couple decades ago, modern typesetters arrange text electronically with the aid of computer programs. These aim to deliver total control over the layout of text and other design features, while also allowing the advantages of spell checking and a few automated features to reduce tedious labor.

Besides the layout of the text, page numbers, titles, drop caps, and other page design features, the typesetter must also consider the arrangement of the pages themselves. The pages are actually not printed sequentially as they would appear in the finished book, but must be printed out of order, their arrangement depending on the style of binding the printed pages will receive. Books usually consist of groupings of pages known as signatures--usually sixteen pages long--which are printed as one and then folded. Arranging the pages so that they will be in the right order when folded and bound, called paste-up, used to also be done by hand (and still is for some offset printing presses) but this can now be accomplished electronically computer programs that will even do this automatically.

Layout and Typesetting also involves creating title pages, tables of contents, indexes, creating drop caps--the oversized capitol letter at the beginning of each chapter in many books--formatting margins, inserting graphics and pictures, text alignment and spacing, and many other nuances that people take for granted in the books they buy. The process can range from very simple to extremely complex depending on the design and content of the book.


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