Friday, February 04, 2005


Broad Sides and Wide Bottoms

The Daily Telegraph is feeling marginalized:

The pages of Tim Parks's new novel, Rapids, just published by Secker & Warburg, look distinctly odd. The bottom margin is more than twice as deep as the one at the top of the page: it suggests that the pages have been cut incorrectly.

"Absolutely not," says a spokesperson at Random House. Their new designer believes that the top margin should be about 30 per cent of the white space whereas the bottom one should be between 60 and 70 per cent because "the eyes move down the page"....

I've seen a number of books from the first couple decades of the 20th century that have similar margins, not to mention some awfully wide side margins as well. It's a handy format for marking up a book: a wide margin operates as a sort of additional column of implied text, waiting to be filled by generations of readers with penciled-in notations. You still see it in textbooks and Dummies guides and the like, but not much in either fiction or nonfiction narratives. Perhaps we should bring it back...

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