Books on book design

I was just asked about book design titles. Here are some that have stayed close to my desk:

The Elements of Typographic Style by Robert Bringhurst

Everything you need to know is in this book. This book is beautifully designed and printed. The books have a ribbon bookmark. Mine is set on the spread of ratios. At one time I worked through the math and proportions for every book I designed. Eventually, I had a body of experience that I could refer to — templates, notes, and printed results of my efforts. At this point, amazingly enough, some of it now part of my own body. That is, I can amaze myself by drawing boxes or choosing positions on the page that turn out to be in proportion if I check the math. I’ve absorbed the aesthetic.

The Design of Books by Adrian Wilson

This great book appears to be out of print. I have a copy that was issued by Chronicle Books in 1993. The process and methods in the book are pre-desktop computing. The book is richly illustrated with examples of book design from the 1960. Adrian Wilson worked at a time when comping was done by hand and the designer communicated their vision to various craftspeople who worked in other buildings or other towns. Those methods enforced a clarity of vision that we do not need in a world where we can create a visual faster than we can imagine it. Covers type, papers, binding, boxes for limited editions — I return to this book again and again for inspiration.

The Form of the Book: Essays on the Morality of Good Design by Jan Tschichold

This one is out of print too. Guess that says a lot right there. This collection of essays covers typography and the materials of book production. I have a flag on the page about footnotes. Between Bringhurst and Tschichold, you can learn everything you need about setting beautiful type

One thought on “Books on book design

  1. The other one I regularly consult is Hugh Williamson’s Methods of Book Design (third edition), which is particularly useful for keeping straight the various elements of the book, especially front and back matter, and why they’re arranged the way they (usually) are. For pure inspiration (as well as good practical information), I would add Designing books, by Jost Hochuli and Robin Kinross (Hyphen Press), which is in print.

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