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Bookshapes - May 1979

May 1979, no. 10

Bookshapes - May 1979

May 1979, no. 10

It has been suggested that ‘picas’ should again be awarded to books discussed in this column, on the scale of excellence of nought to three established by my predecessor, Peter Pica. Well, I will try; but I point out that what I am looking at is the success or otherwise of books in their own field; I am not trying to relate different kinds of books to one immutable standard of design and production, even if it were possible to do so. I am conscious of the fallibility of judgements like these.


Portable Australian Authors Series. Rolf Boldrewood. Edited by Alan Brissenden. University of Queensland Press. Printed and bound in Hong Kong.

It is portable, but is it legible? This book consists mainly of Robbery Under Arms, photographed from an 1893 printing of Macmillan’s hideous one-volume edition of 1889, which with its packed setting – 50 8½-point lines to the page – was a typical Victorian test of the reader’s eyesight. (The three-volume Remington edition of 1888, which ran to more pages, was by contrast a model of well-leaded readability.) This facsimile is unevenly printed and there is a lot of show-through. Much as I admire UQP, this production rates, I think, no picas.


Menzies Observed, by Cameron Hazlehurst. George Allen & Unwin Australia. Set by Asco Trade Typesetting, Hong Kong; printed by Griffin Press.

We used to set them in Australia and send the repro away to the uncomprehending North to be printed. The tide has turned, and here is skilful Asian typesetting printed without a blush in Australia. It is a mystery to me how this happens, when there are so many typesetters about that you almost expect to find a type shop in the back corner of the local supermarket. The interesting thing about Menzies Observed, however, has nothing to do with Asco but with the publishers, who specified 11 on 12 point Times for the text and 10 on 12 Plan tin to a narrower measure for the quoted matter, which is extensive. There is a disconcerting difference in the colour of the pages, the Plantin appearing much lighter and greyer than the Times. But all things are possible and may come to be accepted in time. Griffin Press with their usual professionalism have produced a well-made book. The simple photographic jacket is effective. 1 ½ picas.

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