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Medieval Text Layout

margins layout negative space canon

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28 replies to this topic

#1 pepsiplease69

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Posted 10 June 2015 - 23:26

Hi All of my friends from Fountain Pen-dom..
 
I wanted to throw out a question to everybody about something I've been thinking about quite a lot in the past few months.
 
And that is: Medieval Text Layout
 
Here are some useful links I've found while doing a google search:
 
 
 
 
 
I've been using it extensively and I enjoy it a lot.
 
When I'm doing my journalling in a Tomoe River Notebook with blank-unruled pages, I always put a guide sheet underneath the page I'm writing on, and the guide sheet (up till now) had only the ruled lines.
 
But I've created new guide sheets with these broader margins now and I stay within the margins when I write. It looks very neat and clean.
 
On the wikipedia page, they mentioned that there's something called "Canons of Page Construction". And it describes the various geometric procedures to arrive at a page layout. Von de Graaf canon, Golden Canon etc.
 
And one of the solutions that satisfies the specifications of these canons is where you use 1/9th of the page's length as the margin size for the header, and 2/9ths as the footer. Similarly you use 1/9th of the page's width as the size for the margins adjacent to the spine and 2/9ths on the outer sides.
 
Ultimately this causes 1/3rd of the space (in both directions, length and width, since 1/9 + 2/9 = 3/9 or 1/3) and that creates quite a pleasing negative space.
 
Another upshot is, that wider footer and side margins create a little more relief for you to rest your palm on while writing. With really fat books like Nanami Seven Seas Writer, the heel of my palm always falls off the cliff if I write all the way up to the edge.
 
 
Since I've been obsessed with this concept. I've gone ahead and purchased a gadget off of fleabay which helps me along with determining these proportions:
 
 
 
It's called a Fibonacci-Proportional Divider. The lug nut that keeps this scissor-like contraption together is actually movable. And this thing can be configured to give a scaled porportional length (either scaling up or scaling down, depending on which end you use) of ratios 1:1 or 2:1 or 3:1 or 4:1 or 5:1. And on the other side 1:1.618 (golden ratio).
 
It's a very handy little tool. I use it to measure out the length (or width of my page, be it A4 or A5), and the tool is configured to scale down to 3:1 I then mark off the distance that comes out the other end and re-apply another 3:1 compression to finally end up with 1/9th of the distance I originally started with. I use that 1/9th now to mark out my margins of 1/9 and 2/9.
 
No measuring distances with a ruler and division of numbers is involved. No arithmetic whatsoever. But I'm able to get what I need. It's really quite a smart little tool.
 
So after mentioning all of this, my question to all is:
 
Am I crazy?
 
Has anyone dived into this area so deep?
 
Have you found anything in this area that might be interesting for me to explore further?
 


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#2 WayTooManyHobbies

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Posted 11 June 2015 - 16:44

This is very interesting - thanks for posting it.  I'm surprised that it hasn't generated more responses.  I'm going to try it this evening in my journal.



#3 Randal6393

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Posted 11 June 2015 - 19:23

Hmmm ... and here I have been applying math to figuring out what 1/9th of my distance is. More work, less tools.

 

Great idea.

 

Enjoy,


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#4 pepsiplease69

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Posted 11 June 2015 - 19:34

This is very interesting - thanks for posting it.  I'm surprised that it hasn't generated more responses.  I'm going to try it this evening in my journal.

 

Thanks for commenting. It's an obscure topic, which matters only in calligraphy and illumination. And I've been known to ramble on endlessly about obscure topics so maybe my choir that I'm preaching to is a bit unique :)

 

 

 

Hmmm ... and here I have been applying math to figuring out what 1/9th of my distance is. More work, less tools.

 

Great idea.

 

Enjoy,

 

 

Yes that is an awesome little trinket :)

 

The seller had 2 on hand and I snatched up the last one. I'm thinking about emailing the seller and asking him if he can make more of these. I personally would like to have more than one so I can set that middle lug-nut to a particular setting and leave it there.

 

I'd have a Fib-gauge ready to go for any proportional ratio. So, for example I could achieve a 10:1 ratio by applying 2:1 and then 5:1 on top of that.

 

Or maybe I could go with something funky like 1.5:1 by applying a 3:1 and then 1:2 on top of that. Scaling up by a factor of 3 and then scaling down by a factor of 2. No math, no measuring required.

 

And I'm glad you already know about the 1/9 proportion for the margins. I thought I was the only one who was getting excited about this stuff.

 

I'll write something out and post photos shortly.



#5 cellmatrix

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Posted 11 June 2015 - 20:40

 

Has anyone dived into this area so deep?
 
Have you found anything in this area that might be interesting for me to explore further?

HDoug, one of our moderators here has previously explored this in depth, please do check out this thread:

http://www.fountainp...-1#entry2369742



#6 the_gasman

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Posted 11 June 2015 - 22:40

Pepsiplease69, yes of course you're crazy -- but no more so than any other of us here. Really, it's ridiculous to be so minutely fascinated by pens and script, but here we all are, united in interest and madness.

David.

#7 pepsiplease69

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Posted 12 June 2015 - 01:22

HDoug, one of our moderators here has previously explored this in depth, please do check out this thread:

http://www.fountainp...-1#entry2369742

 

 

Thanks for that link. I see this thread is precisely about the layout thing and it's a good find.

 

I see folks experimenting with 1/12 proportion in addition to the 1/9 which is quite interesting.

 

It achieves the same effect, nice clean borders with a pleasing aesthetic, negative space that makes anything quite pleasant to read (particularly the mindless stuff I write down in my journals).

 

The 1/12 proportion is a little less "wasteful" of the real-estate (if wasteful is the proper term here).

 

Honestly I've got maybe several lifetime's supply of notebooks and paper products, so I can afford to be a little wasteful here at the expense of getting much more in return.

 

 

Pepsiplease69, yes of course you're crazy -- but no more so than any other of us here. Really, it's ridiculous to be so minutely fascinated by pens and script, but here we all are, united in interest and madness.

David.

 

 

lol :)

 

You just made my day.

 

Here's the photo I promised:

 

fpn_1434072127__medieval_layout_scaled.j



#8 the_gasman

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Posted 12 June 2015 - 04:58

 

 

Here's the photo I promised:

 

fpn_1434072127__medieval_layout_scaled.j

That is beautiful: your handwriting is gorgeous and it is framed exquisitely by the white-space. I also like your use of spacing between the individual words. I think that a message has far greater impact if it is not too densely packed; unrelenting text is quite daunting to the eye. I don't see paragraphs in your journal but I presume that they, too, would be framed by white-space.

 

A few years ago, long before I was infected by the fp virus, I randomly bought a book about printing and typesetting [there you go -- more evidence of the prevailing craziness!]. My friends thought that I had lost my marbles but, even to my own surprise, I really enjoyed the book [name long since forgotten]. It opened my eyes to the improved aesthetic appeal of text when framed by generous white-space.

 

It also taught me that serifs on computer fonts help lead the eye from word to word, making reading much easier. I didn't believe this until the book presented the same text in both serif and non-serif fonts, and I found the former much more "continuous" than the latter. I have subsequently wondered whether that is the benefit of slightly sloped scripts in some handwriting styles. One can persuade oneself of allsort of things but I do convince myself that sloping scripts (if not too angulated) are easier to follow.

 

Oops! Sorry about the divergence from the theme of the post.

 

David.



#9 pepsiplease69

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Posted 12 June 2015 - 16:17

That is beautiful: your handwriting is gorgeous and it is framed exquisitely by the white-space. I also like your use of spacing between the individual words. I think that a message has far greater impact if it is not too densely packed; unrelenting text is quite daunting to the eye. I don't see paragraphs in your journal but I presume that they, too, would be framed by white-space.

 

A few years ago, long before I was infected by the fp virus, I randomly bought a book about printing and typesetting [there you go -- more evidence of the prevailing craziness!]. My friends thought that I had lost my marbles but, even to my own surprise, I really enjoyed the book [name long since forgotten]. It opened my eyes to the improved aesthetic appeal of text when framed by generous white-space.

 

It also taught me that serifs on computer fonts help lead the eye from word to word, making reading much easier. I didn't believe this until the book presented the same text in both serif and non-serif fonts, and I found the former much more "continuous" than the latter. I have subsequently wondered whether that is the benefit of slightly sloped scripts in some handwriting styles. One can persuade oneself of allsort of things but I do convince myself that sloping scripts (if not too angulated) are easier to follow.

 

Oops! Sorry about the divergence from the theme of the post.

 

David.

 

 

You're too kind :)

I think, when I look at some of the works by Ken Fraser, my handwriting could do with a lot more improvement.

 

As to the interstitial spacing between words, I generally have one thing on my mind when I'm spacing the next word: Collision avoidance, i.e., I'm trying to avoid having the descenders smack me in the head from up above 

 

 

I could go with a little more generously spaced ruling but finding the right balance between too cramped and too spaced-out ruling is my other big passion.

 

Here I'm using 7mm ruling size on a regular old spiral bound miquelruis notebook (quite mediocre really..) And the pen is a Pelikan M200 with an italic steel nib which I had gotten sharpened to a crisper italic. (thanks to the expert nib work done by Masuyama)

 

The ink, I believe, is Aurora black.

 

And you're correct I need some paragraphs in my writing. I just tend to keep writing non-stop without taking a break (and giving my readers one too, my reader being just myself alone).

 

And you can see, while I type, I put every single sentence in its own paragraph, to the point that all my emails at work appear to be double-spaced documents.

 

If you ever find the name of that book about typesetting, please do share. I'd love to check it out.

 

Thanks.


Edited by pepsiplease69, 12 June 2015 - 16:20.


#10 the_gasman

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Posted 12 June 2015 - 17:13

Ken's work is extraordinary but, for my taste, is just TOO perfect. Your hand looks both natural and aesthetically pleasing. Sometimes beauty and perfection are not interchangeable.

I'm afraid that I bought the book over 30 years ago after random browsing in a book shop. I have no idea where it is now -- maybe in a dust-gathering trunk somewhere in the roof-space. Sorry.

#11 BMG

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Posted 12 June 2015 - 21:04

Here's a link to the essay “Consistent Correlation between Book Page and Type Area” by  Jan Tschichold, who “discovered” the underlying structure of incunabula pages, and another to a later, related essay by Robert Bringhurst, “Shaping the Page,” should anyone wish to dig a bit deeper into the issue.

 

An on the subject of incunabula (you don't often get to begin a sentence with such an assertion :) ), here are two greguerías about incunabula by Ramón Gómez de la Serna :

 

Incunable es el libro que no se puede leer en la cuna.

 

Un incunable es desde luego un libro que no pueden leer los niños.

 

:)


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#12 dcwaites

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Posted 13 June 2015 - 09:52

A free book on page and book design can be found on the CTAN network --

http://mirrors.ctan....n/memdesign.pdf

 

Chapter 3 is an interesting discussion on page design.


Edited by dcwaites, 13 June 2015 - 09:54.

fpn_1412827311__pg_d_104def64.gif

 

 

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#13 pepsiplease69

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Posted 15 June 2015 - 10:45

Here's a link to the essay “Consistent Correlation between Book Page and Type Area” by  Jan Tschichold, who “discovered” the underlying structure of incunabula pages, and another to a later, related essay by Robert Bringhurst, “Shaping the Page,” should anyone wish to dig a bit deeper into the issue.

 

An on the subject of incunabula (you don't often get to begin a sentence with such an assertion :) ), here are two greguerías about incunabula by Ramón Gómez de la Serna :

 

Incunable es el libro que no se puede leer en la cuna.

 

Un incunable es desde luego un libro que no pueden leer los niños.

 

:)

 

 

A free book on page and book design can be found on the CTAN network --

http://mirrors.ctan....n/memdesign.pdf

 

Chapter 3 is an interesting discussion on page design.

 

 

 

Thank you both for those links. I've skimmed through them very briefly and there's enough material here to keep me busy for a while.

 

Excellent resource for the type of work I want to improve on.



#14 Lively

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Posted 19 June 2015 - 05:05

I've always felt a bit annoyed by the really wide margins left blank on the non-spine side of pages in some books.  To me it would make more sense to have the wide margin on the spine side of the page - nothing worse than trying to read on a curved surface because the print is close to the spine, or read text in shadow when you're lying on your side in bed and can't open the book to 180 degrees.  I agree than having a lot of white space on the page makes the page look nice, but it seems wasteful.

 

I have wondered whether the motivation for huge blank margins was to display wealth and decadence by not having to use all the available space, or whether it was to allow space for making notes.



#15 pepsiplease69

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Posted 20 June 2015 - 12:41

I've always felt a bit annoyed by the really wide margins left blank on the non-spine side of pages in some books.  To me it would make more sense to have the wide margin on the spine side of the page - nothing worse than trying to read on a curved surface because the print is close to the spine, or read text in shadow when you're lying on your side in bed and can't open the book to 180 degrees.  I agree than having a lot of white space on the page makes the page look nice, but it seems wasteful.
 
I have wondered whether the motivation for huge blank margins was to display wealth and decadence by not having to use all the available space, or whether it was to allow space for making notes.


You make a lot of good points.

Truthfully though. If I don't have a box with margins and header and a footer, I'm liable to keep on writing on the page from edge to edge. So the 1/9 margin that I make close to the spine, yes comparatively it is narrower than 2/9 on the outer, it's still something better than no margin and me writing all the way upto the spine. So for me it's an instrument for governing the text layout for the better.

But I do definitely share your frustration while reading a book if the text goes all the way upto the spine and it's hard to read.

And as for your thought about decadence and wastefulness. I see your point but don't know enough to comment on the history and the background of this type of layout.

I can say this though: I have too many notebooks all with excellent paper and I'm afraid I won't be able to enjoy it all in my lifetime. If I can be a little wasteful (I always hate using that term in this context and add many qualifiers to it) but I produce something that is pleasant to look at, I'm happy.

#16 Chthulhu

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Posted 20 June 2015 - 13:29

Wide margins on the edges of the page allow for page turning without leaving finger smudges on the text itself. They also leave plenty of room for illumination, glosses, and other marginalia. No citations for these thoughts, but after having handled a few medieval manuscripts they make sense to me.


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#17 the_gasman

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Posted 20 June 2015 - 14:53

I've always felt a bit annoyed by the really wide margins left blank on the non-spine side of pages in some books.  I agree than having a lot of white space on the page makes the page look nice, but it seems wasteful.

Economy of space is often not the primary concern of a publisher. Visual impact draws the reader in. Also, judicious use of white-space reduces the intimidatory effect of unrelenting blocks of text.

Browse through non-fiction books and think about which books you find more appealing, and why.

#18 BMG

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Posted 20 June 2015 - 15:39

Wide margins on the edges of the page allow for page turning without leaving finger smudges on the text itself. They also leave plenty of room for illumination, glosses, and other marginalia. No citations for these thoughts, but after having handled a few medieval manuscripts they make sense to me.

 

I believe that these are the reasons for the wide outside margins. That the inside margins were not as wide was so that the text on facing pages appeared more as a single box, rather than as two distinct, separate rectangles. And the text blocks being higher rather than lower on the page is a result of a wish to center optically the text blocks on the page; if they were in "dead vertical center" to the eye they would appear closer to the bottom of the pages.


Écrire c’est tenter de savoir ce qu’on écrirait si on écrivait. – M. Duras

#19 ehemem

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Posted 20 June 2015 - 23:40

 

I believe that these are the reasons for the wide outside margins. That the inside margins were not as wide was so that the text on facing pages appeared more as a single box, rather than as two distinct, separate rectangles.

 

Actually, no. You are thinking of a page as a distinct object. You should be thinking of the open book, and you will realize that the left page inner margin and right page inner margin - IIRC, they are called gutter margins - add up to the same width as the outside margins.



#20 BMG

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Posted 21 June 2015 - 00:31

Actually, no. You are thinking of a page as a distinct object. You should be thinking of the open book, and you will realize that the left page inner margin and right page inner margin - IIRC, they are called gutter margins - add up to the same width as the outside margins.

 

Actually, I was thinking of the open book (or two-page spread), sorry if my comment was not clear.

 

I never heard that the combined gutter margins are the same width as the individual outer margins (do you have a reference for that?).


Écrire c’est tenter de savoir ce qu’on écrirait si on écrivait. – M. Duras






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