Here’s all the samples, shorn of commentary.
- Jane Austen
- Jules Verne
- Baroness Orczy
- Daniel Defoe
- Marcus Aurelius
For the first batch of samples, I used the works of Jane Austen – because Pride and Prejudice is usually the text used when teaching typography. In that vein, I’ve prepared the six works below in slightly different fonts, using slightly different layouts. In most cases, I’ve stuck with a 6×9 trim size, as that’s the most common size used by indie authors. (And I’ve made up a fictional publishing house to put a logo on the title page.)
First up is Pride and Prejudice – in three layouts. All the trim sizes are the same; only the proportions of the text block have changed. The three proportions that my Margin Calculator v2.0 automatically calculates for are 3:2, The Golden Mean (or Phi), and 5:3.
Sense and Sensibility is next. I set this in the Open Source Fanwood font, and it seems to have turned out pretty well.
Emma was set in the Open Source Alegrya font, and it also turned out pretty well. I think that this shows that the Open Source fonts are perfectly suitable for indie publishing – it just depends on matching the feel of your font to the feel of the material.
Mansfield Park was set at 5.25 x 8 inch trim size and with an Art Deco theme. All Modern fonts are suited for an Art Deco feel, and it’s always fun to do.
The challenge of a smaller trim size called to me, and I set Northanger Abbey in a paperback trim size (4.25 x 6.88 in.) It worked out well, even though using a font size of 8 points is really stretching the bounds of readability. I may do this again with another manuscript.
And finally for the Jane Austen books, I returned to 6×9 trim size for Persuasion. This time I used a pro version of Caslon font, as the Libre Caslon font is a bit dark for a book font.
Next, I’m mining the works of Jules Verne; the feel of his proto-science fiction requires a different selection of fonts. Where Austen focused on the interplay between formality and feelings, Verne is focused on extraordinary actions made possible by extraordinary knowledge. Austen books use Garamond and Sabon, classic Traditional fonts; Verne should be read in Times New Roman and Bernhard Modern, fonts that connote modernity and a detachment from the narrative.
The Time Machine is always a fun one to prepare. This text is set in Times New Roman and Helvetica, in a paperback trim size, to fit the dispassionate nature of the presentation. The font size is 9 points, and the leading (line spacing) has been increased from 10.8 points (the customary font size times 1.2) to 11 points; I noticed when I set Northanger Abbey that the body text was a little cramped (but fixing it wasn’t the point of that exercise). This works better.
The graphical decorations came from the ubiquitous Wingdings font – did you catch that The Time Machine has twelve chapters? That seemed to cry out for a clock face, so I individually set each chapter decoration, leaving the master pages only for the running heads. The clock faces on the title pages are in reverse order, to suggest an unnatural relationship with time, and the clock faces for the Epilogue are slanted away from the space appearing between 12 o’clock and one. (And no, the single quotes used in this volume are original; British convention for dialogue is to use single quotes instead of the American double quotes.)
Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea is another fun one, only this time I have to say that sarcastically. The story has a lot of ship names that, in the modern era, need to be set in italics, and they weren’t originally. There are fractions that need special handling, but fortunately, only about five of them.
The layout is also complicated by the division of the story into parts as well as chapters – the running heads are two lines to accommodate the part/chapter number/chapter name at the top of the page.
War of the Worlds is a classic, and I gave it a classic treatment. The text is set in the Open Source Alegrya font, with headings in Alegrya Sans. Decorations come from the Chaparral Pro font, as they’re the least “handwriting-like” ornaments I could find.
The Scarlet Pimpernel is more important to our culture than most people know – this is where the trope of a superhero with a secret identity was born. So I set it in Caslon – the most timeless of fonts – to show how it complements a story set during the French Revolution and written a century after the event.
And because I could, I added a scarlet, five lobed flower as an accent for each chapter beginning. For publication with a PoD service, that would be changed to a black flower … which would take all of fifteen seconds.
Robinson Crusoe is the shortened name of this text; The Life and Adventures of Robinson Crusoe doesn’t roll off the tongue so easily. This should look like it’s handwritten, so all headings and the first line of the first paragraph are set in Viner Hand ITC, with the rest of the text in Jenson, a traditional style font that also evokes handwriting ( to a much lesser degree.)
With this kind of quirky fonts, any ornamentation would be completely uncalled for – so I didn’t put any in.
For a real classical attempt, I set The Meditations of Marcus Aurelius with no ornamentation and a very straightforward layout – and it doesn’t suffer from it at all. The font is Cormorant Garamond, a free font with the classic, old-style feel to it.
Of course, the title page was done in all caps and a font that mimics the lettering on roman buildings (Oranienbaum) …
So, if you see an element of the samples that you like, make a note of it. So when you get to laying out your story, you can present it in a way that enhances the text, instead of working against the narrative.