Publishing and printing jargon

Publishing and printing jargon

These are some of the more common terms you may encounter.

A term used for an illustration or image which extends beyond the trimmed page. It bleeds off and will be trimmed off.

Bulk or book block
This is the term used to to describe how thick the book is before it is bound. It’s simply the number of leaves multiplied by the thickness of each sheet of paper – remember that each leaf of a book consists of two pages called the recto and verso.

The brief description of a book which appears on the back of a paperback or on the inside front flap of a hardback.

The paper cover wrapped around a hardback book, and normally the publisher’s main marketing tool; frequently film laminated for durability in handling.

The small icon on the spine designating the imprint (not necessarily the publisher) under which the book is published.

Double line spacing
This is a specification that comes from typewriters (I loved typewriters). You could set the spacing to be ‘normal’ or a multiple of x1.5 or x2 or x3 (it rather depended on your typewriter).
Microsoft in their infinite wisdom decided that their standard line spacing in MS Word would be somewhere between 110% and 120%, depending on which typeface you used.
If you want to control the line space MS Word you will have to go into the paragraph controls. I would usually start with 10/12pt for a book, then see what it looks like in the typeface you’ve chosen and adjust it accordingly. There are no golden rules other than Don’t use Comic Sans for anything.

A term covering all those pages in a book that come after the end of the novel. Those that come before Chapter 1 are called prelims.

Refers to a sheet of paper folded once to make four pages. It is also used to refer to the page numbers at the foot of each page.

Font or typeface?
Font is term that relates to the size of the typeface. In a specification like ’12pt Times New Roman’, the 12 pt refers to the font or size and Times New Roman refers to the typeface. Common usage means that many people think that font is synonymous with typeface – not a battle I will bother to fight too hard as we have to accept that language changes over time.

The size of a book. Publishers use different formats  but the most common are ‘trade format’ and ‘B format’ which are the size of most small paperback novels.

The space to the side of the text that allows the book to be bound without the text ‘falling’ into the binding. Also known as the inside margin because its the page margin on the inside edge of a text page.

ISBN number
The unique identifying number for a particular book. It’s the barcode on the back of the book

Leading or line spacing
When type was ‘set’ with tiny slugs for each letter the space between each line of type was adjusted by sliding in a thin sheet of lead. So the distance between each line of a book was known as the leading.
If the type was ‘set solid’ there would be no lead and it might be specified as 12/12pt (a 12pt font with no leading so a 12pt set) if there was 2pts of leading the specification would be 12/14pt (a 12pt font with an extra 2pt of leading)

pica em
A typographical measurement, consisting of 12 points (approximately 5 mm).

Print on demand. Each book is printed only when ordered.

A term covering all those pages in a book that come before Chapter 1. Those that come after the end of the novel are called endmatter.

Print run
The number of copies printed in a single impression.

Recto and verso
The right hand page of a spread (recto) and the left hand page (verso).

Serif or Sans (meaning without)
The serif is the little flicked out ends of the bars of a letter.
I was taught by my typography professor that this was a hangover from letters being chiselled into stone; the serif making the end of the letter form much cleaner.
However, a year or two later (in 1968) a  Father Edward Catich proposed a theory that the stone carvers were following the flick of a brush made when the letters were first drafted onto the stone. I would disopute that theory as I’ve tried and the brush doesn’t naturally make the same pattern to the left and right. Study the Trajan Column and make up your own mind.

Typefaces, fonts and leading

Which typeface should I use?

If you ask ten designers which typeface to use you will probably get at least nine different answers. If there was a definitive answer all books would look the same. So you need to choose a typeface (Times, Garamond etc), a font (the point size) and the leading (the space between the lines of type).

As an example, a designer’s specification might be 11/13pt Times
11pt – is the font
13pt – indicates 2 points of extra space or leading (more explanation later)
Times – is the typeface

Microsoft uses a percentage value for the leading which can be misleading. But they also have an option for a specific point value.

The origin of these archaic terms might help you understand them better.

The font, or size of the typeface
This was governed by the block that each letter was carved from (wooden type), or cast from (metal type). The blocks for every letter had to be the same overall size and this is the point size – not the actual size of the bit you see.

You can see in this illustration that we have a ‘cap height’, an ‘x height’ and the block size, or point size of the typeface. But not all typefaces appear to be the same size even though they may all be 12pt.

type slug or block

In this illustration you can see the difference in what is called ‘appearing size’ between three classic typefaces which are all chosen as the same point size.

typeface appearing size
Different type faces

The leading, or space between each line of type
The distance between each line of type is called the ‘leading’ because originally thin strips of lead were inserted between slugs of type (a whole line of type) to add space between them and make the text more legible.

leading in metal type

Microsoft, in their infinite wisdom, decided that this was too much for their users so they offer as default 1, 1.5, 2 etc as their spacing options between lines of type. But Microsofts default of no extra space (i.e. 1) puts somewhere between 1.17% and 1.25% of space depending on your version of Word and the operating system you use. You can over-ride this by setting a specific leading and I have explained this here.