dimensions of text

Yesterday, I handled a book1 that was published in 1974 by The Seabury Press.2 The book is a beauty: its section sewn binding is in great shape; its paper is substantial and smooth even as it has aged to a rich, pinky cream; the main text is justified and set in a legible serif3 with a couple of different sans serifs for titles4; but the margins, holy! So wide. Whoever designed the book put a lot of thought into it.5

image of pages 152 and 153 of The End of Chilean Democracy: An INDO Dossier on the Coup and its Aftermath, edited by Laurence Birns
The End of Chilean Democracy: An INDO Dossier on the Coup and its Aftermath, edited by Laurence Birns

All extra-textual material – intertextual references, parenthetical remarks, footnotes, citations, redaction, and previous readers’ notes – excites me. The story is never just the story, and the extra-textual indicates places where the narrative can spiral outward infinitely. Well-designed books with space for marginalia, especially in ‘dry’ books, reveal that designers or publishers value the part of that expansion that takes place on the reader’s end.

Also yesterday (yesterday was a good day for reader/writer/artist me), I learned how to redact on this here website.6 Check it out:

Letter #34

Dear REDACTED,

A kid walks up to me today, the day after Spring Break, and says,

“This school is a hell hole!”

You should have seen his face: like he couldn’t figure it out, like he couldn’t believe it, like it was dream.

Your friend,
Allison

  1. The End of Chilean Democracy: An INDO Dossier on the Coup and its Aftermath, edited by Laurence Birns ↩︎
  2. Until 1984, The Seabury Press was, evidently, an Episcopalian Church-owned publishing house that, until 1980, had a special imprint, Continuum, that focused on secular topics like the 1973 Chilean coup d’etat. ↩︎
  3. probably Times New Roman ↩︎
  4. maybe some version of Compacta and a Futura of some sort ↩︎
  5. I imagine that its layout might have been the layout for Continuum Books. ↩︎
  6. The best version of internet-specific (should that be ‘web-specific’?) extra-textual interventions I’ve seen are the spoiler protections at TVTropes.com where spoilers are – very simply – written in white text that the reader then selects or clicks (it’s a button, too) at her own risk. ↩︎