Before any of the actual designing of What You Will began, I had some general ideas about the kind of paper that I would use. I knew that I wanted the text pages to be an off-white, and I knew that I would use French Paper (selection + price + quality + recycled). With the size and grain direction of the parent sheet (the large sheets that the paper is cut down from) determined, I could calculate the maximum size of the sheets that I would print on, keeping in mind: 1) the size of the presses, 2) the size of the book itself, and 3) efficient use of the parent sheet.
The poems are long and narrow. I wanted to use a format that could complement and play off of the shape of the poems. I decided on a page size of 4.375” x 8.75”, a long and narrow shape, like the poems, but that opened into a square, a generally neutral format, which could then be complicated internally by the division of the pages and the rest of the design.
Initial division of the pages using the “standard” (1/9) canon.
Lately I have been starting the designs for books with a geometric mapping of the page surface. I prefer this method because it doesn’t apply an outside, arbitrary system of measurement to the organization of the page, but maps them according to their given proportions. (Of course the size of the pages was originally determined by an outside, arbitrary measurement. No matter how hard we try, arbitrariness, chance, creeps in around the edges.) The pages are divided using a “canon” devised by the 13th century architect Villard de Honnecourt, where any rectangle can be systematically divided into smaller and smaller units, starting with 1/2, and on to 1/3, 1/4, 1/6, 1/9, etc.
The canon used to divide the page. See an earlier post about this, a test of the canon, here.
Once the main measurements of the pages are determined, I construct a series of grids based on each division. From those grids, I can pull digital “leading” (the black square in the bottom right corner) to use to set distances in the design.
The pages divided into 1/12.
After all of the grids were built, they were superimposed over each other. And within that “super grid” I determined where to set the margins. The top and fore-edge (outside) margins were set at 1/12, the bottom margin is 1/9, and the center margin is 1/18 (1/9 split across the spine).
The “super grid.” The gray rectangles show the text areas of the two pages.
One thing that I am looking forward to is when these page divisions are translated into the “real world,” and I construct a ruler based on them, to use to register the plates while printing. But more on that later.