What of the lowly page number

In his landmark 1931 ebook An Essay on Typography, the British typographer Eric Gill discusses every thing from the right place for the tail of an ‘R’ to terminate to which sort of phrase press would possibly greatest serve the novice typographer. He casts the printed phrase as sacred. But there’s one factor — a silent, regular workhorse present in practically each ebook — that Gill fails to handle: the lowly web page quantity.

The practical function of the web page quantity is straightforward: it supplies order and sequence to a textual content. And whereas it’s a supremely utilitarian design component, extra thought is put into it than you may think. Should it go on the prime or the underside of the web page? In the fitting or left margin? Or within the middle? These are all acutely aware and deliberate selections made by designers.

The designer who is probably most answerable for trendy page-number placement is Jan Tschichold. Born in Switzerland and educated on the Leipzig Academy of the Arts, Tschichold fled Nazi Germany in 1933 and finally settled in London. From 1947 to 1949, he labored at Penguin Books, the place he masterminded the uniformly elegant and simplistic design of the imprint’s paperbacks that persists right now.

But Tschichold’s mark went deeper than simply ebook covers; he created a whole set of home directions for the corporate’s books. And for Tschichold, folios (the phrase utilized by designers for web page numbers) had been ruled by the identical ideas he emphatically confused in all features of ebook design. Chief amongst these ideas was readability. “This,” he wrote in his 1928 ebook The New Typography: A Handbook for Modern Designers, “puts [the new typography] into deliberate opposition to the old typography whose aim was ‘beauty’ and whose clarity did not attain the high level we require today.”

Tschichold was adamant that folios ought to exist to facilitate that logical sequence and supply a information for the attention when skimming to rapidly entry wanted data (“Reading presupposes eye movement,” he noticed). To that finish, his directions for Penguin specified that folios ought to be the identical typeface and measurement as the remainder of the textual content, and in Arabic numerals.

One vital level of design that Tschichold deserted was the observe of subordinating the group of all textual content parts round an invisible central axis (stick with me right here.) What which means is {that a} designer builds out all of the design parts of a ebook from that nonexistent axis “as if there were some focal point in the center of a line which would justify such an arrangement,” Tschichold wrote. But this, he decided, imposed a synthetic central order on the structure of a textual content. It was an illogical observe, as a result of readers don’t begin studying from the middle of a ebook, however from the perimeters.

Good numbering begins on the primary web page of textual content, which isn’t normally the primary leaf (a chunk of paper on which there are two pages back and front) of the ebook, which is why the primary numbered web page of a ebook will typically not be “1” however one thing seemingly incongruous like “7.”

For books that learn left to proper with folios on the verso, or again of the leaf, ought to at all times be even numbers, and people on the recto, or the fitting aspect of the leaf, ought to be be odd. A textual content at all times begins in earnest on a recto web page.

In designing quantity placement, designer additionally has to take note of the wants of a ebook binder. Shona Dawson, a consultant for the Glasgow bookbinding firm Downie Allison Downie, advised me that to make their job simpler the popular placement of the folio is away from the binding fringe of the ebook block, known as the gutter margin. Folios are hardly ever positioned within the gutter as a result of they are often swallowed by the backbone if the binder doesn’t do the job proper, and such placement makes discovering a web page rapidly tough. Richard Marston, a designer who labored at Penguin from 1995 to 2003, advised me such placement “would only get approved for books where a design is deliberately unconventional.”

“I [also] prefer the page numbering to relate to the text content more than the edges of pages,” he mentioned, “as trimming is often variable with mass market publisher[s] of such books.”

Merriam-Webster’s 1998 Manual For Writers and Editors accords with this, warning towards putting web page numbers within the gutter margin, lest they be swallowed up by the closing bend of the backbone. But the Manual clashes with Tschichold’s directions to maintain folios the identical measurement and typeface as the remainder of the textual content — it says that they are often acceptably bolded or made barely bigger. The Manual does warn, nevertheless, that folios ought to “should never be distractingly large.”

Tschichold was adamant that folios ought to exist to supply a information for the attention when skimming to rapidly entry wanted data .

Merriam-Webster identifies two sorts of placements: “prominent” and “unobtrusive.” Prominent placement places the folio on the highest higher left and proper of the leaf. Unobtrusive places it wherever on the underside. The folios are positioned in step with the operating head (alongside which the chapter titles or title of the ebook relaxation) if they’re on the prime, but when the operating head accommodates numbers the folios are higher suited to the underside of the web page. The first pages of every new chapter dispense with the folio totally to keep away from clashing with the chapter headings.

Ultimately, the choice to make folios distinguished or unobtrusive activates what operate they’re meant to serve in a selected ebook: a sensible or aesthetic one.

David Pearson, a ebook designer who labored for Penguin from 2002 to 2007, defined to me how folio placement could be a sensible endeavor. Numbers on the highest exterior column could be good for issues like cookbooks, when “you might not be reading the book in a linear fashion.” With novel folios, nevertheless, “you can afford to almost hide them,” he mentioned. Those folios could be positioned center-bottom, the place they’re “almost just used to anchor the page.”

Outside of the sensible and the aesthetic dichotomy of the page-number placement determination there’s a 3rd consideration: cash. In commerce publishing, there’s a “perceived value” in inflating ever so barely the scale of the ebook to make it saleable for a couple of additional {dollars}. “All publishers are guilty of this,” mentioned Pearson. “You do get asked to contribute to that.”

Ultimately, the choice to make folios distinguished or unobtrusive activates what operate they’re meant to serve: a sensible or aesthetic one.

In such cases, the bottom-center web page quantity placement turns into invaluable. Not solely can the textual content column finish earlier to accommodate the area of the quantity, however the exterior margin may also be ever so barely expanded, with out the web page quantity drawing consideration to all that vacant area.

This mercenary side of textual content structure is a function unique to bodily publishing; there’s little likelihood for such a sleight of hand in producing on-line texts. In designing on-line pages, social buttons (for Facebook, Twitter, and so forth.) can carry out the compositional function pagination would play on a bodily web page. Some net designers name these “hygiene links,” and so they can be utilized to fill within the compositional function that folios play. Online, it’s far simpler to make use of a search operate than an index to discover a explicit passage in a ebook. The search function additionally makes consuming digital books strikingly completely different from bodily ones: linear expertise turns into a lot much less mandatory, and there’s a diminished likelihood of stumbling throughout a bit by accident.

Page quantity placement can even tackle an energetic function of its personal. The unbiased publishing firm Unit Editions has printed books during which the web page numbers of a two-page unfold are paired collectively on one web page. This determination displays the two-page structure as an built-in type, and places it in opposition to sure type of digital publishing the place pages are considered individually, as on an ereader. “In this context the Unit Editions approach can be seen as a small statement of their intent,” Richard Marston advised me, “as they only produce books in print.”

Statement of intent, chronological guidepost, or low-cost trick to inflate the size of a textual content, web page quantity placement is something however an afterthought. Behind these innocuous and neglected symbols, I discovered many tales to be advised.

Marlon Ettinger is a ebook reviewer in Glasgow.

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