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Awareness of font and typography is fundamental to all good book design. Get to grips with the essentials with Chris Glithero

Typography is the part of graphic design that covers the words actually on the page, and is an essential concern for any author thinking of self-publishing their book. Before we take a look at the key things you need to know and the tools that you can use to make your book look attractive and professional, let’s quickly dip into the origin of typography.

From handwritten books to a print revolution

The history of publishing is the story of the democratisation of the written word and the ability to spread ideas through this medium. Prior to the invention of the printing press in the 15th century, the only way to produce a copy of a book was to literally and painstakingly copy it out by hand.

This meant that few books were actually published, and these were generally not made available to the masses. Johannes Gutenberg’s invention of the printing press in 1440 changed all that, by allowing the mass production of books and later newspapers. The printing press used movable metal letters, or type, which could be arranged in order, coated in ink and then pressed onto paper using a screw press.

From this point the production of books accelerated substantially, becoming more economical and accessible. Of course, to ensure that books were readable, important decisions needed to be made regarding those small metal letters and their placement – how far apart would they be, and how much space should be allowed between lines? And just how big should they be anyway?

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