Specimen Book Must Be Organized for Customer

  • The 8½ × 11 or 9 × 12 page size is most commonly used for specimen books
  • Page layout depends on number of sizes available on types to be shown
  • Book should also include type illustrations, character counts and style data

After his been decided how the types are to be arranged in the specimen book, the printers free to concentrate on the organization of his material into the foremost effective force customers.

Because there are many variables in the proper organization of the type book, these should be itemized before we discuss the many possibilities open to its designer.

Page Size: Apparently, 8½ × 11 or 9 × 12 is the most common size for type specimen book. Obviously a format of larger size, although presenting in imposing first impression, be bulky to handle and difficult to place on a shelf. A smaller size imposes severe restrictions upon the proper display of the types in the book. Almost the only exception is in the case of a book manufacturer whose primary interest is in presenting types in a range up to 12-point or 14-point. If the printer is concerned with the production costs of the book, he should decide on a simple one-line presentation.

Page Organization: To make-up or layout of each page is dependent upon the number of sizes available in the types be shown. In a standard roman series such as Garamond, in which it is necessary to show every size from 6-points to 72-point, with roman, italic, boldface, and bold italic, a well-planned page is important if we are to prevent monotony and confusion.

A two-column arrangement works best for this purpose, with composition sizes, 6-point through 18-point, in the first column and the display sizes in the other. In the smaller sizes, there will be sufficient room for six or more lines to give a fair idea of the appearance of the type in text. The display column may contain enough lines to balance the opposite paragraph.

An entire series may be shown on a single page in this format without crowding. The printer who wishes to be more lavish may, of course, take two or three pages to present a similar showing.

Copy for Each Showing: Tradition for several centuries required printers to use Latin quotations as copy in their specimens, and this practice was even adopted by our own colonial printing offices. To some extent, this procedure was justified because the many round letters in Latin present an even and imposing display, impossible to obtain an English text.

The copy used in today’s specimens is as variable as the inclinations of each printer. Quotations from the scriptures, patriotic dissertations, pages from books on typography, and a wide range of other subjects are chosen. Present interest centers on alphabetical sentences, and even in copy describing the services of the printer. Whatever copy is decided upon should be followed throughout the book so that the customer will have a good means of comparing the fitting characteristics of the various types.

When writing copy is the style selected, it should be remembered that a full over that of each phase should be shown, preferably in a size were an 18-point, a practice distinctly helpful to the artist or layout man.

Character Count: It is essential that information given concerning copyfitting. While there are a number of procedures in use today in the specification of copy, most of them are based upon the number of characters in a linear pica. This information is generally available from the typefounders or machine companies. It may be inserted in the specimen book as a table for quick reference, or maybe placed on each page, preferably next to the type size designation.

Illustrations: To make a listing of types more attractive, to aid the user in an appreciation of the use of various types, and to hint at the printer’s skill in assembling them, many modern type books include a number of examples of typography. Here is a way to individualize the specimen book and to obtain additional business as well. Often, instead of an illustration of type in use, a short introduction to each well-known type is included, providing opportunity for interesting display and perhaps for some color.

Data on Style: To make the specimen book a more efficient working tool, information on style is often included in condensed form, either as set by common use or by the individual printer. Although it is true that several excellent references on style are available, every printer has his own ideas on the subject. Here, then, is his chance to acquaint his customers with the procedures adopted by his own plant, thereby improving his customer relations with attention to details that cause lost production time, such as copy marked-up methods, proofreader’s marks, hints about the selection of type, length of line, leading, etc. It is easy to take for granted these innumerable details but, handled properly, they can be invaluable.

Paper: To the printer sensitive about the relationship of type to paper, the production of the specimen book can be very frustrating. It is almost impossible to select the stock most sympathetic to every type listed. A compromise is obligatory. Coated stock, while receptive to some types, is really most adaptable to the use of toned copy, so that the compromise will undoubtedly be an English finish sheet. It may be possible to show some examples of typography on a paper best suited to the type. This paper could then be inserted in the book. However it would be difficult to obtain optimal results in every instance throughout the book. Problems with paper and process are almost insurmountable. Only a few large firms are able to print some types by letterpress, lithography, and gravure in order to show adaptability.

Presswork: It seems almost impertinent dimension press work to printing firms concerned with the production of the specimen book, but sadly enough, too many printers feel that when the book has been laid out, the problems are over. It is frequently been stated that in the United States there is a great deal more interest in typography than in presswork. This is borne out by exhibits showing excellent design but shoddy presswork.

No type can ever be presented properly without crisp, clean impression, justifying the handiwork of the typefounder and the compositor.

Binding: The selection of binding is dependent on the use to which the book will be put, and, of course, its bulk. In almost every instance, the book should lie flat when opened. Side stitching, therefore, and even saddle stitching will not suffice. Sewing is satisfactory in a book without too much bulk but at present, mechanical bindings are in most common use. One of the best features of many of these bindings is the freedom allowed in the addition of the pages as types are acquired by the printer. With increasing demand for new types, the mortality rate on casebound specimen books is alarming. The mailing of added specimen sheets can be a useful advertising device, which adds to the popularity of the looseleaf book.

The cover of the book should be durable enough to stand abuse and handling herein many of the plastics now available meet the standards. The color of the binding should be dark, for serviceability.

It can thus be seen that the specimen book is a completely individualized piece of printing. Understandably, the printer will ever agree with another that any one procedure in its handling is the best. However, the cost factor in production makes it increasingly necessary to pay the strictest attention to details, even if the methods vary from plant to plant. Good organization is certainly a necessity if the cost is to be justified.

This article first appeared in “The Composing Room” column of the September 1955 issue of The Inland Printer.

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