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16 October 2013

Bad typography

Famously, you can't judge a book by its cover.

 But if you could, I'd probably think this was a good un. I like reading about translation, and this promises to be a light, non-technical study, although I think calling it an "amazing adventure" is optimistic. And I also don't like the review quote  - "Please read David Bellos's brilliant book". It's just too needy, where I'd prefer nerdy.

I'm also not crazy about the design: the way the translated titles are crammed in, requiring one of them to be printed upside down. I can also tell you, dear reader, that the titles on the left aren't continued on the spine of the book.

In all, it's a decent idea that wasn't very well executed. But compared to what's inside, it's excellent.

Here's the table of contents.

What the hell is going on here? Random italicisation and size changes make it a very uncomfortable page to look at. And there doesn't seem to be any point to it. Charitably one could consider it illustrates the way in which the same meaning can be conveyed in different renderings, but that, presumably, is what the whole book is going to be about.

And here, finally, is the first two-page spread of Chapter 1. Again, the random variation between upright and italic, but also that horribly ugly initial capital D. The right hand page, however, shows that the book designer isn't unskilled: within fairly tight space limits, it's lovely. So why the nonsense?

You can't judge a book by its cover or by its typography, but you can feel ill-disposed towards it. I'll probably enjoy this book, but it'll take me some time to forgive the whimsical, annoying design.

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