Blue Pencil no. 16—Jan Tschichold, Designer: The Penguin Years

Jan Tschichold, Designer. Title page design by Richard B. Doubleday.

I reviewed Jan Tschichold, Designer: The Penguin Years by Richard B. Doubleday forPrint in 2007. Recently I added the original version of that review to Shaw* (see Print LXI:III May/June 2007 and Shaw* / Writings /Archive). In the review I was as critical of the design of the book as of its contents. This was because the subject was design, specifically typography and book design. More importantly, the subject was Jan Tschichold, possibly the most celebrated typographer of the 20th century. But even more significantly, it was because Doubleday had included this statement at the front of his book, opposite the Foreword by Alston Purvis: “As an added tribute to this internationally famous book designer, most of the formatting and typographical conventions used in this work are those recommended by this master typographer.”

“The Penguin Composition Rules” (1947) is Tschichold’s most famous exposition of his views on typography and book design. Other essays he wrote on the subject have been gathered in Ausgewählte Aufsätze über Fragen der Gestalt des Buches und der Typographie (Basel: Birkhäuser Verlag, 1975) and, translated into English, in The Form of the Book (Point Roberts, Washington and Vancouver, British Columbia: Hartley & Marks, 1991). Many of Tschichold’s strictures in the “Penguin Composition Rules”—reproduced in facsimile in Jan Tschichold, Designer (figs. 13–16, pp. 31–34)—and in the essays in The Form of the Book are either ignored or violated by Doubleday.

What follows is a summary of some of these transgressions. But first, two things should be pointed out: 1., that Doubleday does follow Tschichold closely when it comes to the choice of typeface, point size, leading, line length, indention of paragraphs, indention of footnotes, use of oldstyle figures, use of arabic numerals for folios, and avoidance of widows; and 2. that not everyone, including myself, agrees wholly with Tschichold’s typographic opinions. However, the point here is not whether Tschichold is right or wrong about a specific aspect of typography but whether or not Doubleday, as someone claiming to follow his views, is in fact doing so.


“An ugly format causes an ugly book.”
“Consistent Correlation Between Book Page and Type Area” (1962), p. 38 The Form of the Book

“Books wider than, say, 24 cm (9 1/2 in.) are therefore irksome.”
“On Books that are Too Wide, Too Large, or Square” (1975), p. 166 The Form of the Book

Tschichold was against wide books for several reasons, one of which was that they did not fit onto standard book shelves. Jan Tschichold, Designer is 8″x10″ but it fits onto my bookshelves with no problem. However, the format is ugly and goes against Tschichold’s precepts as elaborated in “Consistent Correlation Between Book Page and Type Area” (1962), possibly the most famous of the essays gathered in The Form of the Book (pp. 36–64). Doubleday’s text area is 4.75″x7 with side margins of 1.75″, gutter margins of 1.5″, a head margin of 1.5″ (including the running head), and a foot margin of 1.5″. Thus, each page appears to be centered in a sea of white. The spread is not a design unit.

“Harmony between page size and type area is achieved when both have the same proportions. If efforts are successful to combine page format and type area into an indissoluble unit, then the margin proportions become functions of page format and overall construction and thus are inseparable from either. Margin proportions do not dominate the page of a book.”
“Consistent Correlation Between Book Page and Type Area” (1962), p. 42 The Form of the Book


“…the position of the picture block has to be the same as that of the text block.”
“Planning the Typographical Layout of Books with Illustrations” (1946), p. 143 The Form of the Book

Doubleday has picture blocks (pictures plus captions) that are sometimes taller and sometimes deeper than his text block.

“Horizontal pictures are always annoying and should be avoided.”
“Planning the Typographical Layout of Books with Illustrations” (1962), p. 144 The Form of the Book

Tschichold was against the use of horizontal pictures unless they were absolutely unavoidable. If a book had a lot of them, he thought the format needed to be changed. Jan Tschichold, Designer has twenty-one pages with horizontal pictures.


“The enormous white expanse between the title cluster and the publisher’s imprint must not appear accidental and ‘empty’. The tension of this white space must contribute to the effect of the whole.”
“Typography and the Traditional Title Page” (1958), p. 68 The Form of the Book

Doubleday’s title page seems to be mimicking the expanse of space in Tschichold’s Die neue Typographie (1928) but without equal mastery of the elements. There is no tension. The imprint and Penguin logo are too large, rules are mechanically (not optically) centered vertically, the date is too small.

“When lines with capital letters are being used, these must be spaced boldly and without hesitation, though with a care to retain balance.”
“Typography and the Traditional Title Page” (1958), p. 74 The Form of the Book

“The lines with unspaced or poorly spaced caps are always ugly. The letters are glued together, so to speak, and result in a mess of lines difficult to decipher.”
“Typography and the Traditional Title Page” (1958), p. 76 The Form of the Book

Tschichold says to space capitals 3 or more points for sizes 14 pt and up. Doubleday’s title page appears to be set in sizes ranging approximately from 18 pt to 48 pt. The capitals are not letterspaced.

“Black publisher’s signets with negative letters constitute ugly intruders within the overall structure of a title page.… A publisher’s emblem should be light, to match the type color.”
“Typography and the Traditional Title Page” (1958), p. 68 The Form of the Book

Tschichold shows such a logo as a bad example on p. 77. Although the Penguin logo used by Doubleday has no letters, in its reversed out form it still overpowers the type on the title page. There are no examples in the book of Tschichold using such a logo on a title page.

“Never is the publishing house more important than the author, and at most it should be set no larger than the author’s name. How often do people deny this order of precedence and set the author’s name even smaller than the publisher’s designation!”
“Typography and the Traditional Title Page” (1958), p. 78 The Form of the Book

Doubleday’s title page has his name smaller than the two publishers, Oak Knoll Press and Lund Humphries.


“The gutter [both gutter margins together] must appear to be as wide as the outer margins.”
“Consistent Correlation Between Book Page and Type Area” (1962), p. 55 The Form of the Book

Tschichold emphasizes appearance because the gutter is affected by the curvature and shadow of the pages as well as by paper “lost” in the binding process. Doubleday’s gutter is 3″ while his outer margins are 1.75″ each.


“Words in capitals must always be letter-spaced. The spacing of capitals in lines of importance should be very carefully optically equalized.”
“Penguin Composition Rules” (1947), p. 2

“…roman capitals must always and under all circumstances be letterspaced, using a minimum of one-sixth their body size.”
“On Typography” (1952), p. 18 The Form of the Book

“Use small capitals for running headlines and in contents pages. They must always be slightly letter-spaced to make words legible.” “Penguin Composition Rules”, p. 2

“Small capitals always require gentle spacing; otherwise they lose all legibility.”
“Italics, Small Capitals and Quotation Marks in Books and Scientific Publications” (1964), p. 114 The Form of the Book

Doubleday appears not to have letterspaced any capitals or small capitals, whether in the title page, running heads, or text. He mixes capitals with small capitals on the title page, the running heads and in the note about following Tschichold’s typographic practice. Although Tschichold does not address this issue in The Form of the Book, he must have opposed it since there are no such instances in the examples of his work in Jan Tschichold, Designer.


“As a rule I use centered numerals at the foot of the type area [for folios].”
“Consistent Correlation Between Book Page and Type Area” (1962), p. 58 The Form of the Book

“These [folios] should, as a rule, be set in the same size and face as the text, and in arabic numerals.”
“Penguin Composition Rules”, p. 3

Doubleday’s folios (page numbers) are placed at the top of the page as part of the running heads. They are larger than the numerals in the text.


“Today they [initial letters] have almost fallen into disrepute, but they should be used again, at least in the form of large letters without decoration.”
“The Importance of Tradition in Typography” (1966), p. 29 The Form of the Book

Tschichold suggests opening a chapter with capitals followed by small caps. There should be no indention. Doubleday opens his chapters with a large initial letter that is not aligned at the base with the following type. There is no diminuendo as he shifts immediately to lowercase.


“The widely used em dash is a blunt line one em long. This is far too much length and invariably spoils any cultivated type area.… The only right thing to do is to use lines of half the length, en dashes, and separate them from adjoining words by using the word spacing normal to the line.”
“Dashes” (1975), p. 133 The Form of the Book

Dashes are a subject of great controversy. Tschichold’s approach has become the norm in England and is followed by many American book designers, but the em dash is preferred by The Chicago Manual of Style and it is my preference as well. I prefer it from the standpoint of a writer who wants that extra white space as part of the authorial pause, even if it ruins the beautiful even texture of the page that the designer is striving for. A good compromise—which was not available in Tschichold’s day—is the 3/4-dash with word spaces which William Bevington and others have advocated. In Jan Tschichold, Designer the em dash holds sway—with word spaces! This is even true in the bibliographical entries where they are sometimes used where en dashes or hyphens properly belong (e.g. a span of dates or a compound word such as “mass -producing”). In the text Doubleday uses hyphens instead of en dashes for date spans. This is not something which Tschichold touched upon, but it is contrary to The Chicago Manual of Style.

Jan Tschichold, Designer, p. 40


“Quotations are set in roman type and given quotation marks.”
“Italics, Small Capitals and Quotation Marks in Books and Scientific Publications” (1964), p. 115 The Form of the Book

“10. Ignorance of or disregard for the correct use of small caps, cursive and quotation marks.“
“Ten Common Mistakes in the Production of Books” (1975), p. 175 The Form of the Book

Doubleday violates both Tschichold’s rules and those of <i>The Chicago Manual of Style</i> in his formatting of quotations. He sets all quotations in italic. Long quotations are not set smaller and indented but instead set off by a line space, put in quotation marks and set in italic! Sometimes the first line is indented as well.


Tschichold says to insert a period after the footnote number (see “Typesetting Superscript Numbers and Footnotes” (1975), p. 123 The Form of the Book).

“A page is completely harmonious only when text and footnotes have the same amount of leading.”
“Typesetting Superscript Numbers and Footnotes” (1975), p. 125 The Form of the Book

Tschichold also says that it is permissible to use 1 pt less if necessary. Doubleday uses no periods and appears to be using less leading in the footnotes than in the text.


“In bibliographical and related matter, as a rule, authors’ names should be given in small capitals with capitals, and the titles in italics.”
“Penguin Composition Rules”, p. 2

The bibliographies in Jan Tschichold, Designer have authors’ names in upper- and lowercase.