On to New Things

Previously, this blog followed work in the Book Design and Publishing course I took at the University of Maine at Machias. This was the biggest project I worked on as an editor to date. It was a great project, bringing back to life a historic Maine book by Mary Agnes Tincker, a roman à clef novel of incidents in the life of Father John Bapst, who was tarred and feathered in Ellsworth Maine by a band of No-Nothings in 1854.

otc_cover_summer2016Since the book was finished other projects have occupied my time, including another issue of Off the Coast poetry journal. Right now, the fall issue is in process. With a quarterly journal the process is continuous. While poems pour in another issue is under production, while you read poems and make editorial selections, another issue is being marketed and sold. You pray the printer’s schedule matches dates when you will be at events. A couple of years ago we were disappointed to find an issue would be unavailable to take with us to the Massachusetts Poetry Festival. On our way out of town, the UPS truck flagged us down and there on the side of Route 1, that great road that stretches from just north of our house all the way to the Florida Keys, we transferred the boxes from the truck to the car and went happily on our way.

This semester, I’m focusing on electronic publication. I was pleased to find that HTML and CSS skills are a great start. Currently, I’m taking a deep dive into Lynda.com to learn more about epub formatting and refining my skills with InDesign. Along the way, I had to detour through options for upgrading my Adobe CS5 to CS6. Opting for Creative Cloud for now (the student discount is worth it), the other option, to upgrade to CS6, now takes a phone call to customer support. CS6 or Adobe CC is necessary to have access to the Digital Publishing Suite in InDesign.

 “Creative Cloud gives you everything you need to turn your brightest ideas into your best work across your desktop and mobile devices and share it with the world.”


otc-fall-2016On the left is the cover image for the fall issue of Off the Coast. In the coming days, the poem selections will be made and layout will begin.

With luck, this will be the first issue of OTC that will also be released as an eBook. By the end of the semester, I hope to also have an eBook of my own work available.

In the coming weeks, I’ll post further adventures in publishing, electronic publication, and a life among the bookish.

Stay tuned!

Weeks 3 & 4:Typography–The Thing and the Making of the Thing


Taking the 5 books we chose from the previous week, we were to comment on the aesthetic and practical considerations of our choices. After writing a short piece about each of the five, we selected one as our overall choice.

51kmofq9wvl-_sx330_bo1204203200_I chose The Children’s Blizzard by David Laskin. The book recounts the Great Blizzard of 1888, which swept across the Plains just as children were heading home from school. The morning of the storm had been unseasonably warm and many children did not wear coats, boots, hats, or mittens to school that day. This fine non-fiction book gives a wealth of background information and first hand accounts of this tragic event. The designer, along with the author, eases us into the story.

The design elements of this book are consistent on a micro and macro level.  For the sample text, I used the opening chapter. The heading is in small caps. The chapter title, Deaprtures and Arrivals, is large and italicized; there is an urgency to the italics. To begin the chapter, there is an ornament where a drop cap would be placed. The angle of the ornament matches the path of the storm, pointing from northwest to southeast. The typeface is fairly heavy, serif, but also conveys a sense of space typical of the Great Plains. These ornaments, doubled, are also incorporated as section breaks.

The book, a trade paperback with an elaborate cutaway cover, is a very nice package. The Children’s Blizzard, though a rather grim slice of history, is a very attractive book with an evocative title. The design elements do not detract in any way and enhance the telling of the story.

The text and design felt the most integrated in this book. There is a sense of direction and progression in both text and design. The ornamentation is both attractive and relevant. In an age where much of design is an attempt to make objects disappear into their function, this book partners design and function as equals. The experience of reading is enriched by the balance.

You can see The Children’s Blizzard here, using Amazon’s Look Inside! feature.

Our next assignment will explore typography and typefaces in more detail. Typography is an ancient art. If you look it up in the dictionary, you’ll find that it is both the appearance, style, or arrangement of words on a page and the act of creating the page. It is the thing and the making of the thing both. The immediate image that comes to mind is Escher’s drawing of the hands drawing the hands.

In the assignment we will use a double page spread from The House of Yorke and conduct a font test. Each student will select five different five typefaces, render the text in those typefaces, and print the samples. When we meet after winter break next week, we will create a gallery of our samples and select a typeface for the book. (We may select several typefaces and use different ones for the body of the book, headings, and other material.)

To get a sense of what a font test is like, visit TypeTester, where you can plug in sample text and select three typefaces to compare how they look. TypeTester has more than 2200 typefaces available.

I chose classic, old-style readable book typefaces like Palatino and Zapf Elliptical, both designed by the legendary typographer, Hermann Zapf. Palatino was Zapf’s first popular typeface and was based on his own calligraphy. There is a delightful video of Zapf demonstrating calligraphic technique:

Zapf Elliptical was developed by Zapf for Bitstream, one of the first foundries devoted to making digital fonts. Zapf also designed Optima, which was used to inscribe the names on the Vietnam Memorial.

photo: Evan Bench, Vietnam Memorial


Editing the copy of The House of Yorke is well underway.  The “Comma Team” has been giving it a close read and offering suggestions, from the large questions: should we expand the introductory material to include more background, to fact checking footnotes, and pointing out typos.  We have been working with a Google doc, which has made the task difficult at times. The ms has more than 500 pages but the Google doc has no chapter or section breaks.  For my own sanity, I finally started bookmarking the chapters and the contents to help with moving around in the document. There have been some weird formatting things going on in the document as well. Some of the footnotes have adopted a 36 point space after the paragraph. Footnotes do not have the “select all” function, so each one will have to be edited separately.  Also, a chunk of text went missing.  Fortunately, this is not the only copy of the ms.

When the editing is complete, the ms will go back to the editorial committee which will accept or reject our suggestions. Once this phase of the process is complete, The House of Yorke will move to the typography and art units.

Week 1. The House of Yorke



Over the course of the Spring 2016 semester, the ART 322 Book Design & Publishing Course at the University of Maine Machias will  take a manuscript of The House of Yorke, written by Mary Agnes Tincker in 1871 and turn it into a book. The manuscript was selected and prepared by English and Creative Writing students at the university.

From the manuscript Introduction: 

The House of Yorke is an intriguing novel that blends history into fiction… Mary Agnes Tincker wrote the book in 1871 with the intent of drawing attention to the persecution of Catholics in Maine… The House of Yorke offers a rare picture of events that might otherwise have been forgotten. Though the main plot of the novel focuses on the struggles of its young, fictional heroine, Edith Yorke, the setting and side story of Father Rasle are closely based on… John Bapst, a priest who suffered at the hands of an anti-Catholic mob in Ellsworth, Maine… The book deals with issues that are still relevant today—religious intolerance and bigotry against immigrants and their ways of life.

In the coming weeks I will be part of the team working on cover layout, interior design, printing, and binding. The completed book will be a critical edition added to the Library of Early Maine Literature, an imprint of the University of Maine Press.

Founded in 2010, the Library of Early Maine Literature is a scholarly imprint of the University of Maine at Machias Press. The mission of the series is to reissue rare and important works of Maine literature written before 1900 in beautiful, high quality editions that contain full supporting materials. These materials include critical introductions as well as notes and other forms of documentation. The Library of Early Maine Literature is overseen by an Editorial Review Board and operated by the English, Creative Writing, and Book Arts Program at the University of Maine at Machias.The goal of the Press is to reissue at least one work of Maine literature every two years.

Library of Early Maine Literature
Book Arts Studio, Dorward Hall
University of Maine at Machias
116 O’Brien Avenue
Machias, ME USA  04654



You cannot open a book without learning something.