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Old 08-11-2009, 10:17 AM   #1
Join Date: Oct 2004
Posts: 9,878
Default Annoying book design...

I'd just finished reading A Prince of Our Disorder: The Life of T. E. Lawrence (John E. Mack, ISBN: 0316542296) which is excellent and I started to read Lawrence of Arabia, The Authorized Biography of T. E. Lawrence (Jeremy Wilson, ISBN: 0020826621) and there as aspects of the book design that are so annoying that I may not do more than dip into the book here and there rather than reading it from cover to cover.

1. The text is set justified (flush right) which I find makes it harder to scan the line I'm reading.

2. It appears to be the UK edition given the spelling and the use of single quote marks--apropos of Mike's thread--which I find visually odd and somewhat distracting as I keep looking for the outer/master double quote mark.

I'm sure I could used to these two things but it's the strangeness of the footnotes that I find most annoying. It took me until page 13 to realize there are no footnote numbers following quotes (I guess I was distracted by the use of single quote marks...'-}}).

Wilson goes to some length in his proglogue to discuss his research for the book and his use of pertinent government papers many of which became available for the first time in 1968--the book is copyrighted 1989 and mine is the 1992 edition. He states that he has spent 10 years gathering contemporary (to Lawrence's life) documents such that:

"I have used extensive quotations, and the essential points can be seen to rest everywhere on contemporary evidence rather than on some theory of my own. Individual extracts were chosen for a number of different reasons. The first was to give authority to the factual record; the second, to illustrate Lawrence's values, aims, motivation and critical judgment, and to show how he was assessed by his contemporaries." (Prologue, page XXV, Lawrence of Aratia, the Authorized Biography of T. E. Lawrence, Jeremy Wilson, Collier Books, 1992 edition)

And yet...there are no footnote numbers in the text!

There is a References and Notes section at the back of the book--very common approach and perfectly acceptable to me--but the design, particularly for a book that purports to be the final and authorized word on Lawrence's life, is just gawdawful--see the attached scan.

Wilson makes mention (often) of the "general reader" and it appears that he doesn't trust that this person has any degree of sophistication and intelligence which makes me (as a non-specialist, general reader) less than trusting of Wilson's writing and wondering whether it's worth reading his book.

I don't think that this book design is due to it originating in the UK or the differences between UK and US approaches to design. I think it's just crappy design?

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