One of the things I like about living in a large city like Buenos Aires is the unexpected. A while back we were hanging out with our friend Robert at El Hipopótamo, one of those classic bars from the 1920s that dot Buenos Aires, when a bearded maker of miniature books came by selling his little books.

He had a selection of titles, most going for around $5. We chose the Cuentos de la Selva (Stories of the Jungle) by the classic Uruguayan writer Horacio Quiroga.

You can see the size of the book here next to an ink pen. The size of the book is 6cm x 7.5 cm.

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Nice binding!

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And despite the small size the print is very readable. (My little Sony digital camera doesn’t focus too well at this small of a distance – and I didn’t feel like throwing the book on the flatbed scanner – so any fuzziness in this photo is my camera and not the typography).

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By |November 22nd, 2007|Categories: Book Design, rare books|Tags: , |4 Comments


One of the main tasks in my job years ago as a student assistant in the library was shelf reading. And, oh, is that boring, shelf by shelf, checking to make sure every book is in call number order. You’re supposed to just look at the classification numbers but I usually would look at the titles on the spine, also. You had to do something to make the job a little easier.

Later, throughout my library career, like all librarians, I spent a lot of time browsing among the stacks, reading a lot of titles on the spine and not thinking much about how those titles were positioned.

Top down or bottom up?

One of the things I love to do in Buenos Aires is to browse among the many great bookstores in this city. On my first visit to the bookstores here in Argentina I noticed something odd but it took me a minute to figure it out. Then I went home to examine the books in English that I had brought with me from the U.S.: almost all of the Spanish-language books in Buenos Aires have the titles on the book spine printed from the bottom up. All my English-language books are printed with titles from the top down. (I only have about 100 or so English books here but the spines are all consistent).

Honestly, I don’t know if there’s some kind of international standard for this type of thing or if it’s just convention in different countries or publisher preference. (In the library world there seems to be an ANSI standard for just about everything!)

The Impact: browse from left or right

The direction of the title on the spine isn’t that big of a deal but you do notice it when browsing in the bookstore or the library – which way you stand, which way you tilt your head, which way you step from side-to-side or around the customer browsing next to you.

Yet, I have noticed in Spanish-language books that there is a little lack of consistency: 90% of the Spanish-language titles I see have spine titles printed from bottom to top but a few are the opposite.

I took a photo of one of my shelves at home to illustrate. Look at the Saramago books: the English version of The Stone Raft next to the Spanish version of Ensayo sobre la ceguera. But then just a couple of books over is Arqueología de Buenos Aires.


(Click the photo to see a larger size).

By |June 12th, 2007|Categories: Book Design|Tags: |7 Comments


Ceci teaches in the Typography II course at the University of Buenos Aires. The course covers editorial design, which is book and magazine design, cover art, page layout. Students start the course generally without any experience with page layout software (e.g., Quark, InDesign). So, Ceci prepared this short (10 page) guide to InDesign as a beginning tutorial for the students.

Currently, the guide is only in Spanish but we’re going to be doing an English translation of it soon and making it available. Also, we will be posting more InDesign tips and tutorials to this blog in the future.

For the students one of the benefits of this guide is that Spanish-language books about design and computing are not as common as English-language titles. Even in Buenos Aires, which has a ton of bookstores, it’s not easy to find good books on technology in Spanish. That’s quite frustrating for the people who live and work here, particularly since Buenos Aires is a fairly high-tech community (as much as any large North American city).

So, here’s the link: Introductory Guide to InDesign (Spanish) [PDF].

By |June 6th, 2007|Categories: Book Design, teaching|Tags: , |2 Comments


This morning I discovered Ace Jet 170, a really great blog on type and print by an English designer working in Belfast. We definitely will be going back and reading this one closely.

I came across Ace Jet 170 via a posting at about Canadian book designer C.S. Richardson and Penguin designer David Pearson. Be sure to check out all the links in that post. It’s another blog worthy of close attention. It has a lot of podcasts about books.

By |April 25th, 2007|Categories: Book Design, typography|Tags: , |1 Comment