Book Format

“In practical terms, choosing the format of a book determines the shape of the container that holds the author’s ideas. From the designer’s perspective, it is far more: book design is to the written word what stage design and theatrical direction are to the spoken word.”(Haslam, 2006 :30)

“There are two major categories of books: those we place on a table for serious study, and those we read while leaning back in a chair, in an easy chair, or while travelling by train. The books we study should rest at a slant in front of us. Few, however, will go to such length.” (Tschichold, 1991 : 53)

FORMATO – Disposição do livro em relação ao número de vezes em que a folha foi dobrada; (…) se a folha fosse dobrada em dois era chamada infólio, em quatro inquarto e em oito inoitavo (…) Conjunto de regras que definem a estrutura, a dimensão e o conteúdo das diferentes partes que constituem uma mensagem.” (Faria e Perdigão, 2008 : 565)

“we should begin at the beginning and examine the format of a book before we start working on it. We should investigate the geometrical proportions, to check whether the ratios are precisely 2:3, 3:4 or follow the Golden Section, (…). More often than one might think, a simple proportion like 2:3 is the best; this goes even for quarto books, though one might have to have the paper specially made. (…)” (Tschichold, 1991 : 184)

“The format of a book is determined by its purpose. It relates to the average size and the hands of an adult. Children’s books should not be produced in folio size because for a child this format is not handy. (…) Likewise, books that are very heavy are not welcome; older people may not be able to move them around without help. Giants should have books and newspapers that are larger; many of our books would be too large for dwarfs.” (Tschichold, 1991 : 53)

Deviant Formats

“Deviant formats: Books that are needlessly large, needlessly wide and needlessly heavy. Books have to be handy. Books wider than the ratio 3:4 (quarto), especially square ones, are ugly and impractical; the most important good proportions for books were and are 2:3, Golden Section and 3:4. The hybrid format A5 is particularly bad, while the hybrid format A4 is at times not entirely unsuitable. The inner book, or book block, of books that are too wide – square books in particular – will drop at the face. It is not easy to shelve or otherwise store books that are wider than 25 cm; 97/8 ” (Tschichold, 1991 : 191)

“Of late, books that are square have become fashionable in certain circles, among people who fancy themselves to be ultramodern. They like to do things differently. They use sanserif instead of roman, they favor flush-left beginnings and shun indispensable indents because they are alleged to bring unrest into a page; these are the people who like to use a square format.” (Tschichold, 1991 : 183)

“A book can be of virtually any format and size, but practical, production, and aesthetic reasons, careful consideration is required to design a format that supports the reading experience.” (Haslam, 2006 : 30)



Tschichold, Jan. 1991. The Form of the Book: Essays on the Morality of Good Design. Vancouver: Hartley & Marks. Original edition, 1975.

Faria, Maria Isabel, e Maria da Graça Pericão. 2008. Dicionário do Livro: da escrita
ao livro electrónico. Coimbra: Almedina.

Haslam, Andrew. 2006. Book Design



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