“(…) margins must do three things. They must lock the textblock to the page and lock the facing pages to each other through the force of their proportions. Second, they must frame the textblock in a manner that suits its design. Third, they must protect the textblock, leaving it easy for the reader to see and convenient to handle. (…) Perhaps fifty per cent of the character and integrity of a printed page lies in its letterforms. Much of the other fifty per cent resides in its margins.“ 1

“[In the 19th century] the type area was centered in the middle of the page, and the four margins were of equal width. All connection was lost between the pairs of pages, and they fell apart. Around the turn of the century (…) the problem of a relationship between the four margins finally had become obvious, and (…) a solution was sought through the use of numerical values.”

“However, (…) only under certain circumstances may the margins form a rational sequence expressible in simple numbers such as 2:3:4:6 (inner margin to upper to edge to foot). [This] margin progression is only possible with a sheet proportion of 2:3 (…). The secret of a harmonious book page is not necessarily hidden in a relationship between the four margins expressible in simple numbers.”

Canon for margin proportions (2:3:4:6) determined by Tschichold in

Canon for margin proportions (2:3:4:6) determined by Tschichold in “The Form of the Book” (1991)

“The inner margin exists simply to separate a page from the one opposite to it, and needs to be no wider than is enough to keep the printed words clear of the bend of the paper where it is sewn in binding. The top margin needs only to be sufficiently wide to isolate the type from the surrounding landscape of furniture and carpets (…). On the other hand, the outer and bottom margins need more width than is required for mere isolation, for it is by these margins that the book is held in the hand; enough must be allowed for thumbs, and the bottom margins need more than the side ones.”

“the general rule should be: a narrow inner margin, a slightly wider top margin, an outer margin at least double the inner, and a bottom slightly wider than the others; the exact proportions being left to the judgement of the printer.” 3

“Books should be designed as spreads (facing pages). The two-page spread is the main unit of design. Left and right margins become inside and outside margins. Page layout programs assume that the inside margins are the same on both the left- and right-hand pages, yielding a symmetrical, mirror-image spread. You are free, however, to set your own margins and create an asymmetrical spread.” 4

Two-page spread with margins, from

Two-page spread with margins, from “Thinking with Type” by Ellen Lupton (2010)

“The pursuit of greater effectiveness and clarity in the relationship between black and white areas often leads to a noticeable reduction of margins (always prominent in the old typography). In the New Typography margins often entirely disappear. Of course type cannot in most cases be set right up to the edge of the paper, which would hinder legibility.” 5


Harmony between page size and type area is achieved when both have the same proportions, (…) then the margin proportions become functions of page format and overall construction.” 6

Equilibrado. Proporcionado. Diz-se da composição gráfica, manuscrita ou impressa, onde são observadas regras de proporção entre a altura e a largura da caixa de os espaços interlineares, etc.; o mesmo termo é empregue relativamente à decoração do texto manuscrito, quando apresenta um todo equilibrado e agradável no ponto de vista estético.” 7

“And this is the purpose of typography: The arrangement of design elements within a given structure should allow the reader to easily focus on the message, without slowing down the speed of his reading.” 8


1. BRINGHURST, Robert. (2004). The Elements of Typographic Style. Page 165. [consult. 2015-10-14]. Available on:,%20Robert%20-%20The%20Elements%20of%20Typographic%20Style.pdf

2. TSCHICHOLD, Jan. (1991). The Form of the Book: Essays on the Morality of Good Design. London: Lund Humphries.

3. GILL, Eric. (1936). An Essay on typography. Pages 109-110. [consult. 2015-10-13]. Available on:

4. LUPTON, Ellen. (2010). Thinking with Type: A Critical Guide for Designers, Writers, Editors, and Students (2nd Edition). Page 179. [consult. 2015-10-13]. Available on:

5. TSCHICHOLD, Jan. (2006). The Principles of the New Typography. Pages 119-120. [consult. 2015-10-13]. Available on:

6. TSCHICHOLD, Jan. (1991). The Form of the Book: Essays on the Morality of Good Design. London: Lund Humphries.

7. FARIA, Maria Isabel e PERICÃO, Maria Graça. (2008). Dicionário do Livro: da Escrita ao Livro Eletrónico. Coimbra: Edições Almedina. Página 614.

8. ZAPF, Hermann Zapf. (1918). Available on:



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