My book designer cares about em-dashes. She knows the proper use of small capitals combined with a slightly larger italic, the proper weight of leading between lines. I had barely finished appreciating the sumptuous cover when Leah Carlson-Stanisic’s designs for the inside pages arrived. The type was strong yet clear, and beautifully proportioned on the page. The margins were not squeezed; each chapter opened with a curlicued initial. How blessed I felt, to see such generosity in her design.
My novel tells the tumultuous story of the men who made the first great printed book, an object of surpassing beauty. Proofs of my modern pages in my hands, I understood for the first time how much that 15th century Bible had inspired us all. The venerable old publishing house of Harper Books had grasped, without me uttering a word, that the hardback edition of “Gutenberg’s Apprentice” must be an object worthy of its subject too. We lovers of the printed book do notice things like folios and running titles, brackets, square or rounded, the oatmeal softness of good paper falling open in our hands. For us, the body of the book is an expression of its soul.
The Harper brothers were printers who founded their publishing house in 1817. Among the artifacts displayed in the lobby of the company’s new Manhattan office is a case of metal type. These are publishers who know that readers who care enough to buy a hardback book are entitled to an object of high craftsmanship. There’s more to my book I’ve yet to see—the map, the endpapers, the final feeling of the red cloth case that holds my words. But one thing seems quite clear. In this age when all assume the death of print, the love of well-made books will carry on, in an unbroken line from scribes to Gutenberg to sibling printers to today—and on and on.