This week is spring break, and after a few nights of restless sleep verging on insomnia, I’m taking some time for what the kids call “self care.” In a couple of hours I’m going to head into my office on campus and spend some time trying to get my offprint collection sorted out for our department’s big move. I have hundreds of offprints of books many of which I now have as PDFs and I want to cull my paper collection prior to moving to new, smaller, and more efficient offices.
I’m also trying to spending my “self care” time working on some more creative projects (and putting aside the final grind on my book project and an article with a looming deadline). I spent most of the day yesterday working on typesetting a new book project edited by my colleague Cynthia Prescott and Maureen S. Thompson titled (for now): Backstories: The Kitchen Table Talk Cookbook. Like so many books that land on my desk at The Digital Press at the University of North Dakota, this one has a somewhat compressed timeline. The book is being published in collaboration with the Rural Women’s Studies Association (RWSA) whose 2021 conference is scheduled for May 11-15, 2021! Our tentative publication date is May 10.
This book presents some interesting design challenges. First off, it’s not just a conventional edited volume, but it also includes both historic recipes as well as recipes that serve as evidence for scholarly arguments. The editors also solicited both typical scholarly contributions and favorite or historically significant recipes from contributors. This means we have both longer (~6,000 word) chapters with footnotes and the like and short two-page submissions. Finally, the book can be read as either a scholarly work that both samples and interprets recipes as a window into the lives of rural women and their families. OR as an unconventional cookbook offering delicacies such as “brains on toast” and “boiled tongue” as well as an array of more contemporary, sweet and savory dishes.
To make this kind of hybrid book work, I decided to make the pages slightly bigger than the convention 6 x 9 inches and opted for 7 x 10 inches. I added fairly generous margins with produced a narrower text block that gave the book a bit more of a cookbook feel to it and makes it easier to read on tablets.
For fonts, I used the fairly buttoned-down Minion Pro for the main text and the rather contemporary Brandon Grotesque for the chapter titles and authors names. The connection between Brandon Grotesque and Walmart is just an unfortunate coincidence, but maybe one that speaks a bit to the role of the megastore in the lives of contemporary rural communities.
I also used the interplay between the old style Minion Pro (which along with its old style font friends) conveys a kind of seriousness of academic purpose to the book and the sans serif functional legibility of Brandon Text (a version of Brandon Grotesque designed for text blocks) to distinguish interpretative text from recipes. I also indent recipes .5 inches. I think that this works pretty well. (Note that the page below is far from perfect with the recipe for Coconut Dainties starting a line too low on the page and an extra line before the recipe for Blueberry Cake. These little things will get sorted out before the first set of proofs are circulated.)
I’m using page numbers in the outside margins because I think they work a bit better for the digital page (and give the book a 21st-century vibe in print).
So far, so good as far as typesetting goes. With any luck I’ll have a first set of proofs ready by the end of break and be sufficiently on top of this project to let myself feel restored and energized for the final six weeks of the semester!