The Typehead Chronicles: Measure
   
      Of Thomas Christensen, ABCedminded Typesetter  
     
   
 

homeward bound

 

Measure for Measure

Measure refers to the width of columns in continuous text. Wider measures require more leading. When the measure is too wide, readers have trouble finding the beginning of the next line; if the measure is too short, justified text will be unevenly spaced and end-line hyphenation will be a concern.

The NASTA textbook standard calls for the following minimal allowable margins:

  • head: 3/8 in (2.25 pi)
  • gutter: 5/8 in (3.75 pi)
  • front: 1/2 in (3 pi)
  • foot: 5/8 in (3.75 pi)

Eric Gill maintained that the ideal line consisted of ten to twelve words. Robert Bringhurst says that the range for serifed text is 45 - 75 characters (40 - 50 characters for multicolumn text); he considers 66 characters to be ideal. He will go to 85 - 90 characters for discontinuous text such as bibliographies. Bringhurst does not believe text should be justified in columns less than 40 characters.

A conventional formula for measure is to multiply the point size by 30 (thus 11 point type would be set on a measure of 330 points (27.5 picas or 4.58 in)--any multiplier between 20 and 40 would be, according to Bringhurst, "expectable."

In 1963, a fellow named Miles Tinker did a study of Legibility of Print. He obtained the following results (some of his methodology seems questionable, and I would take these with a grain of salt):

"Equal legibility within parameters":

  • 6-pt type solid: 9 - 25 picas
  • 6-pt type with two points lead: 14 - 28 picas
  • 8-pt type solid: 13 - 25 picas
  • 8-pt type with two points lead: 14 - 28 picas
  • 10-pt type solid: 17 - 27 picas
  • 10-pt type with two points lead: 14 - 31 picas
  • 12-pt type solid: 17 - 37 picas
  • 12-pt type with two points lead: 17 - 33 picas

“Safety zones for six commonly used type sizes” (“the limits within which the printer may utilize a particular type size with the assurance that he is maintaining satisfactory legibility”):


6 point

  • 14-pica line with 2 - 4 point leading
  • 21-pica line with 1 - 4 point leading
  • 28-pica line with 2 - 4 point leading

8 point

  • 14-pica line with 2 - 4 point leading
  • 21-pica line with 2 - 4 point leading
  • 28-pica line with 1 - 4 point leading
  • 36-pica line with 2 - 4 point leading

9 point

  • 14-pica line with 1 - 4 point leading
  • 18-pica line with 1 - 4 point leading
  • 30-pica line with 1 - 4 point leading

10 point

  • 14-pica line with 1 - 4 point leading
  • 19-pica line with 2 - 4 point leading
  • 31-pica line with 2 point leading (“marginal”)

11 point

  • 16-pica line with 1 - 2 point leading
  • 25-pica line “with or without” leading
  • 34-pica line with 1 - 2 point leading

12 point

  • 17-pica line with 1 - 4 point leading
  • 25-pica line “with or without” leading
  • 33-pica line with 1 - 4 point leading

 

 

 

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