Tuesday, October 30, 2007

A thread I cannot resist quoting - it is from the Forum on www.chocolateandzucchini.com which is Clotilde Dusoulier's food blog. This discussion started in May 07 but I have only just found it - but it warms the heart of a publisher who spent a whole year at the London College of Printing (after my degree - it was a course you needed 3 'O' Levels to join - which betrays not only my age but my enthusiasm for learning about print and book production in detail) - and who was the main type designer for the English edition of Chocolate and Zucchini!


Could anyone tell me what font is used in the text of Chocolate and Zucchini? The book is beautifully designed, and the font is particularly interesting. I just can't seem to find it anywhere.

My boyfriend spent some time on the internet trying to figure it out, to no avail. Theories involve Scalla, Perpetua, or Joanna, but those don't seem quite right.

Thank you.


Birgit replied from Germany:

... as a typographer I can't resist to answer this question

In the GB edition it's Bembo, a good old classic book typeface, dating back to the middle of the 15th century; combined with Myriad, a humanist sans serif typeface, released in 1992.

... and this means that I've got my copy of the book just today, yay!!

In the GB edition there are several fonts. The French name of the dish is printed in "Bembo" (serif typeface, see link below), the English name in "Myriad" (sans serif typeface, see link below). The pages to introduce sections use a script font for the french name of a section (printed in "Scriptina", which is the font Clotilde uses for "Zucchini"), followed by "Myriad" (set in Caps for the english section title). The French recipe name is set in "Bembo italic" (see link below), followed by the English recipe name set in "Bembo".

*** a little excursion on typefaces and typography ***

It's all about small details, that's why it's a bit tricky to find out, but these details are fun

Liberally you can say that there are two main groups of typefaces. Those with and those without serifs. Serifs are the little "feet" at the end of a letter as in Bembo. Myriad is a sans serif typeface, i.e. there are no serifs attached. And nowadays there generally is an additional italic version also. Sometimes this is a "real" italic (i.e. with some letterforms different from the upright version), sometimes it is just a slanted and then optically adjusted version of the upright letters. Here you can see examples of Bembo italic and Myriad italic.

msue wrote:
Any ideas why it is so important?

Type contains and transports a great deal of our cultural heritage. "Bembo" is a good example for this because it's more than 600 years old and we still use these special and slightly quirky figures to set books with it which are a pleasure to read! There have been technical changes concerning the methods of setting type, but the forms of the letters and their appearance on paper are still largely the same.

Another reason why typefaces are that fascinating lies, in case they're well chosen, in the harmony of form and content. An adequately chosen typeface should visually translate and, at its best, indiscernibly enhance the content of a given text. Even if you can't exactly say why you can somehow "feel" if a typeface is appropriate to the content or not. Just imagine "Bembo" used on a street sign or, on the contrary, a novel set in the typeface you see on motorway signage. It will lead you, at first sight, unconsciously to a totally different option for the interpretation of the coming content.

There are interesting ornamental things you can do with single letters, like those presented by the above link to Scott Kim. And in case you want to take a closer look, there is a historical element as well. As soon as you start to study this subject a little closer, you'll see more and more differences, which might be tiny but more clearly recognizable as soon as you see several lines of text. And be cautious, some people say typography is a virus (although not a bad one ...)

Catheryn, and with thanks to Birgit!

Monday, October 29, 2007

It seems to me that the first chapter of If On a Winter's Night A Traveler by Italo Calvino would be the perfect opening post for a literary book blog*.

Which is a rather oblique way of going on once again to talk about The Bookaholics' Guide to Book Blogs which got a review in this week's Independent on Sunday . And a nice one it is too, beginning 'Marion Boyars is, by all accounts, one of the UK's more free thinking publishers...' Thanks to all those who accounted us such. I like it: it makes us sound like the kind of people who might just decide to put all our commas before the phrase, full stops at the top of line and vertical hyphens everywhere. The review goes on to highlight the extracts from Dovegreyreader as particularly good and quite right too.

More good news comes from Gourmet magazine who have made Chocolate and Zucchini one of their books of the year, which is a pretty big deal. I also like the magazine's web address : epicurious.com. Our congratulations to Clotilde over in Paris, if she's not too busy we hope to be able to arrange some signings over there soon. Unfortunately there is no online link to the text of their books of the year section so this is as much info as we've got at the moment. We'll put the full text on the web page when we get it.

Having spent the last few weeks complaining about early christmas adverts I spent much of today designing, printing and mailing our own. How's about this for diverse?
This May Help You Understand The World
Last Exit to Brooklyn
The Devil in the Flesh
The Bookaholics' Guide to Books Blogs

Something for everyone madam? I'd say so.

Almost lastly: Apologies to anyone who tried to get to Riverbend's latest blog and couldn't through the link from this one. I don't know why it directs back onto itself - the link was to the right address. Anyway, one can copy and paste:

*What a great book this is, I'm ashamed to say that I haven't read it before. It was gift from the same friend who, upon hearing that I'd started working in publishing gave me New Grub Street . This is much happier BUT I would say that if you like this then you MUST read some Julio Cortázar (MB author page coming soon), he has a similarly playful but brilliant conception of literature. Try All the Fires the Fire for starters.


Friday, October 26, 2007

There is a new post by Riverbend telling how the family joined the 1.5 million Iraqis now living in Syria. Go read!


Thursday, October 25, 2007

It's always the same, you wait for a while for a publishers' night out and then three come along at once.*

First was drinks at my previous employ . They're currently very excited about a forthcoming Mervyn Peake book which sounds like it'll be great.

Second, was of course the launch of This May Help You Understand The World . It was also technically the launch for The Bookaholics' Guide to Book Blogs but if I say that the shrinking violets with whom I work saw to it that they brought five copies of the latter compared to seventy of the former plus ten of his previous book, Mathematics Minus Fear then you'll see that, the way they saw it, the night was really supposed to be about Lawrence. And, after a train and bus ride involving much lugging of books and one minor, accidental assault with an electric bass we discovered that we'd lucked out with our choice of venue. The Betsey Trotwood comes highly recommended; not only is it a lovely, atmospheric pub with a good selection of drinks and plenty going on all the time but bar staff went out of their way to help. Even to the extent of giving me a free drink. This last shouldn't detract from credibility of my previous eulogy, within a couple of minutes of going inside we were talking about having our christmas party there.
So we took our room upstairs, laid the books out and waited, which is always a nervous time for me because if not enough people turn up you always end up feeling a little ridiculous. I needn't have worried; Lawrence, who apparently learned his organizational skills arranging monthly games of rounders, had marshalled a large crowd of well wishers who immediately set about buying books and drinking the bar dry. Although this meant much work for the three of us, it's always worth it, and actually quite satisfying to see such things go down well. Lawrence's speech was delivered with the confidence that you'd expect from a talented teacher and then the whole crowd went off to a restaurant that probably still doesn't know what hit it. Many thanks to all who came.

If you missed out on the evening but still want to hear Lawrence's Tamil Tiger story, not mention learn of his fascination for Loose Women then you can catch him at the Review Bookshop on November 15th where he is doing a Q&A as part of the Peckham Literary Festival .

And thirdly there was a very successful evening at Waterstones Hampstead where they held their second Literature in Translation event. This time there were three translators: Lisa Appignanesi who chaired Len Rix (Who translates the work of Anton Szerb ) and Peter Camiller ( Dumitru Tsepeneag ) . Speaking about their authors and the art of translation in equal measure, the three had fascinating conversation, answered some good questions (Somebody always asks if there's such a thing as an unstranslatable text and someone always answers Finnegan's Wake. Always) and those that wanted to wandered off to the pub. Basically to talk about similar things, but, as is perhaps appropriate to discussions of eastern european literature, with more alcohol. I really recommend going to these nights, they give much needed attention to a whole (literally) world of literature (again, is that alliterative?) that just doesn't get enough of a look in in our insular little isle.

* With apologies for the cliché but getting back from Tuesday night's do, three buses did indeed arrive at the same time to take me home after a long wait. I was so astounded at London Transport's sterotypic ability that I lost my favourite scarf.


Monday, October 22, 2007

I happily spent a few hours on Saturday reading The Gathering by Anne Enright. So why did I rush out and buy the Booker Prize winner? I heard an interview with the author on Woman's Hour a day or so before the prize, and had a strong sense as I listened that she would be the winner. When the prize was announced (in a two minute item on News at Ten - what a ridiculous way to find out), she looked genuinely astounded, and press quotes later had her say "My boat has come in." I fully believe that neither she nor her publishers (her book was 'called in' which means Jonathan Cape entered two other titles they thought were more likely to be nominated) thought she would win.

It's a fairly grim read, a dysfunctional family with too many children who are mainly a list of names. The main plot events are seen through a key hole, so scarcely full of dramatic drum rolls and action. But the quality of the writing is fine, and her craft as a writer has been refined over several books. It's a triumph for both a writer, and a publishing house that brought out all her books, that she has won a major prize. After all, that is what prizes should be for - not to award the already famous, but to bring new writers to the attention of a host of readers.

I felt I had bought a book by a really worthy winner, someone who would enjoy the thought of every new reader as a genuine boon. So I also have a warm glow as I read - knowing if she had not won, there is hardly any chance that I would have been reading her book this weekend.

Monday, October 15, 2007

The news at the start of this week seems tailored to prick up MBP ears

The brewing diplomatic fracas between the US and Turkey. has of course special relevance for us. It seems that Democrats in the US congress have voted to declare the supression of Armenian peoples by the Turkish government during the First World War an act of genocide. If the gesture seems fairly meaningless to western eyes, it's seen rather differently in Turkey where, of course, Elif Shafak was arrested for having her characters in her latest novels discuss the issue. It's worth repeating: fictional characters having a discussion. Better news from Turkey is that the government is considering repealing the notorious Article 301 that prevents 'Insulting Turkishness' under which Elif was prosecuted. For an insight into the US's checkered relationship with Turkey Enlightenment by Maureen Freely is well worth a go.

There's a quote from Lao Tse:
'A leader is best when people barely know he exists'
which seems particularly apt when considering the 17th Chinese National Party Congress . Those confused by the apparent lack of a recognisable leader since the death of Deng Xiaoping could do a lot worse than pick up a copy of This May help You Understand The World and turning to the chapter 'How Do You Know Who is Charge in China? Which explains the situation rather well.

And just so don't think it's all frontlist, Radio Four is doing a particularly good series on the history of music. The most recent episode mentioning Stockhausen - who is of course one of our authors .


Friday, October 12, 2007

So review copies of the Bookaholics' Guide were sent out a couple of weeks ago and there's been plenty of blogosphere response. I thought I'd round up some of it - hopefully there'll be a few printed press reviews at the end of the month too.

Dovegreyreader was unsurprisingly one the first off the mark, joined by Baroque in Hackney , and the inimitable (I think that I've called him that before and I'm not at all sure that it's appropriate, I'll ask someone intelligent . . . [later] Well Mr Shorter says that it means 'incapable of being imitated' or 'surpassing or defying imitation', not to be confused with 'inimical' which means 'hostile' and was invented in 1513. So, yes inimitable stays) Mark Thwaite , and the good people at 3AM Magazine , all of whom seem pleased that they were mentioned.

Then there were industry figures Richard Charkin and Girl Friday who both took issue with the use of the apostrophe, thus raising the indignance levels in the office from 'low' to 'quite'.

Next there was an article by A Stevens on the Guardian website and a pretty mixed one by Fiction Bitch both of which had some great commentary (this last seems better written than 'comments').

And that's it so far I think. But the official pub date has not yet been reached.

Yesterday, I said that I'd put up some links to literary events going on. But then I remembered that it's the Frankfurt Book Fair and that this would be better done when it's over. Odd that I forgot really, given it's why I've had no-one to talk to all day . . .


Thursday, October 11, 2007

The launch party for both This May Help You Understand The World and The Bookaholics Guide to Book Blogs will be held from 6-9PM on Tuesday 23rd October at

The Betsey Trotwood
56 Farringdon Road
London EC1R 3BL

all welcome.

AND congratulations to Doris Lessing! The nicest Nobel Prize winner that this humble publishing assistant has ever met. A truly brilliant woman (Doris Lessing, not the hpa.)

A round up of criticism of the book blog book and others to come tomorrow as well as what we hope will be an interesting new feature: a guide to literary events going on over the next week. It would happen now but I'm being unfairly mocked for the way I type, what's RSI anyway?


Tuesday, October 09, 2007

A new look for the website!

Which is why the blog has been quiet yet again. At the moment it's still fairly simple because I'm learning and it ain't a small task - your html is not an intuitive beast and our website is not small. There's much more info than many of the big publisher's websites, and a far more interesting backlist tho'onedeossayitthemself. AND a funny little man:

Who has become my friend through the process of {[double click/special/template/apply new template/save and upload] x1000 not to mention the little adjustments that each page seems to demand, the oftentimes when it doesn't work and the one time when everything disappeared} redoing the whole thing.

As for evidence of my gluttony for punishment my previous self elected job was changing all the ISBN numbers from ten to thirteen in our catalogue - when is someone going to blame 'the decline of publishing' about which we hear so much on this patently unlucky industry standard?

There are many more goings on: the travails of two books approaching their pub dates in a country without mail, online discussion of the Book Blogs book and more but that's it for this evening.