Why are Books that Shape? From Codices to Kindles, Why this Rectangle Stays Golden

What is the shape of a book? The question is being asked by a lot of people right now. However, if you look into it, you will find that it is more logical than you would realize.

what is the shape of a book

Books are a continuous friend and a great source of inspiration and life lessons.

There are three ways to look at how the book got to appear this way, from the structure of a reader to the historical, and secret formula for printing.

However, it’s more subtle than that, but those would be the most straightforward explanations.

But despite all those variations in size, practically every book has a typical ratio. They are usually invariably rectangles with a height greater than a width, roughly equal in size.

The world’s earliest books had many of the same proportions as our modern books, though they were occasionally higher.

The text was first published in scrolls before it was in books. Greek scrolls are read from top to bottom, whereas Egyptian scrolls are read in columns from left to right.

Folding scrolls between these text columns and sewing them together along one edge produced the first codices, the forerunners of books.

The initial codices were made from scrolls, therefore they were lengthy because they were sized to fit the original scroll.

The codices eventually shrank in size, though, and started to resemble more contemporary books.

Reader Analysis

what is the shape of a book

The user of this object is the first consideration when determining the size of the book, and from what I can choose, that user is human.

First, humans read by saccading or moving their eyes back and forth across the text.

But before they get “lost,” our eyes can only follow lines that are so long. If we read for too long, our eyes get sidetracked and cannot find the following sentence.

Too short, and we lose a lot of time and get preoccupied with fast switching between lines.

A line of text should ideally be between 45 and 75 characters long, with 66 being the perfect number, according to Robert Bringhurst’s The Elements of Typographic Style.

The fact that most of us need to be able to hold a book (or another form of reading material) in our hands is another feature that applies to humans.

This implies that books have been designed to fit our hands’ natural shapes.

Modern books are supposed to be carried rather than placed on pedestals to be read, they should be optimized for that shape.

This may also explain why books have become shorter because of their early development stages.

Publication History

The historical perspective is based on the lengthy history of the book publishing business.

An industry that handles and sells these texts to its audience must pay attention to its readers’ preferences in reading the published content and act accordingly to suit their demands.

Scrolls were used to produce texts before books. Egyptian scrolls read in columns from left to right, whereas Greek scrolls read from top to bottom.

By fusing scrolls together along one side and folding them in between these text columns, the earliest codices—the forerunners of books—were produced.

Naturally, the original scrolls served as the basis for these early codices’ measurement.

In his study Typology of the Early Codex, Eric Turner examined 892 books from the first to sixth centuries and discovered that the codex creator’s “dislike for the overlapping joints between the pasted-together sheets of the scrolls” and the height of their original scroll were the main factors influencing the size of the books.

These codices had the correct size and shape and were starting to resemble books, but they still weren’t what we would consider typical books.

According to David Bland’s A History of Book Illustration, the first codices which often had four columns, but by the fourth century, each page had only two columns, and occasionally even one.

For the size of each page, there were practical issues. Houston also suggests that the size of the vats, which couldn’t be larger than the vatman, may have been taken into account.

These vats were where the initial paper that was manufactured before it was folded into sheets.

The transition from papyrus to parchment required using goat, cow, and sheep skins, which are rectangular when their curvature is removed.

Additionally, they are simple to fold into four folios that is positioned with the hair sides facing each other and flesh against flesh.

The number of folds a piece of paper had undergone at this period was commonly used to describe a book’s size, but because each piece of paper was unique, this measurement didn’t always correspond to the volume’s real size.

A carved stone in Bologna, Italy, depicted the normal page sizes in 1398.

The majority of books printed before 1500 were folios or “quartos,” which indicates they were very big books.

Since they weren’t designed to be portable, they were luxury items.

Houston explains how Manutius developed and popularized the “octavo” that we currently use by starting to print “handbooks” or “portable books” in 1501.

By that time, books appeared quite close to how they do now (he also eliminated the excessive publisher and editor comments, and introduced italics).

Furthermore, it has the typical portable size that we have grown to anticipate, not merely the proper overall dimensions.

Mathematical Explanation

The revelation that there is a mathematical explanation for why books are formed the way they are caught me completely off guard while.

The “golden ratio” is used in the mathematical design of books. Modern books may be designed using this “golden ratio” of 2:3, which offers aesthetic and functional guidelines.

Nature may be seen to apply this “golden ratio,” which is also employed in other disciplines like music, architecture, and art.

But there are other instances of “golden” math as well. The golden ratio, which is around 1.618 whereas Rosarivo’s golden number is 1.5, is also present in book design, from the Gutenberg Bible to British Penguin paperbacks (Houston).

Though it may be seen in nature and is employed in art, architecture, and even music, the golden ratio is not only used in book creation.

The Pythagorean Constant is something I would embrace.

When used in printing, this square root of 2* means that a page can be folded in half an infinite number of times without losing its proportion (Institut d’Histoire du Livre).

This makes sense to me given that books are created by folding a larger piece of paper and binding the edges.

This ratio is used to create A sizes of paper, which are the norm for printer paper in the majority of countries outside of the United States and Canada.

That concludes our discussion of the features of books’ sizes.

Regarding Kindles, their proportions vary depending on the model, but the Kindle 2 was nearly identical to Rosarivo’s “golden number,” while the most recent Kindle Paperwhite is just slightly over Pythagorean’s Constant.

Although the size of books (and readers) is still changing significantly, this is because of the shape of the reader, the limitations of printing, and the aesthetic and practical considerations of the arithmetic involved.

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