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The typesetting challenges of OCV84

Thursday, 19 March, 2020

The Voltaire Foundation asked our typesetter, Tom Garland, of Academic & Technical Typesetting, to write about the recent challenge of setting volume 84, which contained several tricky layouts and graphical elements.

The challenge from a typesetting perspective with the volume was how to capture Voltaire’s original hand-drawn markings and then incorporate them into a complex page layout where their required positioning could very likely clash with sidenotes, line numbers, variant notes or footnotes.

Voltaire’s original markings, taken from photographs from original manuscripts, were quite faint and grey. This meant that there was no possibility of simply scanning the images and using the scans in a typeset page.

These marginal and textual markings fell into two categories, each causing its own problems.

Firstly, all pages with these markings were scanned and then separated into their relevant elements. With the marginal notes, an industry standard vector-based drawing package was used. Each individual scan of a page containing a marginal mark was imported into a template, where a freehand pen ‘tool’ was used to draw around the outline of Voltaire’s mark and then given an appropriate width to match the thickness of the original marking.

The textual markings, which often covered the manuscript width or encircled a word or number of words, caused a somewhat different problem. Again, a freehand tool was used, this time to encompass the required word or section of text. A ‘clipping mask’ was created, which effectively isolated the required markings, and made the background transparent. This allowed our typesetting system to import the image without blocking out any of the printed text (see the illustrations for p.215 and 250, below).

Typesetting OCV vol.84

Page 215.

Typesetting OCV vol.84

Page 250.

The publishing software used to typeset volume 84 was Arbortext Print Publisher (Unicode). A template for importing the text and images was created, which would normally allow for all different styles and types of articles found in an OCV publication. The template would automatically create line numbers and display the current line number value at intervals of five lines. These would be displayed in the left margin of right-hand pages and in the right margin of left-hand pages. Sidenotes would be positioned in the opposite side margin to the line numbers.

Fragment 48a was by far the most complex to typeset. This contained in excess of forty hand-drawn images, most of which were to be positioned within the left- or right-hand margin, or even within a sidenote. The typesetting package will automatically generate sidenotes, placing them alongside the position where they are referenced, e.g. <?"||SideNote",3><mn id=48>. However, in Fragment 48a, both the hand-drawn images and sidenotes were required in both the left- and right-hand margins of a page. This made page make-up particularly difficult as there were numerous occasions where either the hand-drawn images or sidenotes would clash with automatically generated line numbers or text. There were also occasions (see page 238, illustration below) where the sidenote was required to move further to the left of its normal position to allow for an image to appear between the sidenote and the main text. A manual command <?tpr=6pt> (add a 6-point space to the right-hand margin) was added at the start of the sidenote to separate it from the hand-drawn image to prevent them clashing with one another.

Typesetting OCV vol.84

Page 238.

In summary, the object for any typesetter is to add as much automation into a template as possible to save time and ensure consistency throughout a publication. OCV volume 84 presented a challenge where it was necessary to add manual commands to override some of the template’s automation to position some images and sidenotes that did not conform to the usual OCV style.

The OCV volumes vary considerably from other typesetting projects we undertake. One striking difference from other books is the many different types of footnotes that appear within an OCV volume. There may be notes from the original text, textual variants and editorial footnotes that will be positioned, in that order, at the foot of the page where they belong. There might also be side notes appearing in the opposite margin to line numbers. To make things even more complicated, the call for a footnote might well appear in one of the other footnote types (see OCV 84, fragment 48a). This can result in difficulty placing footnotes at the bottom of the page where the corresponding note calls appear.

The challenges of typesetting OCV vary greatly from one volume to the next. Some volumes conform to the usual layout, whereas others have chapters that are typeset in a unique style (e.g. OCV 84, Fragment 46b). These chapters can result in additional production time due to the typesetting template requiring changes in order to display the material in the required format.

– Tom Garland

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