“By making itself evident, typography can illuminate the construction and identity of a page, screen, place, or product.” 

Ellen Lupton, Thinking with Type

Book Design

Part 4 – Line spacing

In the old days of hot metal type, leading (pronounced ledding) was literally strips of lead placed between the rows of type to create the space between the lines when printed. The term has stuck in the publishing industry though it is also known as line spacing.


Leading is usually referred to by point size, for example 10/12 where 10 is the size of the type and 12 is the amount of leading, thus an extra 2 points in this case for spacing or 120% of the type size. In a previous post (Considerations before designing), I mentioned that InDesign’s auto leading is set at 120% but something around 130% is generally better for body text. But so much depends on the particular font as to how much leading is needed for good readability.


In the samples below, the same text has been set at 10/13 with three different fonts that are often used in the books that I have set: Palatino, Minion Pro and Sabon. 

As you can see the Palatino is larger even though it is the same point size. While it is acceptable for readability, a tiny bit more leading improves it in my opinion. It is a good choice of font for those scripts that have a lower word count but still need to fit into a predefined number of pages. 

Recently I had a title that was just over 50,000 words that needed to fit into 224 pages. A contents listing plus the usual front matter took up 6 pages. But it was also necessary to slightly increase the margins, introduce a rule between the header and the body text to reduce the number of lines per page and to use fairly generous leading – setting it with Century Schoolbook at 11/16.75 enabled the extent to be reached with just two blank pages at the back. As this title is not yet published, I have blurred the header. Please also note that it has not yet been proofread and corrected if you happen to spot a typo!

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© Catherine Williams, Chapter One Book Production