Ben Crowder

Historia Calamitatum

#books #css #html #medieval-history #pagedjs #pdf #releases #typesetting

Book cover for Historia Calamitatum by Peter Abelard, white text over small circles fading vertically from white at top through red in the middle down to black at the bottom

After what feels like a long absence from bookmaking, I’ve gotten back into it and have a new release: Historia Calamitatum, available as a PDF.

The book is a medieval autobiography by Peter Abélard, a Catholic philosopher who lived in the eleventh and twelfth centuries in France.

Some notes on the making, for those who like that sort of thing:

  • I used paged.js for the typesetting, so I was editing HTML and CSS files instead of wrangling InDesign or Affinity Publisher or LaTeX. It’s a different workflow, to be sure (lots of reloading in Chrome and then finding my spot again), but overall I love having the source files be plain text.
  • The line-breaking algorithm isn’t as nice as InDesign’s. Had to finagle the word-spacing and letter-spacing properties a bit to fix some more egregious spots. (At the same time, I wasn’t fixated on making the spacing perfect. Nor did I fix the hyphenation stacks, because they don’t bother me. I’m clearly becoming a bit more relaxed about typesetting rules as I get older.)
  • For the typeface I went with IM Fell DW Pica, which is no doubt anachronistic but I like the feeling it gives the book.
  • I proofed the PDFs in the Documents app on my iPad. Much nicer than printing the whole thing out (which I used to do, years ago).
  • I made the cover using Cirque with textures applied in Affinity Photo.

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