Visual Poetry

Robert Majzels

Apikoros Sleuth [PDF, 1.6mb], 2004.

The form of Apikoros Sleuth is based on that of the Talmud, in which a central sacred text is surrounded by the commentaries of scholars and sages accumulated over more than a thousand years. This layout evolved through centuries of copying by hand, and features narrow justified columns and dense pages. Using it in a modern design presented several challenges. The narrow columns in particular required more typographic adjustments than usual: for instance, increasing the number of hyphens, which medieval scribes used with abandon but some modern typographers have banished altogether. Every page is the same depth, although the number of words is different in each section of text. A degree of formal symmetry has been maintained between facing pages so that the book can be experienced as spreads rather than single pages. The demands of such a format required flexible interaction between editor, typographers and author, who sometimes changed words or phrases to fit the measure. This continual give-and-take between the restrictions of written English (with its many unbreakable words of six or seven characters), the given copy and the design requirements echoes the spirit of the tale itself. -- Robert Majzels