Thinking allowed

Y Cymun Bendigaid

A pack­age con­tain­ing a new book landed through my let­ter box a couple of days ago. It was a copy of the newly-author­ized ver­sion of the Euchar­ist of the Church in Wales, pub­lished just in time for a meet­ing of the Church’s Gov­ern­ing Body in September.

(The Arch­bish­op of Wales, the Most Revd Barry Mor­gan, can be seen at the meet­ing using what looks like a copy of the altar edi­tion of the book in this picture.)

The arrival of this book was a sig­ni­fic­ant moment for me — because I had designed and type­set it. Hav­ing laboured long and hard over the text and lay­out, over page breaks and line breaks, ver­tic­al and hori­zont­al spa­cing, typeface, kerns and lig­at­ures, page num­bers and good­ness knows what else, here at last was the fin­ished product.

This is always an excit­ing event: to hold in your hands the res­ult of your own crafts­man­ship, your own hard work, and to be able to see for the first time wheth­er it has actu­ally worked, wheth­er you have achieved the effect that you wanted — in this case clar­ity and beauty com­bin­ing tra­di­tion and modernity.

Of course, many people had con­trib­uted to this volume, in ways sig­ni­fic­antly more import­ant than I had. Litur­gists had worked on drafts, revi­sion com­mit­tees and the Gov­ern­ing Body had con­sidered it, and altered it to pro­duce the final author­ized text; oth­ers had cre­ated the cov­er (by Leigh Hur­lock) and the cal­li­graphy (by Shir­ley Nor­man); and the print­er (Biddles) had pro­duced the prin­ted and bound books. But I shall remem­ber the time spent design­ing a lay­out that works, select­ing typefaces, play­ing with type size, and dif­fer­ent com­bin­a­tions of bold and ital­ic and roman, caps and small caps, cre­at­ing cus­tom lig­at­ures (Welsh requires an ‘fh’ lig­at­ure which did not exist in the selec­ted face, so I had to design one myself in roman, ital­ic, bold and bold ital­ic), and of course proofread­ing the text over and over again. Proofread­ing, espe­cially of the par­al­lel Welsh text, was also done by people at the pro­vin­cial office of the Church in Wales. All in all, the res­ult is a book to be very pleased with, I think.

And then after all that, des­pite all the care that has gone into its pro­duc­tion, you begin to notice the mis­takes. Here and there, dot­ted around, are little glitches that have escaped the proofread­ing. It’s amaz­ing that you can proofread a text so many times, both on screen and on paper proofs, and yet the minute you pick up the fin­ished product you find a few more mistakes.

I sup­pose life is like that — you can­not pro­duce the per­fect work, there are always a few little things wrong. At least with a book there is a chance to cor­rect any errors at the next print­ing! Mis­takes in life, on the oth­er hand, very often have to be lived with.


Life's Solution

Life’s Solu­tion is the title of a new book by Simon Con­way Mor­ris, Pro­fess­or of Evol­u­tion­ary Palaeo­bi­o­logy at Cam­bridge Uni­ver­sity. The sub­title Inev­it­able Humans in a Lonely Uni­verse encap­su­lates what seems to be the book’s cent­ral thes­is: that on an earth­like plan­et, the pat­terns of evol­u­tion are such that they will even­tu­ally bring intel­li­gent life into being, but that there are pre­cious few earth­like plan­ets in the universe.

I plan to make fur­ther com­ments as I read the book; mean­while you can buy it here — it looks well worth a read, though it’s a fairly demand­ing work.