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Feb 19, 2012

The Alcuin Society’s Awards for Excellence in Book Design in Canada have been recognizing achievement since 1981.

As Marlene Chan put it in the preface to the 2009 winners’catalogue,

“The hallmark of the judging process in all of the Alcuin competitions is, and has always been, that each book is considered as a total entity. The discerning judges examine every aspect of each book, including the dust jacket, binding, endpapers, half-title page, copyright page, title page, page layout, typography, integration of illustrations, chapter openings, running heads, reproduction of illustrations, clarity of printing, choice of paper, footnotes and bibliographical references. The judges select books in eight categories to encourage the very best in Canadian design, only where they see exceptional merit.”

I met with Leah Gordon, Chair of the Book Design Committee, at her home in Vancouver to talk about the history and goals of the society – and, in particular, its Awards program; about some of the books the society has published over the years, and about how, in addition to the judging criteria cited above,  appropriateness and usefulness also factor into the judges’ decision making process.