The Continuing Comedy of Small Print

Judy Holliday in "Born Yesterday" needs serious glasses!

Judy Holliday in “Born Yesterday” obviously can see small print!

Everyone wears bifocals eventually.  The readers, the non-readers, the cool people, the uncool.   It doesn’t mean you have four eyes.  It means you have “two distinct optical powers” (Wikipedia).

When beautiful Diane Keaton wears glasses in a movie or at an event, you can bet she’s wearing bifocals. (She is 70.)  When Gleb Savchenko wears glasses in a jazz dance on Dancing with the Stars,  you can bet he’s not wearing bifocals because (a) he’s young and (b) the glasses are part of his costume.

Gleb in glasses on Dancing with the Stars

Gleb on Dancing with the Stars

Diane Keaton in glasses.

Diane Keaton

Recently I was racing through an Oxford paperback of Mrs. Humphry Ward’s Robert Elsmere and troubled by the tiny print.  I don’t know the point size, but it was microscopic.   Even my bifocals didn’t help.

I read the free e-book and that worked fine.  Still, I loved this book so much I wanted a hard copy.  I ordered a University of Nebraska Press ex-library book copy for a penny, and it came today.

Here’s the funny thing about it.  IT HAS THE EXACT SAME TINY TEXT AS THE OXFORD COPY.  So they copied the original 19th century text and reprinted it?  Isn’t that too bad?  Oh, and the binding is broken too.

Darn, darn, darn.


Small print in Robert Elsmere (University of Nebraska Press edition, 1967)

12 thoughts on “The Continuing Comedy of Small Print

  1. Yeah. The bigger the number of years you have completed, the larger the size of the print that is comfortable to read. That’s why libraries have those sections with Large Print books. Sometimes, when reading on the Internet, I remember to use the Ctrl + combination to enlarge the print. I also have been distressed by websites with fashionable light grey print — give us some contrast here.


    • Oh, yes, large print books! I had forgotten about those but they are going to come in VERY handy. I really do think e-books are a wonder. This experience has led me to appreciate those free Project Gutenberg books.


  2. I find that an e-reader really helps with font size. And there are books which are too heavy for me to hold for long.
    I don’t have bifocals. I don’t have that talent. I’ve never been nimble physically and bifocals make my eyes unhappy.


  3. I can’t wear bifocals because I tend to motion sickness. The two optical areas are at odds for me. I’m near-sighted and, if I take out contacts and take off glasses, I can read any print – as long as the book’s about eight inches from my eyes. If all the glasses in the world broke, I could still read. Thank god.


    • See, two people have destroyed my theory that all wear bifocals. So long as you can see without them that is so great. I have taken my glasses off to read small print occasionally, but I can’t seem to do it for long!


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