The Marvellous Miss Macbeths: Five Victorian Sisters
Angelica Goodden

Published by Golden Hare, Edinburgh, 2023

Designed by James Brook

ISBN 978 1 8384 0653 0

Paperback with flaps | 234 x 156mm | 312 pages | Printed by Gomer Print, Wales, on 120gsm Edixion Offset with anti-scuff laminated cover printed on 350gsm Claro Silk

The Macbeth Sisters are the five strong and resourceful daughters of liberal Scottish parents in a big Victorian middle-class family with art, science and manufacture at its heart. Their lives play out over a hundred years of social and political revolution that sees women’s emancipation, imperial decline and the dawn of modernity. 

Angelica Goodden, one of Sheila Macbeth’s four granddaughters, is Emeritus Professor of Modern Languages at the University of Oxford and Fellow of St Hilda’s College. Among her many books on European culture and literature are biographies of the artists Elisabeth Louise Vigée Le Brun and Angelica Kauffman along with monographs on Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Denis Diderot and the writer and thinker Germaine de Staël.

The design of the book is a contemporary take on a Victorian book layout. The text is justified left and right, and typeset in Baskerville with increased leading to allow the words space to breathe. Images are centred on the page with captions typeset in Scotch Roman Italic whose quirky character give a contrast to the more formal chapter titles which are set in uppercase Scotch Roman with fine rules separating the chapter number and title giving another nod to Victorian book design. The book is printed on Edixion Offset, an uncoated paper with a pleasing texture and a clean whiteness that adds a contemporary feel and allows the images to shine.

The images themselves were of varying quality with many of them of quite low resolution and not much detail. Unfortunately, better quality images were not available so I did a lot of work to make the images print-ready, cleaning them up and adding Photoshop filters to compensate for the lack of detail. For the image on the cover, after cleaning up the scratches and dirt that was on the surface of the original photograph, I added a duotone layer to give the photograph a greater depth and to add a bit of colour.

The cover typography uses Scotch Roman in title case for the title of the book alongside the author’s name and subtitle in uppercase following the format of the chapter titles inside. At this size, the lowercase characters of Scotch Roman have an enticing sparkle and friendliness that creates a tension with the more rigid formality of the uppercase letters giving the viewer a sense that this is a history book but one that has a warmth at its core, revealing the extraordinary lives of these five wonderful women.

Angelica Goodden: James designed my book The Marvellous Miss Macbeths absolutely beautifully — in fact nothing I’ve published has ever looked this good. He let me say exactly what I wanted about cover image and general layout plus typographical detail, and where he disagreed with my views he gently (and rightly) persuaded me that his were slightly better. I’ve never had as much input into the look of a publication, and am absolutely delighted as well as deeply impressed by the result.

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