Frank Mittelbach in this answer said: "I would be interested who would attempt to do that in the plain TeX box model approach. In the MWE below is my approach which I will from now onwards call it for simplicity, the pauper's coffins approach".

enter image description hereenter image description here

On the left image above, is the finished page (scaled down, using a scalebox) and with \debug set to false. On the right you can view the boxes with a border to visualize what is happening, by setting \@debugtrue. The shaded rectangle on the top left of the second image is a strut, which I used to position the first box. There is also a rule at the bottom left. I used various methods to move the boxes around to illustrate the different ways one can skin the cat.

If one removes all the fbox, the scalebox and the first vbox that is used in order to make the scalebox work, properly, I am sure that the code can be reduced to a one line statement and here is my question: Can you produce this layout with a one line statement? or alternatively how can this code be minimized using the same number of boxes.

I have used images rather than typesetting the text, as this is trivial and did not want this question to grow to be too long. Also is XeLaTeX based in order to allow experimenting with fonts, if anyone would like to try using text rather than images.

% !TEX TS-program = xelatex
% !TEX encoding = UTF-8

\if@debug\def\rulecolor{gray}\else\def\rulecolor{white}\fboxsep0pt \fboxrule0pt\fi

\scalebox{0.5}{\vbox{\hbox{{\color{\rulecolor}\rule{2cm}{3cm}} \fbox{\includegraphics{img-01}}}

\hbox{{\color{\rulecolor}\rule{3.8cm}{1pt}} \fbox{\includegraphics{img-02}}\hskip0.8cm \raise7cm\vbox{\fbox{\includegraphics{img-03}}}}

\vspace*{-5cm}\vbox to 0cm{\hbox to 0pt{\hskip 11cm\fbox{\includegraphics{img-04}}}}

\vspace*{-11.7cm}\vbox to 0cm{\hbox to 0pt{\hskip 14.2cm\fbox{\includegraphics{img-05}}}}


For the avoidance of doubt, I think the LaTeX3 approach in solving this type of problem is very good, but as Frank mentioned the user commands need a bit of a thought.

The block images can be downloaded at img-01, img-02, img-03, img-04 and img-05 (click view raw links).

1 Answer 1


The example implementation given by Yiannis is not quite depicting the original, the subtle relationships between the various elements on the orginial page from 1925 are shown in slide 11 of my paper and reproduced below. Please note inparticular

  • the use of baseline to baseline measurements (in certain places and they should be adjustable preferably)
  • the alignment of baselines to other boundaries (like "typographische" baseline to left of "mitteilungen")
  • the alignment of the middle block: the position is determined by the intersection of the left margin of the "names block" and the end of the vertical text on the spine.

So there is still a little way to go :-)

enter image description here

  • 2
    In my attempt I did not try to make an exact replica, just convey the idea; as one can move the blocks around. If you resize the top rule your number 2 point can be achieved easily. I think also it is important to draw the grid employed by Tschichold, rather than just show dimensions. I have a copy of the book and have another try. If I get it right will you make a better tutorial for the coffins?:)
    – yannisl
    Feb 12, 2012 at 10:32
  • Hi Frank, I am thinking of including this cover (without construction lines/dimensioning arrows) as a picture in a proposal for a TUG calendar for 2013. If you're happy with that, could you provide a stand alone LaTeX program that produces the cover (if not, a pdf)?
    – user10274
    Jan 21, 2013 at 12:04
  • 3
    @MarcvanDongen the example is part of the xcoffins test set, so you find the code, for example, at github.com/latex3/svn-mirror/blob/master/l3experimental/… Jan 21, 2013 at 16:59

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