Opening a Harrassowitz (Wiesbaden) or Winter (Heidelberg) publication from the 1950s and 1960s is to discover a wealth of linguistic information organized just the way it should be. Even if the author’s prose is abysmal and his pedagogical method suspect, I just find it so easy to absorb information out of these books on the basis of their perfectly proportioned typesetting. By way of example, though imperfectly representing the paper quality, impression, etc., here are two scans from the first edition of An Introduction to Classical (Literary) Mongolian by Kaare Grønbech & John R. Krueger, which Harrassowitz published in 1955 and credited Hubert & Co. of Göttingen for the printing and typesetting.
Sadly, this aesthetic was lost when computer typesetting made it easy to forego the use of expert typesetters. It is illustrative to compare this book with Peter B. Golden’s An Introduction to the History of the Turkic Peoples (Turcologica 9) which Harrassowitz published in 1992. Hubert & Co. is still credited as the printer, but it appears that the author was obliged to typeset the book himself and the result is not so soothing to read. Besides some specific errors (the lack of en dashes in ranges, the use of straight quotation marks instead of left and right ones, and line breaks where there should have been a non-breaking space), there’s just a jumbled appearance that is hard on the eye:
Nearly all smaller academic presses look like this now. Cost savings are usually cited as the reason, but even when there is the money to spend, there doesn’t seem much interest in the aesthetic anymore. If native English speakers can successfuly charge authors a hell of a lot of money for correcting the language of a book prior to publication (10€/page is the standard rate in Finland), you’d think that the author wouldn’t mind paying another 100€ to a hungry student to iron out the bulk of typesetting infelicities.