Quite famously, Danielewski's House of Leaves is typographically quite.. psychedelic. And deliberately so. It employs a range of fonts, color codes, and not to mention the text is oriented in various ways. In answering another question on this stack exchange, user80 illustrates this very well. It must have been quite a challenge for the editor to work on, let alone the author himself.

Wikipedia mentions "the author "wrote the book in longhand and revised it with a word processor". Somehow that sounds a bit short-sighted or simplistic, as it must be extremely hard to keep track of all the envisioned typographic oddities in handwriting or, even worse, in Microsoft Word.

Is it known how the author typeset this work while writing it? What tools or computer software was employed to make House of Leaves?

  • It seems very plausible that he could work on it longhand, and then assemble the text together with instructions in an electronic document for the designer (much of it, such as text in different boxes and at different angles, is relatively easy to describe, and a designer could do a lot of work to fit things on the page). But certainly it would be interesting to get more information.
    – Stuart F
    Oct 22, 2022 at 12:29
  • @user17332 It's a shame you're not asking about "Only Revolutions", as Danielewski has said exactly what software he used for that. Information for "House of Leaves" is a bit more scanty, the sofware just seems to be referred to as a"layout program". Oct 24, 2022 at 10:12
  • @ClaraDiazSanchez Unfortunately I have not read that book, merely heard about it. I would be interested in the history of how that book came about too, typesetting wise. Perhaps you could formulate it as an answer? I do not feel like rephrasing this question to explicitly include his other books however, as I have not had a look at those.
    – user17332
    Oct 25, 2022 at 7:39
  • @ClaraDiazSanchez You could post a separate question about "Only Revolutions" and self-answer it. Good way to get the information out there on the site without hijacking a different question.
    – Rand al'Thor
    Oct 27, 2022 at 7:48

1 Answer 1


Matthew G. Kirschenbaum says that Danielewski typeset it himself in QuarkXPress:

Mark Z. Danielewski drafted the original manuscript for his breakthrough novel House of Leaves (2000) in longhand, then revised it with a word processor. But after he signed a book contract with Pantheon to publish it, he flew (at his own expense) to New York City, set up shop in his publisher’s offices, and taught himself QuarkXPress in order to do the typesetting—he didn’t wish to entrust any of the staff designers with his vision for the typographic effects so central to the book.

Matthew G. Kirschenbaum (2016). Track Changes: A Literary History of Word Processing, chapter 9. Harvard University Press.

Kirschenbaum cites this claim to Lily Brewer (2013), ‘The Function of Kittler’s “Caesura” in Mark Z. Danielewski’s House of Leaves’ which I was unable to locate.

  • Yes, he used QuarkXPress for the typesetting. But I think the question was about the previous step. Danielewski had the draft in notebooks, scraps of paper, and the backs of bus tickets etc, and used a word processor to marshal all of that together. Oct 27, 2022 at 8:35

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