If letterpress equipment is rare, the machines that cast metal type for letterpress printing (and the men and women who still know how to operate the machines) are on the endangered species list. Many contemporary letterpress printers set type by hand, however metal type will be a finite resource unless foundry equipment is restored and used. The continued casting of movable type is the key to preserving traditional hand typesetting techniques. This section of Letterpress Commons is meant to educate printers about type founding and to be a repository of knowledge for a new generation of type casters.
From Gutenberg’s invention of “movable type” in the 1400’s until the mid 1800’s, type founding remained essentially the same—type metal was poured by hand into a mould closed by a matrix. With the industrial revolution and the increase in literacy and the accompanying rise in the demand for printed material, … Continue reading →
The Linotype is considered to be the first commercially successful automated typesetting machine. While the development of the machine was iterative, 1885 is given as the invention date for the original machine, and in fact the same basic principles were used in all subsequent Linotype and Intertype models. The Linotype … Continue reading →
Early Training Although Ottmar Mergenthaler was born in Hatchel, Germany in 1854 and received his early training as a watchmaker in Württemberg, his creative career started and flourished after he arrived in Washington, D.C. in 1872 at the age of eighteen. His first job could not have been more serendipitous: … Continue reading →
The Ludlow Typograph (Ludlow) was perfected in 1909 by William A. Reade. It is a linecasting machine that utilizes individual hand-set matrices (mats). The mats are assembled in a purpose built stick that is then locked into the top of the machine. When the casting lever is tripped, a mould … Continue reading →
The Monotype, or more accurately, the Monotype System, was brought to market in its most common current form in 1900. This followed a number of years of experimentation that created working machines that were displayed but not mass produced. While the competition between Linotype and Monotype was fierce, the printing … Continue reading →
The Thompson Type Caster could in many ways be considered a transition machine, sitting between foundry machines like the Barth casters that were used by the American Type Founders Company (ATF), and machines that were intended for casting slugs (Linotype, Intertype and Ludlow) or composed type (Monotype) for printing office … Continue reading →
Letterpress printing requires more than type—word spacing, line spacing (leading), rule, fancy borders, and ornaments all contribute to the legibility and beauty of the final printed piece. Word spacing (and ornaments) are most commonly cast with a sorts caster such as a Thompson, or Monotype Type and Rule Caster. While … Continue reading →