Hot Metal Page Imposition.

labelled-forme1Imposition has been a requirement since the earliest days of printing.
When pages were set using movable type, pages were assembled in a metal frame called a chase, and locked into place using wedges called quoins.
Quite often the furniture used in the forme was wood, which could be a bit tricky at times.
The Stone Hand or Imposition Hand was a Specialist Compositor who could lay down the type pages (handset, monotype or Linotype) on the metal stone in the proper imposition sequence without even looking at any imposition scheme.
Most formes were either 16 pages or 32 pages (generally for bookwork).
The majority of Stone Hands that I came across had two main characteristics, large hands and strength.
Those 32 page formes were very heavy and awkward to lift off the stone.
By the late twentieth century, most typesetting was onto photographic film.
These sheets were combined manually on a light table, in a process called stripping. Skilled tradespeople would spend many hours stripping pieces of film together in the correct sequence and orientation.
The term stripping was also used for other changes to a prepared page, such as a spelling correction, or a “stop press” story in a newspaper.
Digital techniques rendered stripping less necessary, but what has forced increasing numbers to abandon it completely is the introduction of “platesetters”, which put pages directly onto printing plates; these plates cannot be adjusted with a sharp knife.
In addition, an extremely high precision would be needed for stripping of colour work, as each ink colour is on a separate piece of film.
Rod Parham

About Derwombat

My name is Rod Parham, Hot Metal Compositor. I was born in Adelaide, South Australia in 1947. Single with two children and a grandson. I Love History, Movies and Words.

1 Response

  1. Stolen Biro

    Gee, I love these old comp room photos. I can smell it all, even now!
    I remember chalking out the imposition scheme on the stones for Hansard and GG without referring to the written-down scheme – buggered if I could do it now though!


Comments are closed.