Mergenthaler next realized—somewhat to the dismay of his backers—that single brass matrices would produce superior results, and began work on a new machine.
It was tested in the summer of 1885, and was a complete success. A new company called The Mergenthaler Printing Company was organized, and with strong financial backing, it was decided to build twelve of the new machines.
The first machine completed was sent to the New York Tribune, where it was used to set part of the newspaper of July 3, 1886.
Mergenthaler demonstrates the “blower” Linotype for Whitelaw Reid of the New York Tribune in July, 1886. Drawing by J. Coggleshall Wilson.
Before the last of the twelve machines had been completed, Mergenthaler had added nine patented improvements.
Business control of the venture passed into the hands of a group of newspaper owners, who, seeing big profits in the offing, ordered that 100 more machines be built at all speed.
Mergenthaler, who saw the possibility of further important improvements, pleaded for time but was overruled.
He proceeded with the work, struggling with the problem of producing brass matrices on a commercial scale by means of steel punches, which were all engraved by hand.
This was a bottleneck, and he began work on a punch engraving machine. He had not yet finished this work when the Benton pantograph machine was completed, and Mergenthaler stopped work on his own.
Trouble between the backers (headed by Whitelaw Reid of the Tribune) and Mergenthaler had been brewing for some time; now there came a split.
After many bitter letters, he resigned in 1888 and although the syndicate continued to manufacture the Linotype machine, his own company in Baltimore, Ottmar Mergenthaler & Co., continued to make parts and to build the blower machines for the syndicate.
Mergenthaler contracted tuberculosis in 1894 and began a desperate struggle against the disease.
In 1897 he fled to the benign climate of New Mexico, but, sensing he had little time left to tell his story, he and his children’s tutor, Otto Schoenrich, began his biography.
The book, though called a “biography,” might better be considered an autobiography.
It was published anonymously in Baltimore in 1899, a few weeks before Mergenthaler’s death at the early age of 45.
It is a slim book full of bitterness at his betrayal by the syndicate, and quiet pride at his accomplishment.
In 1911, when the original Linotype patents expired, the Intertype machine appeared on the market. It was essentially the same as the Linotype, but with some changes and improvements. Both machines used the same matrices.
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: he started work in the scientific instrument shop of August Hahl, his step-cousin and the son of his former master in Germany. Much of the shop’s work was the making of working models of new inventions, which were then required by the U.S. Patent Office.
For the next four years, Mergenthaler’s skill and ingenuity were applied to this work, and his special talents were soon recognized.
When Hahl transferred his business to Baltimore in 1876, Mergenthaler accompanied him. One of his first projects there was to correct the defects of a machine intended to produce printing by a combination of typewriting and lithography.
The idea for the invention came from James O. Clephane of Washington. Although the machine never yielded satisfactory results, it set Mergenthaler on the path to revolutionizing the casting of type.
Clephane then suggested a machine that could punch indented characters into papier-maché, producing type through a stereotype casting. Mergenthaler, after a short examination of the idea, doubted its practicality, but on Clephane’s urging continued.
Mergenthaler completed the machine in late 1878, but in spite of much effort Mergenthaler’s misgivings proved correct. Clephane and his associates worked without Mergenthaler until they abandoned the project in 1884.
After abandoning the Clephane project, Mergenthaler proceeded on his own, and began by rethinking the entire concept. Here we can see the value of the outsider’s objective thinking; if Mergenthaler had training in printing it is quite likely he might have attempted another incremental improvement, instead of the revolutionary invention he produced.
At the time of his work, in the 1880s, there were scores of typesetting machines being invented and many were in daily use in this country and in Europe.
Mergenthaler’s concept was to produce a machine that did not merely set previously cast type, as the other machines did, but to combine the casting of type with the composition of text in a single operation.
With the backing of Clephane and L. G. Hine, a Washington lawyer, Mergenthaler produced a small experimental machine and then, in the fall of 1883, a full-sized machine. This machine continued the use of papier-mâché matrices, but soon a new idea came into Mergenthalier’s mind: “Why have a separate matrix at all; why can I not stamp matrices into my type bars and cast metal into them in the same machine?”
By July, 1884 two new machines on this principle were completed. In his own words, “Smoothly and silently the matrices slid into their places, were clamped and aligned, the pump discharged its contents, a finished Linotype, shining like silver, dropped from the machine and the matrices returned to their normal positions.”
This was the first test of the direct casting band machine of 1884. His backers formed The National Typographic Company, and work proceeded. A band machine with automatic wedges for line justification was completed in February, 1885, and was seen and complimented by President Chester Arthur.
In a speech at the time, Mergenthaler said “I am convinced, gentlemen, that unless some method of printing can be devised which requires no type at all, the method embodied in our invention will be the one used in the future; not alone because it is cheaper, but mainly because it is destined to secure superior quality.”
Composing or Typesetting as a skilled trade originated in the Renaissance.
The Compositor was solely responsible for the appearance of every page. The wonderful vagaries of hyphenation, particularly in the English language, were entirely in the Compositor’s control.
Every special feature: dropped capitals, hyphenation, accented characters, mathematical formulas and equations, rules, tables, indents, footnotes, running heads, ligatures, etc. depended on the skill and aesthetic judgment of the Compositor.
Such was the attention to detail and pride in the appearance of a well composed page they would occasionally rewrite bits of text to improve the appearance of the page.
This greatly annoyed the American author Mark Twain (who began his own career as a Typesetter) and encouraged him to invest heavily in an early, and unsuccessful, attempt to produce a keyboard-driven typesetting machine that wouldn’t edit his words.
There was a romantic tradition, in this country at least, of the drifter Typesetters, who were good enough at the craft to find work wherever they traveled.
They’d work in one town until they wanted a change and then drift on.
They had a reputation for being well read, occasionally hard drinking, strong union men who enjoyed an independence particularly rare in the 19th century.
Typesetting was a skilled and respected trade even after the keyboard-driven typesetting machines were introduced, around the 1890s.
These machines typically produced lead slugs for each line of type, which were placed in a chase, proofed (the type was of course backward), and locked into columns or pages.
Extra space between lines was supplied with thin strips of lead, inserted between lines.
by Unknown photographer (scanned by and courtesy of Derzsi Elekes Andor).
Pages such as price lists and directories would be kept as “standing type” and edited by adding and removing individual lines of type.
Large type in headings, etc., was likely to be set by hand and combined with the machine set lines.
The Griffin Press, Marion Road, Netley was just down the road from the Old Guv in the 1970s.
At the Guv it was sneeringly referred to as “Head Office” and the big boss was a Napoleon like character known as Bryan Price. The final make up of the Griffin Press was a combination of three separate companies (I think).
They were The Griffin Press, The Craftsman Press and Vardon Price. The Griffin was owned and run by Advertiser Newspapers and the Chairman of the Board was the venerable Sir Lloyd Dumas.
Photo: Neil (The Moose) Lavender and his missus Pam on their Wedding Day.
The Advertiser was a bastion of conservatism in South Australia (and still is). But it didn’t stop them from publishing Orion Classics (pornography), Playboy and the very raunchy Hustler (Larry Flint’s rag) at Griffin Press..
I’m not sure of what year this photo was taken, probably late 1960s and I can’t see many of the Griffin Comp. Apprentices.
But I can see Bob Crane, Ron “Touch” Walters, Merv Mules (four eyes), Graham Tyler, Hank Bykker (I think) and Colin Giles.
An advert for the Guardian’s centenary issue in 1921 Guardian
The Manchester Guardian was founded by John Edward Taylor in 1821, and was first published on May 5 of that year.
The paper’s intention was the promotion of the liberal interest in the aftermath of the Peterloo Massacre and the growing campaign to repeal the Corn Laws that flourished in Manchester during this period.
The Guardian was published weekly until 1836 when it was published on Wednesday and Saturday becoming a daily in 1855, when the abolition of Stamp Duty on newspapers permitted a subsequent reduction in cover price (to 2d) allowed the paper to be published daily.
The Guardian achieved national and international recognition under the editorship of CP Scott, who held the post for 57 years from 1872.
Scott bought the paper in 1907 following the death of Taylor’s son, and pledged that the principles laid down in the founder’s will would be upheld by retaining the independence of the newspaper.
CP Scott outlined those principals in a much-quoted article written to celebrate the centenary of the paper: “Comment is free, but facts are sacred… The voice of opponents no less than that of friends has a right to be heard.”
After retiring from an active role in managing and editing the paper, Scott passed control to his two sons, John Russell Scott as manager and Edward Taylor Scott as editor.
Realising that the future independence of the paper would be jeopardised in the event of the death of one or the other, the two sons made an agreement that in the event of either’s death, one would buy the other’s share.
CP Scott died in 1932 and was followed only four months later by Edward, so sole ownership fell to JR Scott.
Faced with the potential of crippling death duties and the predatory interest of competitors, Scott contemplated a radical move to ensure the future of both the Guardian and the highly profitable Manchester Evening News.
He concluded that the only solution was to give away his inheritance, a far-reaching solution which provoked close advisor (and future Lord Chancellor) Gavin Simonds to conclude: “you are trying to do something which is very repugnant to the law of England. You are trying to divest yourself of a property right”.