Hand and Machine Hot Metal Composition.

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.
Read more via Graphion Museum: Old Phototypesetter Tales

William Caxton, first successful English Printer, 1422-1492.

Caxton was the first English printer and a translator and importer of books into England.
Caxton was born in around 1422 in Kent. He went to London at the age of 16 to become an apprentice to a merchant, later moving to Bruges, the centre of the wool trade, where he became a successful and important member of the merchant community.
From 1462 to 1470 he served as governor of the ‘English Nation of Merchant Adventurers’, which allowed him to represent his fellow merchants, as well as act as a diplomat for the king.
Caxton affiliated himself with the household of Margaret, the duchess of Burgundy, sister of the English king Edward IV.
She became one of his most important patrons and encouraged him with his translation of ‘The Recuyell of the Histories of Troye’ from French to English.
In the early 1470s Caxton spent time in Cologne learning the art of printing.
He returned to Bruges in 1472 where he and Colard Mansion, a Flemish calligrapher, set up a press.
Caxton’s own translation of ‘The Recuyell of the Histories of Troye’ was the first book printed in the English language.
In 1476 Caxton returned to London and established a press at Westminster, the first printing press in England. Amongst the books he printed were Chaucer’s ‘Canterbury Tal, Gower’s ‘Confession Amantis’ and Malory’s ‘Le Morte d’Arthur’.
He printed more than 100 books in his lifetime, books which were known for their craftsmanship and careful editing.
He was also the translator of many of the books he published, using his knowledge of French, Latin and Dutch. He died in 1492.
via BBC – History – William Caxton.

Early Printing in Cologne, Rhine River, Germany.

Cologne’s location on the River Rhine placed it at the intersection of the major east-west trade routes and this was the basis of its wealth and power.
Besides its economic and political significance, Cologne also became an outstanding centre of medieval pilgrimage when Cologne’s archbishop gave the relics of The Three Wise Men to the Cathedral in 1164.
In the Middle Ages it was the most densely populated and one of the most prosperous towns in the German-speaking region, with an established university and membership of the Hansa alliance (Hanseatic League) of trading cities.
This economic association of towns and cities stretched from the Baltic to the North Sea and dominated trade along the coast of Northern Europe for centuries.
Trade fairs, which provided early printers with a market for their books, were an established feature of Cologne life.


In the early 1470s William Caxton, the English Printer, spent time in Cologne learning the art of printing.
He returned to Bruges in 1472 where he and Colard Mansion, a Flemish calligrapher, set up a press.
Eventually Caxton set up his press in London.
Caxton’s own translation of ‘The Recuyell of the Histories of Troye’ was the first book printed in the English language.
via First Impressions | Cologne.

Bertha Goudy, Type Designer.

berthamgoudy-portraitBertha M. Sprinks Goudy, American, 1869-1935
Bertha Goudy was a bookkeeper when she married a fellow bookkeeper, Frederic William Goudy (1865-1947), in 1897.
Fred Goudy would later become arguably the most admired and well-known of American twentieth-century type designers.
The posthumous tributes which appeared in Bookmaking on the Distaff Side (1937), and Bertha S. Goudy, First Lady of Printing (1958) make it clear, however, that her contributions were of the greatest significance to their joint enterprises.
Bertha herself, for example, cut their 24-point Deepdene italic design, and set the type for much of the output of the Village Press, which they founded together with Will Ransom, in 1903. Printing, an Essay by William Morris & Emery Walker, was their first publication, and their designs continue Morris’s revival of fine craftsmanship in the book arts.
Fred Goudy’s own touching tribute to his wife reveals her importance to him and to their work:
To me she was “my beloved helpmate.” She encouraged me when my own courage faltered; uncomplaining she endured the privations and vicissitudes of our early companionship; her intelligent and ready counsel I welcomed and valued; her consummate craftsmanship made possible many difficult undertakings.
She ever sought to minimize any exploitation of her great attainments, that the acclaim which rightfully belonged to her should come, instead, to me.
For two-score years she unselfishly aided me in every way in my work in the fields of type design and typography, and enabled me to secure a measure of success which alone could never have been mine.
via Unseen Hands: Bertha M. Sprinks Goudy.

Frederick W. Goudy, Type Designer.


Frederick W. Goudy (1865 – 1947) was a leading American typographic artist and book designer, born in Bloomington, Illonois, U.S..
He worked primarily in New York City and was employed by American Type Foundry and Monotype.
Goudy’s best known designs are ITC Berkeley Oldstyle, Goudy Modern, Goudy Sans, Cloister Initials and Goudy Trajan.
Here is his tribute to the art of type and typography.
Of my earliest ancestry neither history nor relics remain. The wedge-shaped symbols impressed in plastic clay by Babylonian builders in the dim past foreshadowed me: from them, on through the hieroglyphs of the ancient Egyptians, down to the beautiful manuscript letters of the medieval scribes, I was in the making.
With the golden vision of the ingenious Gutenberg, who first applied the principle of casting me in metal, the profound art of printing with movable types was born.
Cold, rigid and implacable I may be, yet the first impress of my face brought the Divine Word to countless thousands. I bring into the light of day the precious stores of knowledge and wisdom long hidden in the grave of ignorance.
I coin for you the enchanting tale, the philosopher’s moralising and the poet’s fantasies; I enable you to exchange the irksome hours that come, at times, to everyone, for sweet and happy hours with books – golden urns filled with all the manna of the past.
In books, I present to you a portion of the eternal mind caught in its progress through the world, stamped in an instant and preserved for eternity. Through me, Socrates and Plato, Chaucer and Bards become your faithful friends who ever surround you and minister to you.
I am the leaden army that conquers the world. I am type.
F.W. Goudy

Einstein’s struggle with the Linotype.

ap330115030When Albert Einstein said the Linotype was one of the cleverest machines ever invented in the 19th Century he was invited to see one in action.
Unfortunately, he ended up you know where…
But Apprentice Albert needed lots of help to come to grips with the very strange layout of the Linotype keyboard.
Meanwhile, the Hot Metal Comps nearby seem to be enjoying the old boy’s frustrations.
Jealous, evil bastards!