Monotype Composition caster

The Monotype Corporation: a film from the 1950s

On the same site as the film about Linotype [] comes this showing the Monotype Corporation in its heyday. It describes the journey to Salfords,

Monotype factory from the air
From ‘Monotype’ Machines in the Making [undated, ?mid-1960s]
near Redhill, then takes you in to the works, more a town than a factory. I love the scene of the brass band playing, the sense of order and calm attention to detail. [Scroll down to Newest Additions…]

The Monotype Corporation

Also check out The Museum of Printing

And as an aside, I too have my own film recently digitised about The Beeches Press, including footage of the Caster I then owned in action. One day I too will get around to uploading it to the web.

History of Lettering Thoughts on lettering

The end of hot metal on the New York Times

I’ve just come across this wonderful and evocative film about the last night of hot metal typesetting at the New York Times, July 1978. Watching brought back many memories of when I was a sub-editor at the Financial Times, London, in the late 1980s. Hot metal was still very much in use [a decade later] and when it ceased I purchased equipment to set up my own private printing press, The Beeches Press. What is also interesting is that some 40 years later newspapers are still being printed and distributed in a physical format. For how much longer?

End of Hot Metal
At the New York Times newspaper
History of Lettering Thoughts on lettering

‘Metalfounders who cast the slugs for Baskerville’s elegant type died paralysed with lead poisoning…’

So writes Robert Hughes [The Fatal Shore, 1988, Pan Books, p.21].* This got me thinking about the foundry process since, without the metal there is no type, and without type nothing else is possible. I turned to my books and scanned those lovely, ‘sanitised’ early prints of printing workshops.

Engraving by Abraham von Werdt (flourished 1640-80), taken from Printing To-day by John C Tarr. OUP, 1945, p.23.

They look so orderly, so clean, so hygienic. Then I turn again to Joseph Moxon and his Mechanick Exercises… [Dover Publications, NY, 1978, edited by Davis, H & Carter, H] which has sections Of setting up the Furnace and  Of making Metal [pp162-167].

Moxon describes in elaborate detail how the foundry is made and the type of ingredients used: ‘…for every three Pound of Iron, about five and twenty pounds of Lead‘. Moxon concludes: ‘Now (according to Custom) is Half a Pint of Sack mingled with Sallad Oil, provided for each Workman to Drink; intended for an Antidote against the Poisonous Fumes of the Antimony, and to restore the Spirits that so Violent a Fire and Hard Labour have exhausted’. There you are.

La grant danse macabre dated 1499 and printed in Lyon, purporting to be the earliest image of a printing workshop

It was an ugly job, and may well explain why those cadavers are inserted in the 1499 image of a printers office.

  • But there is no source given by Hughes to this statement. Does anyone know where he may have gleaned this information?
‘A caster at the furnace using a hand mould’. From Printing and the Mind of Man, 1963, being a catalogue of the Exhibition at the BM and Earls Court. This may be Sidney Squires of the OUP, who is shown in Moxon, p.406.
From back cover of the Printing and the Mind of Man catalogue, 1963.
History of Lettering

Making metal type – a photomontage from 1992

These pages come from the Printing Historical Society Bulletin (32), summer 1992. The photos are a fine record of a craft, I suspect, all but gone. [Credit for the photos goes to Elli Hadjiloizi and Nick Howells.) If you like this you’ll love this previous post.

Making 'real' type

Making 'real' type_0001

Making 'real' type_0002

Making 'real' type_0003

Making 'real' type_0004