Five Hundred Years of Printing

By S. H. Steinberg; John Trevitt | Go to book overview

CHAPTER IV
1900-1955

It is surprising to recall that when the twentieth century dawned the Linotype and Monotype hot-metal composing machines had recently proved themselves, yet most type was still set by hand; William Morris was dead, but five of the great English private presses were well established; Art Nouveau was in the middle of its short life; and, while lithography was a hundred years old, offset lithographic printing was still restricted to tinplate.By 1955, when this book was first published, virtually all commercially produced books were set by Monotype or Linotype and printed from type or relief plates, and the private presses had all but disappeared.


I. LINOTYPE AND MONOTYPE

The first Linotype machine was installed in The New York Tribune in 1886. Its inventor, Ottmar Mergenthaler ( 1854-99), was an immigrant from Württemberg who added his skill as a watchmaker to the restless inventiveness of the Baltimore engineer, James 0. Clephane.After ten years' work Mergenthaler produced the Linotype (= line o' type) machine on which almost every newspaper in the world was for many years composed. Mergenthaler's basic innovation was that of circulating matrices, which consist of pieces of brass punched with letters, figures and punctuation marks.On the summons of an operator tapping the keys the pieces of brass are brought together in a line, automatically spaced, for the faces to make a cast impression in type. The matrices are then mechanically returned to the channels of a magazine, whence they may be brought into use over and over again.

The greatest perfection of the composing machine, however, was accomplished by the American Tolbert Lanston ( 1844-1913), the inventor of the Monotype machine. First produced in 1889 and commercially established in 1897, the Monotype machine is based on principles similar to the Linotype but has the advantage of casting each character and space separately.Whereas a skilled compositor had so far been able to compose about zooo letters an hour, the average output of the Linotype and Monotype operator is at least 6000 in the same time.There are however important functional differences between the two machines. Whereas the Linotype operator produces 'slugs' (lines of type) single-handed, the punched paper tape produced by the Monotype keyboard operator has to be run on a separate casting machine, which needs its own attendant.Against this may be set the fact that while an alteration in Monotype setting can be corrected by a compositor from a case of type, Linotype alterations necessitate setting up the machine all over again for corrected lines of type to be keyed and run out.

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Five Hundred Years of Printing
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Five Hundred Years of Printing *
  • Contents v
  • Reviser''s Preface vii
  • Introduction i
  • Chapter I- The First Century of Printing 1450-1550 3
  • Chapter II- The Era of Consolidation 1550-1800 74
  • Chapter III- The Nineteenth Century 1800-1900 136
  • Chapter IV- 1900-1955 170
  • Chapter V- The Postwar World 218
  • Conclusion 250
  • Select Bibliography 251
  • Index 255
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