Linotype
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Linotype

 

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 Linotype
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
As the 20th century began, printers realised that it would be impractical to continue setting type by hand. Although compositors were highly skilled, the process was time consuming. Many inventors made attempts to solve the conundrum of mechanical composition and it was Ottmar Mergenthaler (1854–1899), an immigrant German watchmaker, with the help of an American engineer, James Clephane, who was successful.
 
The result of ten years’ work, the Linotype machine (line o’ type) was worked by a single operator who sat at a keyboard (similar to a typewriter’s). As a key was struck, a circulating brass matrix was brought into the line of type and automatically spaced. The face of the matrix contained the letter, number or punctuation mark which would form the impression. Whole lines of type were then cast in a single ‘slug’ of type metal. The matrices were then returned to the magazines that they had originally come from, to be reused.
 
Newspapers were the first ‘consumer’ printers to utilise this new technology and the first Linotype machine was installed in 1886 in the New York Tribune. Despite industry fears that there would be mass redundancies, the reality was that there was plenty of work for compositors as the mass consumer printing and publishing sector grew.
 
Linotype composition, and its great rival Monotype, was used in book production for the first half of the twentieth century until phototypesetting took over. Several typefaces were also cut specially for the Linotype machine, the most popular ones being Granjon, Caledonia, Electra and Eric Gill’s Pilgrim.