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Earlier days hand set

Started by aaron, April 17, 2007, 11:44:34 PM

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How did printers keep up with the need for fondry type before the Linotype/Intertype?
I set many a line in hand set and printed with it. And I know you need a lot of type.
Did the printers have orders from type foundries coming to them weekly?
Aaron ???

Dave Hughes

Did some shops, perhaps if they were printing a dictionary or similar, make electrotypes or stereotypes of the pages to reduce the amount of type they needed on hand?
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Though I wasn't there personally, from reading Jacobi, de Vinne and others, and from talking with people in my village in my youth who were employed in the printing works there on magazine and book printing, I am under the impression that it was standard practice for large printers who specialised in book printing to cast in Monotype or Intertype and then make electros from the new type, just as it was standard practice in newspaper production to set slugs on the Lino or Intertype and make flongs from them to produce curved stereo plates for the rotary news machines. 

I also have both standing type and blocks from a small town letterpress business which did good trade with the man who ran them died in 1931, in printing paper tickets, forms of all types, and rulebooks for a small empire of standard and narrow gauge light railways - a UK version of the US shortlines - and which also printed and bound in-house the full-sized sewn and cloth-bound "History of the Parish of Salehurst", the author of which was the printer owner's son-in-law. I would imagine that most English small town printers with a small Wharfedale stop-cylinder press and a platen or two, driven by line shafting off the back wheel of a Model T Ford in the 1920s - as mine was - would be perfectly capable of undertaking such work in house.

Cheltenham type was purchased new and set by hand for the full sized bound book, each section being dissed as the printing was completed. I still have the type and a copy of the book, having bought the business when the owner died in 1989. The paper tickets which were used on the local shortline, with the details filled in by hand by the ticket clerk before the journey commenced, were used in quantities which justified a stereo block being made, and the flong carefully stored for re-use as and when the block wore down, though for the less busy shortlines in the group, with smaller numbers of tickets being used, standing founders type was adequate, the title of the particular railway being set up as a heading to the standing type when further printings were required.

I would think that for book work it would depend on whether small frequent print runs over a long period were anticipated, as was common UK practice in the 20th century - in which case electros from newly cast Monotype would make good sense. For these railway paper tickets and other heavily used standard business forms which were unlikely to alter it would make sense to have a stereo block made from newly set type in good condition, while for newspaper work on rotary presses it would be standard practice to make a flong from newly cast slugs to produce the curved stereo printing plates. For newspapers printed on a flatbed, slugs would no doubt be used and then recast when finished with.

As to hand set type, similar considerations would apply, with the important point that if you systematically used electros or stereos as a matter of course, and treated the type with care and respect in dissing it instead of trying to set speed records, the type would be subject to very little wear compared with the wear and general attrition that would be caused by printing from it.

On the other hand, if you were rough and careless in dissing type, De Vinne or Jacobi - I can't remember which - wrote at a time when typecasting machines were still a novelty, that you could easily cause greater wear and tear on your type by rough handling than by printing from it. Either way, the systematic use of stereos and electros instead of the type itself for printing from would make good sense.


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