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Type High?

Started by MICHAEL BURKA, October 11, 2022, 02:17:27 AM

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After 50 years, I'm now getting around to wondering how/why type high got set at .918 in the US, or whatever it is where you're at.
Can't find it on wikipedia.   


QuoteIn America, the type and presses we use are made for type height to be .918 of an inch. The two best explanations thus far for this seemingly arbitrary yet very specific value are:

    The height of a British shilling placed on edge is .918 of an inch
    '. . . Then the American Point System was devised and agreed upon in 1886 by the United States Type Founders' Association. Eighty-three picas became equal to thirty-five centimeters, then dividing the pica into twelve equal parts, (points). Thirty-five centimeters then also became a standard for type-high (height-to-paper). By this plan fifteen type-heights (.918) were made to equal thirty-five centimeters.'
    – Theodore Low De Vinne's (c) 1899, Plain Printing Types, Oswald Publishing Co., New York, 1914.
George Finn (Mechanic)
Gold Coast

John Cornelisse

The better term is: Type Height

On there is a lot to be found:

Just look at:

In it you will find a lot of links that could add a lot to your knowledge about bookprinting.


In 17th.18th, 19th century most type-foundries did cast their type rather high. The type was stored, and when the type was sold, the back of the characters was grind to the height the customer ordered.

The type-height varied in different countries. The Monotype Corporation Limited in London UK produced moulds in various heights:

* 0.918 inches (23.3 mm): United Kingdom, Canada, U.S.
* 0.928 inches (23.6 mm): France, Germany, Switzerland and most other European countries
* 0.933 inches (23.7 mm): Belgium height
* 0.9785 inches (24.85 mm): Dutch height

A Dutch printer's manual mentions a tiny difference between French and German Height:[52]

* 62.027 points Didot = 23.30 mm (0.917 in) = English height
* 62.666 points Didot = 23.55 mm (0.927 in) = French height
* 62.685 points Didot = 23.56 mm (0.928 in) = German height
* 66.047 points Didot = 24.85 mm (0.978 in) = Dutch Height

Tiny differences in type-height can cause quite bold images of characters.

At the end of the 19th century there were only two typefoundries left in the Netherlands: Johan Enschedé & Zonen, at Haarlem, and Lettergieterij Amsterdam, voorheen Tetterode.

They both had their own type-height: Enschedé: 65 23/24 points Didot, and Amsterdam: 66 1/24 points Didot – enough difference to prevent a combined use of fonts from the two typefoundries: Enschede would be too light, or otherwise the Amsterdam-font would print rather bold. A perfect way of binding clients.

In 1905 the Dutch governmental Algemeene Landsdrukkerij, later: "State-printery" (Staatsdrukkerij) decided during a reorganisation to use a standard type-height of 63 points Didot. Staatsdrukkerij-hoogte, actually Belgium-height, but this fact was not widely known.


I wonder if there was an equally fascinating story behind the last half inch when the railway gauge was being agreed upon or imposed—one standard that crossed the Atlantic.


Thanks guys.   
I never knew height was connected to centimeters.     
Too much math. The shilling is easier. I would have just pegged it at 1.00 inch, and gone home.       


Dave Hughes

Quote from: listohan on October 11, 2022, 10:29:21 PMI wonder if there was an equally fascinating story behind the last half inch when the railway gauge was being agreed upon or imposed—one standard that crossed the Atlantic.

Wasn't it something to do with the width between the wheels of a Roman chariot?
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John Cornelisse

In the beginning of book-printing, the character was cast by the user self. Later people begin to cast character for others.

And at that time a standard was not imposed at all. Each type-founder had its own corps and type-height.

In big countries like France and Germany the need of a standard grew, and it was in the 18th century Pierre Simon Fournier (Parijs, 15 september 1712 - aldaar, 8 oktober 1768) who designed his corps-size based on the Paris-foot ((= 0.298 m).

Each town in France had its own foot-size, that did not standardize, so later Didot based the point-size on the french king-foot. In later time this was connected to the standard-meter.

In other countries like Germany, it was likewise.



I was told that the Anglo-American point system origin was led by a push to standardise things in the USA in front of the campaign was a foundry called Barnhart Brothers and Spindler (of Chicago I think).
A visit to the Heidelberg factory in the late 1950s to see the cylinder press production line showed  press after press with different type height beds and language labelling, they were turning out almost one per hour would you believe.  Also in the late 1950s  the London firm Soldans were agents for and selling Typefoundry Amsterdam type, this had the feet ground off to UK  918.  I have a fount of this still showing the grinding marks.


1886 for a uniform type high was very convenient for Mergenthaler, that was the year the Blower Linotype was first installed.
George Finn (Mechanic)
Gold Coast

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