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When you say “hot lead typesetting!” most people who know a little printing history say, “Linotype!” This is true to some extent. Ottmar Mergenthaler’s Linotype was the first successful and consistently working typesetting machine: it cast molds of type into complete lines.
But the role of @Monotype is often overlooked outside of type histories. It’s a distinct contrast. The Linotype was aimed at solving the newspaper problem: setting type as fast as possible to fill pages under deadline—and deal with staffing issues.
Typesetting in the late part of the 1880s still required an extensive apprenticeship and was nearly exclusively male. Boys would start as early as 13 and apprentice three years, though the union tried to push that age later.
Trouble was that not enough typesetters could be trained or remain in the business. They also died young: the average age of death was under 30 in the mid-1800s, according to union insurance records—far below the general average death of people who reached maturity.
The Linotype's optimization was quick type, setting a “line o’ type” (called a “slug”) at a time, allowing galleys with perfect justification (flush to left and right margins) to grow fast and be assembled into a newspaper.
Monotype typesetting arose just a few years later. It had two unique aspects. First, instead of setting a line of type, it cast each letter as a freestanding piece of type (a “sort”), which allowed easy correction within a line, among other things.
Second, Monotype abstracted composition (typing in text for typesetting) from casting (producing metal type from moulds). This asymmetry ultimately allowed a lot of compositors working in office-like conditions, and fewer casters running the hot lead.
The composition was punched into paper tape! It was pretty remarkable. That meant typeset copy could be corrected by fixing the punched holes, and replayed to dump out another set of metal casting.
Monotype wound up used heavily in book publishing, which required more accuracy and better type. Books would be set into pages, then stereotypes or electrotypes made (metal copies created via a paper or wax form). The paper tape composition and/or plates could be retained
for reprinting, which wasn't a requirement in the newspaper world. Labor was also split differently pre-metal. Men were almost the entire newspaper and job office (printing shop) typesetting and printing labor force. Women set at book publishers.
After the introduction of hot metal, from what I can tell from histories and photographs, women didn't make ANY inroads at newspapers and were shunted somewhat (but not entirely) out of book typesetting.
Artifacts from this era form part of the Tiny Type Museum & Time Capsule, which I’m currently offering in a crowdfunding campaign. Molds (“matrices”) from hot-metal casters, paper tape from Monotype compositors, a slug of Linotype with your custom text…
…all of that and much more will be featured in each museum. I’ll also be writing a book that traces printing history across six centuries. You can pledge for an ebook ($10), a Linotype slug ($100), or a full museum ($1,000). More details here: kickstarter.com/projects/glenn…
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