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Typesetting like it's 1899 - Columbian Press Pt. 3

Published on October 1, 2010

When it comes to printing history, Paul Quyle is a living history.  Today, with the help of Unisource World Wide, Paul talks about type and typesetting.  In the days long before Quark and InDesign.   

Paul Quyle:  In order to make a piece of type, you first of all have to do a design end paper, but then you have to create a punch.  Now this punch was hand forged in France about 1800, approximately the time same my press was made.  This is a combination letter “A” and “E”, but if you can look at it closely, you will see what a beautiful job it is. 

Now in order to use this, the punch is in turn driven into a piece of copper.  So here we have a matrix; a matrix of copper.  This is a piece of type or matrix, I should say, of a letter “H”, which has been used, a punch has been used to push into the copper surface and then it has been carefully dressed to make it exactly the right height.  Now, this will in turn be used in a mold.  And this is a hand mold, which is probably what Guttenberg actually  invented.  The hand mold is crucial to making type.   

Now, the matrix is in place and the caster we will use a dipper full of molten metal and pour into the end of the mold.  It won’t – have a little dance to go with it to go to distribute the metal over the face of the matrix and it solidifies almost immediately.  At that point, the mold can be opened and the type dropped out.  Now, when the type comes out of the mold, this is a smaller example, but this is what it will look like.  It has a jet attached to it.  This jet has to be broken off from the bottom of the type and then the foot of the type is planed in order to put a little groove in it to make the finished piece of type. 

So here we have the little groove in this “H”, which was cast with this matrix in this mold and we have a finished piece of type ready to put in to be printed. 

I’m fortunate that I have a Linotype and the Linotype has an advantage in that instead of single piece of type, all of the letters are in one piece in one line so that it is easier to handle and to set. 

Now, should we become interested in doing bigger things, then lead become too darned heavy.  So printers have resorted to the use of wood for type, for posters and signs and things of that kind.  And this is a composing stick made of wood, from the 1800’s and it enables us to set a line of wood type and print from it.  So I could put this wood type on that press and print in great big letters.  I have about 100 fonts of wood type, some of which are six inches square, some of them are very small.  But they all go in to help do whatever I happen to want to do.  

That’s the fun of printing for yourself instead of printing for other people. 

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