Noncasting Type Composing Machinery

And Other Schemes

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1. What's Here?

This set of Notebooks is concerned with machinery (and sometimes individual mechanisms or smaller devices) which perform one or more of the following operations on type which has already been cast:

This will be a long and complicated section of Notebooks; there's just no way around that. It is also an area where no single logical organization will work. It could be organized in many different ways.

[NOTE: There is much left to do here. Huss alone list 294 machines, most of which were not casting machines and therefore should be here. I really need to go through Huss (1973), Thompson (1904), and Legros & Grant (1916) and sort their data.]

1.1. A Taxonomy of "Ordinary" Machines

Simple binary counting gives seven possible combinations (excluding machine which do nothing - ironically these might be the largest category):

But there is no one right taxonomy, and certainly no simple classification scheme. Certain machines cross boundaries. For example, it makes sense to treat in a single place the Thorne/Simplex/Unitype as it evolved over a quarter-century. But the Thorne began as a Composing and Distributing machine; it became additionally a line-justifying machine only in the Unitype stage. Moreover, several different line-justifying machines were a part of the corporate history of the Thorne organization and its successors. Other systems break the taxonomy even more fundamentally. For example, Church (1822) designed what is clearly a Composing Machine (typesetter). But his entire system included a separate casting machine to supply the typesetter (later the Wicks Rotary Typecaster was used in a similar way to supply the Dow Composing Machine). I'll handle these exceptions on an ad hoc basis which, necessarily, won't seem correct to everyone.

1.2. Machines Employing Unusual Printing Processes

There are also two subcategories of historical technology which break the taxonomy above: "direct impression" machines and pre-phototypesetting lithographic transfer machines. In principle, these could be subsumed within the categories listed above, but in practice they tended to be machines dominated more by their mode of production than their mode of composition. None of them were successful or commercially important. So for the sake of keeping things together, I'll include them here:

1.3. Other Kinds of Schemes and Systems

For lack of a better place to put it, the discussions of unit-set and point-set type and schemes/systems are here. Some of these systems consist only of the types themselves, with no associated machinery. Typically they were promoted as schemes to speed composition and as such are part of the same historical thread as composing machines (Huss considered them in this way). Many of them, however, were associated with particular systems of composing machinery. Since they tend to be strange enough as it is, I'll group them all here rather than scattering them throughout CircuitousRoot.

(I'll also put point-set spacing here, just to keep things in the family.)

A "logotype" is a single type which bears on it more than one character. Sometimes these are entire words (hence "logotype," from "logos," meaning "word"); sometimes they are fragments of words. There have been several logotype composing schemes which purported to speed hand composition by adding to the compositor's case logotypes for common words or fragments of words. None of these were successful, because in the end the additional complexity outweighed any increase in speed.

Note that logotypes in the sense considered here are distinct from:

1.4. Financial Backers and Promoters

It is a great irony that precisely because this field contains so many failures, it is notable especially for its financial backers and promoters who were not themselves inventors. They deserve a section in this present Notebook , too.

1.5. The Unclassifiable

Finally, in this present Notebook there is a Miscellaneous section for things which just don't fit in (for example, the works of prolific minor inventors which span a wide range of technologies with a uniform lack of success).

1.6. Things NOT Here

For lithography considered as a printing technology itself, go up two levels to ../../ Typefounding, Lettering, & Printing -> Lithography (but there isn't much there yet).

Thompson, in his History of Composing Machines (1904) distinguishes as a separate catagory machines which are tape-controlled. He lists the Lanston Monotype Keyboard & Composition Caster, Goodson Graphotype, Beals' Apparatus, Tachytype Caster-Composer, I will, instead, incorporate these into other sections and Notebooks based on their output technology (with a list of them in the Topic Index).

Just as tape-controlled machines constitute a separate category, so also do telegraphically controlled machines. These of course later became quite important with the advent of the Teletypesetter to control Linotype and Intertype linecasters, but they have a long (and largely unsuccessful) history prior to that. But, just as I've done with tape-controlled machines, I'll incorporate these into other sections and Notebooks based on their output technology (with a list of them in the Topic Index).

For all machines which cast individual types or slug-lines of type, either as their sole function or as part of composition, go "up" one level to any of these sections:

For machines which cast strip material (exclusively) or which cast or otherwise make entire plates at once, go "up" one level to:

2. Distributing Machines


3. Justifying Machines


4. Spacing Devices

[Just notes so far.]

5. Justifying & Distributing Machines

This category doesn't make much sense, and I don't think that there were any such machines.

6. Composing Machines

Note that the composing functionality was in some systems split across more than one machine - for example, in systems which composed to punched tape and then interpreted that tape on a typesetting machine.

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England, 1822. Church's typesetting machine was a part of a system which included a typecaster and a press. Since my own focus is on casting, what I have on it is in ../ Noncomposing Typecasters -> Machines -> Pre-Bruce -> Church

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Mackie's Steam Composing Machine

England, 1867. The first instance of the use of punched tape in a composing machine.

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A machine presently known only through its patent. It is not mentioned in Huss.

7. Composing & Distributing Machines

8. Composing & Justifying Machines

9. Composing, Justifying, & Distributing Machines

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Apparently a series of machines developed over time. They were distinguished primarily by their use of a separate keyboard which produced a tape, like the later Lanston Monotype (and still later Teletypesetter). They were also integrated with telegraphic transmission (like the Teletypesetter). These are both significant technologies in the history of machine composition, and Munson's system is of interest primarily as an early example of them and of his approaches to their difficulties. Munson machines of the late 1880s also employed unit-set type (q.v.). By 1891 he introduced, or at least claimed, both justifying and distributing machines in addition to his earlier composing machines. No details survive with regard to these automatic justifying and distributing machines, however, so it might be more appropriate to place his system with Composing Machines.

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Including a 120dpi RGB scan of Paige's 1887/1895 US patent no. 547,860 from a printed original. The Paige was mechanically successful, commercially unsuccessful, and perhaps the most complicated composing machine ever constructed (with about 18,000 parts, where a Linotype might have only 3,000). It is remembered today primarily because of its association with its backer, Samuel Clemens (Mark Twain).

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Thorne / Simplex / Unitype

A commercially successful typesetting machine in use from the 1880s to the early 1900s. It had a long history, and its importance has not been sufficiently appreciated.

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[NOT DONE] "Wiberg's Self Spacing Composer" (this name might simply be the one assigned to it by Huss; if so it is an anachronistic reference to Benton's "Self Spacing" unit-set types). GB patent No. 1,548 of 1854. Wiberg appears to have been the first to patent a composing system using unit-set type.

10. Machines Employing Unusual Printing Processes

10.1. Direct Impression Machines

In considering these machines, I am drawn to the analysis of John S. Thompson (inventor of the Thompson Type-Caster and writer of what was for several decades the standard third-party text on the Linotype):

"Notwithstanding the fact that the impression form of composing machine has proven to be the greatest delusion in the art of mechanically setting type, and the records shown nothing but abandoned wrecks of attempts to construct machines on this order, misguided inventors are still working along this line..." (Thompson. History of Composing Machines (1904)

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Beals' Apparatus

[Just a placeholder] This is listed briefly in Thompson's History of Composing Machines (1904) as a tape-controlled direct impression machine by E. V. Beals. As such it would seem to differ from Erl V. Beals' Printing-Bar Machine, a linecasting machine listed by Huss.

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Notable as a later derivative of the work of Charles T. Moore. Also notable for backing by James Ogilvie Clephane. A direct impression machine which produced a wax plate for electrotyping. It may or may not have actually existed; the Linomatrix Company was formed for the traffic in patents, not the manufacture of machines.

Distinct from the American Planograph tape-controlled lithographic transfer composing system, another later development with links to Moore.

10.2. Lithographic Transfer Composing Machines

(For lithography considered as a printing technology itself, go up two levels to ../../ Typefounding, Lettering, & Printing -> Lithography)

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American Planograph

(Listed by Huss as the "Planeograph.") Notable as a later derivative of the work of Charles T. Moore. A tape-controlled lithographic transfer composition systems

Distinct from the Linomatrix direct-impression machine, another later development with links to Moore.

11. Other Kinds of Schemes and Systems

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Unit-Set Type

Unit-set type is a minor footnote in 19th century typemaking. It was only produced in any quantity by Benton, Waldo & Co. (under the misleading trade-name "Self Spacing" type). Benton in turn was preceded by at least three others. In the 20th century, however, with the advent of tape-controlled typesetting it returned as an integral part of first the Monotype and later the Teletypesetter. Curiously, one of Benton's predecessors in the 19th century, Munson, developed a tape-controlled, unit-set typesetter before Lanston's Monotype.

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Point-Set Type

Point-set type is theoretically distinct from unit-set type. Both are systems of reducing the number of set widths to which type is made. But where in unit-set type a basic unit is established (usually by a relationship to the body size) and then subdivided, in point-set type there is no overall unit or subdivision of the unit. Types are simply cast to set widths which are integral or simple fractional points.

By 1899 the Inland Type Foundry was advertising their unit-set type as "point-set" type . In the 20th century, the Mergenthaler Linotype Company was providing point-set matrices for types for tabular work. (Confusingly, they called these "self-spacing faces," even though Benton's "self-spacing" types were unit-set rather than point-set.)

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Point-Set Spacing

[NOT FINISHED] It turns out that most 20th century spacing material is point-set, even though the introductory textbooks ignore this (except Polk!)

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Logotype Schemes and Machines

The notion that one can speed hand typesetting by casting short common words or fragments of words as single types dates back to at least the early 19th century. Many schemes for this have been proposed, and some have even entered limited production. They have never really lived up to their inventors' expectations.

Logotypes themselves are just pieces of type, but there have been several proposed machines to aid in composition with logotypes.

Note: Both logotypes (in the sense considered here) and "Combination types" (q.v.) are distinct from:

12. Financial Backers and Promoters

As noted earlier, the very failure of most composing machines highlights the role of the financial backers of these projects. A very few of them were famous for other reasons (Samuel Clemens, who backed the Paige Compositor comes immediately to mind), but most were not. Some of them were prolific in their support of projects. Clephane, for example, came close to fame by backing early work not only on what became the Linotype, but also on what became the Remington typewriter - and he went on to back later, less successful composing machines which used several technologies.

I'll cover only a few of these people here. I'll omit Clemens, as he's too famous in his own right. I'll just link to discussions of others which are filed elsewhere.

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James Ogilvie Clephane

He could be filed almost anywhere, as he backed Sholes in what became the Remington Typewriter, Moore in what became the Linotype, and later direct impression and lithographic transfer composing machines derived from Moore's work. I've filed him in ../ Composing Linecasters -> General, Historical & Business Studies -> Backers, Financiers and Promoters.

13. Miscellaneous

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The work of Charles T. Moore is difficult to classify. He invented a printing telegraph (1869), a type-setting machine (1872) with a "chord keyboard," typewriters (1873, 1885/1886), and a lithographic composing system (1876/1877). The details of his life are obscure. But he will be (or should be) remembered because of his associations with the beginning of the development of the Linotype. His lithographic transfer system was the first composing machinery that Ottmar Mergenthaler was involved with. Moreover, his 1887 patent (filed 1884) for slug-casting was, to the best of my current knowledge, the earliest patent for the casting of entire lines of type at once. It did not envision this casting happening in a composing machine; to Mergenthaler belongs the credit for that innovation. But it is the base patent for all subsequent linecasting machines.

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Notes On Other Composing Machines

[note that there may be overlaps with casting qua casting]

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