Johnson (1853), with King and Atkinson

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1. Introduction

Johnson seems first to have worked independently from 1851, then to have entered into a partnership with John Huffam King, selling the business in 1857 to J. Staines Atkinson. Under that ownership they did business at Red Lion-square under the name "Patent Type Founding Company, Limited." By 1880, this concern had passed into the hands of "Messrs. Shank and Revell" ({ Wolf})

He is sometimes cited as having been a "chemist." That this might mean a scientist, rather than a druggist, may be indicated by the subject matter of his Oct. 2, 1852 patent, No. 164, which is a method of fixing colours for printing, expressed in a the appropriate chemical language of the day. { Patents for Inventions: Abridgments of Specifications Relating to Printing . (1859) } (p. 328; Google PDF p. 349).

J. R. Johnson's 1873 paper "On Certain Improvements in the Manufacture of Printing Types" is an interesting document in the history of typecasting for several reasons.

Firstly, it reproduces in an accessable form some documentation of the earlier machine of Didot and Ponchée (or Pouchée).

Secondly, it presents an account of a rather remarkable development in metallurgy (probably illusory) whereby Johnson discovered that the addition of tin to type metal made it a "hard metal" heretofore unknown in printing. This led to a patent, and subsequently considerable litigation. (See for example the Journal of the Franklin Institute Vol. 71, No. 421 (Third Series. Vol. 41, No. 1 (January 1861). Philadelphia: The Franklin Institute, 1861. pp. 414-415. Available via Google Books. This is itself a contemporary reprint from the London Mechanics' Magazine of March 1861.) This litigation was inconclusive, but very revealing about the nature of type metal in the period and earlier. See also Johnson's GB patent 817 of 1854-04-07 "Improvements in the manufacture of type and other raised surfaces for printing." The patent abridgment indicates that this was not in fact simply the addition of tin to harden typemetal, but possibly leadless tin-antimony alloy for type metal (something quite different).

Thirdly, the paper and its Discussion present an interesting spat over the matter of the ethics and legality of electrotyping matrices.

Finally, and in a way most incidentally, it dscribes to some extent Johnson's typecasting machine.

2. GB Patent Abridgment (1853)

The Abridgment of the Specification the GB patent of John Robert Johnson, 1853 June 2, No. 1,351, was reprinted in { Patents for Inventions: Abridgments of Specifications Relating to Printing . (1859) } (p. 362; Google PDF p. 385).

Powell (see below) references patents of 1859 and 1862, but these do not appear in this 1859 compendium of patent abridgments.

3. Reference and Illustration in the Journal of the Society of Arts (1872)

The { Journal of the Society of Arts. Vol. 20 (1871-1872) , p. 908-909} reports on a machine exhibited at the International Exhibition of 1872. This machine is illustrated on p. 909 with the same cut used in Powell (see below).

I believe that the phantom above the machine is operating a Cropper (brand) platen press on the facing page.

4. "On Certain Improvements in the Manufacture of Printing Types."

Johnson got to tell the story from his point of view in his paper "{" On Certain Improvements in the Manufacture of Printing Types."} This appeared, with Discussion, in { Journal of the Society of Arts. Vol. 21, No. 1061 (March 21, 1873) , pp. 330-338} The entire volume is online, and the paper well worth reading in full (with its Discussion, and a later letter to the Journal from R. M. Gill (Vol. 21, No. 1068 (May 9, 1873): 486). Here I will just present excerpts directly relevant to the casting machine itself.

(p. 333)

(p. 334)

(p. 334)

(p. 334)

(p. 334)

(The Vincent Figgins referred to is perhaps the same Mr. Figgins who presented the first item in the Discussion of Johnson's paper, wherein he (Figgins) objected strongly to Johnson's account of the history of English typefounding and the actions of the type founders' association. I've cited this more extensively in the Notebook on Ponchée (Pouchée?) , but if you're interested you really should read Johnson's paper and its Discussion in whole in the original.)

Skipping the next section, which deals with electrotyping matrices, I resume quoting Johnson's description of his business and the casting machine:

5. Reference and Illustration in Powell (1877)

Powell's { A Short History of the Art of Printing in England. (1877) , p. 34 (Google PDF p. 41} says:

'The latest development it [the art of making type-casting machines] has undergone is in the machine of Johnson and Atkinson, patented in 1859 and 1862, which not only casts type, but also rubs and dresses it, removing the "break" and rendering it fit for immediate use by printers."

A page later, they illustrate this machine. This is of course the same cut which appeared in the Journal of the Society of Arts (see above).

6. Reference in Wolf (1880)

Nominally, Lucien Wolf's { Exhibition and Market of Machinery, Implements and Material Used by Printers, Stationers, Papermakers and Kindred Trades[:] Official Catalogue of Exhibits . (1880) } is the catalog of an industrial exhibition. It contains, however, a comprehensive essay on the printing industry. The chapter on typefounding is particularly relevant to Johnson's typecaster, and it explains a great deal more about the "Associated Founders" against whom Pouchée and Johnson struggled. (Interestingly, this association includes Miller and Richard, whom other sources give as the introducers of the Bruce typecaster into the UK. It may be that the goal of the Associated Founders wasn't so much the suppression of machines as good old-fashioned capitalist suppression of competition, in any form.)

7. Reference in Southward (1897)

In { Progress in Printing and the Graphic Arts during the Victorian Era. (1897) , p. 61 (Google PDF p. 72}, Southward essentially repeats Johnson's claim that his machine was the only one differing in principle from Bruce's. Southward was, however, one of the leading authorities on all aspects of printing in the late 19th century, so his words carry some weight. It also sheds some light on Johnson's interest in metallurgy (even if "chemist" is to be taken in the English sense of "druggist.")

8. Reference in Ringwalt (1871)

Finally, it might be interesting to see the reception that Johnson's machine received in the US. { Ringwalt. American Encyclopedia of Printing. (1871) , p. 477} says this:

... in England, J. R. Johnson, in 1853, invented a machine which, with subsequent improvements, and the addition of an apparatus for rubbing and dressing type, is said to now form one complete instrument, in which the metal is melted by a jet of gas at one end, and perfect type is set up on a stick at the other, without having to be touched by hand. This machine is operated by an English Patent Type-Foundry Company; but as it has never been introduced or practically tested in this country, some of hte American type-founders are incredulous in regard to its alleged capacities."

News grows in transit, for I don't think that any English source claims that Johnson's machine composed type.

9. Reference in Howe

Ellic Howe, in "The Typecasters" (a 1957 issue of The Monotype Recorder) notes that Johnson/Atkinson machines were in use until at least 1939 at Shanks.

10. Reference in Amateur Mechanical Society

There is a short reference to this casting system in the "Gossip" column of The Quarterly Journal of the Amateur Mechanical Society. Vol. 1, No. 7 (July, 1872): 290-291 .

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