Composing type

Now we have type. How do we put a bunch of type together to print a page?



We cast all the letters we’ll need and sorted them in a type drawer or job drawer. Back in the olden days a printer (or printer’s apprentice or printer’s devil) had this drawer memorized—every letter, every bit of punctuation. https://marktwainhouse.org/about/mark-twain/biography/



We’re ready to compose the type. We get a composing stick—a small hand-held tray with a clamp—and put the words and sentences together upside-down and backwards. Set the clamp to however wide you want the column. The length of a line of type is measured in picas but the height of a column is measured in inches.* Don’t ask. I don’t know why. Between every line of type you put a slice of lead called leading (sounds like bedding). Leading comes in different thicknesses, measured in points. When your type is composed, you slide it out of the composing stick onto a flat stone slab and put a square metal frame called the chase around it. You can add artwork in there, too, like a linoleum block print. To keep it in place inside the chase, we grab some blocks of wood called furniture. These are shorter than the type so they won’t get ink on them. Leave room on 2 sides for quoins. Quoins are metal wedges you can tighten against each other to tighten the type, linocuts and furniture inside the chase. Now that it’s locked up into one whole unit it’s called a form. Okay—we’re ready to print!



https://www.fontfabric.com/blog/gutenberg-first-typeface-original-bible-typography-used/
https://letterpresscommons.com/general-tools-and-supplies/
https://www.bbc.co.uk/ahistoryoftheworld/objects/w4XhrFkvSaKzhHsUAZ2Vzg
Look at this heavenly place! Her composing demo starts at 8:30. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4pg8A0ab6S4
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mmg7yCEphrA

* I’m an old graphic designer. I like to measure in picas when I design something. There are 6 picas in an inch. You can easily divide an inch by halfs, thirds, fourths, sixths and twelfths. Each pica has 12 points.
https://www.caseyprinting.com/blog/points-vs-picas
https://www.fonts.com/content/learning/fontology/level-1/type-anatomy/points-and-picas

Back to the beginning of The Western Civ User’s Guide to Reading & Writing.

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