Question re Foundry type vs. Monotype

I run a small print shop that used to have a Linotype and an Intertype and I still have a Heidelberg platen which is used occasionally for numbering or perforating. I have never seen a Monotype in operation, or seen type that was cast on a Monotype. I know that it is composed of individual letters and spaces (as opposed to Linotype), but I would like to know if there is an obvious visual difference between Foundry type and Monotype? I am trying to find an answer to this question for someone on an internet Forum dedicated to casting lead bullets ( Can anyone help?

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The difference (separate from the faces available on Monotype vs foundry) is in the composition of the metal.

Typical foundry metal is harder (on the Brinnell scale).

Check out the table at the bottom of this web page:

it gives a rundown of the significant type metal formulas.

Note that Monotype was actually available in three formulas of varying hardness depending on the type of job it was planned for.

As to the visual difference, it is hard to tell unless the metal is newly melted and cast as all type oxidizes over time to varying degrees. Because of the higher degree of lead in the softer alloys they appear greyer and less shiny than the foundry metal which his higher in tin and antimony.

Generally, when visually inspecting type, foundry type has a groomed foot or a groove on the bottom while monotype cast type is flat on the bottom.



I’ve run linotypes and ludlows but only saw a monotype run once, i was in shock, that thing spit letters out faster than anything i ever saw, there were things moving in every direction possible, very cool machine. Dick G.

Thank you for the replies. Fritz D.

My $0.02 as I remember being told by the old printer.
Mono (one) type was cast as text from a keyboard similar to the way text would be cast on a Linotype machine. The type came out as individual letters rather than as a slug. It was arranged in a galley and sent off to be printed. It was used one (mono) time and went back into the melt pot as opposed to being distributed to the type case as with foundry type.
With little or none of the alloy metals found in foundry type, monotype was cheaper and some printers bought it and used it for hand spiking from a type case. There is probably a lot of it out there in type cases. In addition to having (usually) a flat foot, it often had a square nick (but not always). I have some new type in the foundry wrapper
that says foundry type. It has a square nick.

Thank you. From the replies I’ve received, I can see that the average person would be hard pressed to tell for sure whether they are looking at Foundry or Mono.

Would anyone know what the largest point sizes were that a Monotype could produce?

The largest composition Monotype wa something like 24 points. I think it is only the English molds that had a square nick. But Monotype made other non-composition machines that cast larger, and cast from differing alloys. And many foundries used composition mats and casters to make type for handsetting from a slightly harder alloy.

Look at the foot. Foundry almost always has a distinct groove across the foot parallel to the nick, whereas almost all Monotype-cast type has either no foot groove or a very slight one near one edge also parallel to the nick. Monotype metal could not be as hard as foundry but it usually does have some more tin and antimony than Linotype, especially Monotype intended for hand setting. For bullets you’re probably better off with Linotype slugs.


I have a font of monotype that is 96 points, like Bob says foundry type has distinctive feet, also different nicks in the side to distinguise fonts, monotype only has one groove near the center. Dick G.

Back in the late 60’s during my apprenticeship at the U.S. Government Printing Office (the big house) I did my 13 week rotation in the Mono Keyboard Section. It was an interesting piece of equipment, it ran off of compressed air so it was a little noisy. As memory serves me since it was about 40 years ago. You had 6 keyboards, 3 per side, lowercase on the bottom, Caps in the middle and small caps on top. I think the left side was roman and the right side italic. Straight matter was easy to set, but tables were fun. As you layed out your grid/pattern where ever a rule was located you had to turn the Star wheel back 3 notches. When you reached the end of the table you would type in ‘dead wood’ (periods, lowcase letters, Caps) to fill out out line. When the printer/compositor got the galley to work on, he would cut his rules for the columns. As they were placed, the ‘dead wood’ would fall off the right side. Hourly quotes were 5,000 ems an hour, leader work was 7,000 ems and I can’t remember what is was for tables. The Mono Caster Section was a separate union (not ITU). Retired ITU Printer- Columbia Typographical Union Local 101.

I forgot about the soup can that spun around as you typed. When you got to the end of the line (you had to break the word (hyphen) your self) look at the can which had numbers all over it. There were 2 numbers such as 12 on top and under an 8. On the lower keyboard above the number keys there was 2 rows of numbers from 1 to 15. You would punch the 12 on the top row, the 8 on the bottom row at the same time. This punch on the tape would tell the caster (the tape was run backwards) how much space to put between each word in that line. I would like to see one again.

inky on 31 May 11 (00:08)
[…} It was used one (mono) time and

‘Mono’type stands for individual glyphs, ‘Lino’type stands for a ‘line of type’.

Many printers used Monotype several times and had cases filled with Monotype, from which type would be set by hand.

To Alan Dye and Winston and others:

Thank you for preserving the history of typesetting. Linotype and Monotype had their differing advantages and disadvantages, depending on end-purpose.

Photocomposition of various forms combined with offset printing also has pros and cons; my hometown daily newspaper has done away with compositors, now sends the pages electronically to another town only 300 miles away so no longer needs a press. Most, but not all pictures (nearly all full colour) are very good, but occasionally the colour balance is not good. [There was a catastrophe a few months ago, blamed onto “technical difficulties”; needless to say, no tradesmen were involved.] Some of the rules of good typography have not been followed, and an opposition weekly which started this year seems to be exploiting this aspect, though the staff at the weekly also ignore typography in some ways. I will stop describing the pros and cons of this method of printing at this point.

I had strong emotions about the Elrod table presented by Alan Dye, wish I had had access to a similar table circa 1970 when an Elrod was introduced to the composing room. Even at the “big city” site where I worked for a year, 1-point leads apparently gave trouble; I was told the engineers ran the Elrod(s) there; whenever 1-point leads appeared on the rack, the comps selfishly each grabbed a small stock and hid them away, to be used only on otherwise-insolvable difficulties with making-up advertisements.


Today i cut 250 gsm card into strips when i need 1pt leads ,works fine on die cutting jobs ,dont think it would be brilliant if you were spacing lines of type but as needs must we use what we can!!!

Peter, when I worked at the GPO we used card stock for lino only. What it was I’m not sure. It was brown in color and the pattern of the color was like structure board/plywood. I remember the term ‘feathering’. I was a Makeup Man in the Hand Section, I made up the Bound Congressional Record. We took the Daily Records, corrected the pages, stripped the pages down to 1 column galleys. And then, I re-assembled them, about 90% of the time we were exactly page for page. I had to makeup 85 to 100 pages a day, which was easy. Usually done by noon, I would sent my apprentice boy out for lunch. He would go to Miles Long Sub Shop and get us a Full Mile Sub. Then go to Gilley Youngs Liquor Store for a bottle of Boone’s Farm Wild Mountain Apple Wine, a bottle of Ginger Ale and 2 cups of ice. This was only when the weather was nice, as we would set across the street at the Post Office and have lunch.

When I started my apprenticeship 1/1/1945 [that’s U.S.A. style for the date, but also coincidentally gives the correct date in Australian style] at the daily newspaper, all of the spacing was cut-down linotype slugs, down to 6-point. One of my chores was to strip the typeface off 6-point slugs with a guillotine-type cutter; one day a slug caught, twisted, and I neatly sheared the skin off the side of my left index finger, but it did not bleed; now it’s a different shape to the corresponding finger on the other hand, but it gave me no real problems.

After a while, I graduated to making blanks using the compositors’ circular saw. We also used larger slugs for larger spacing.

For thinner spacing, we used card (strawboard) cut by the commercial printing section using a blade guillotine [in U.S.A., usually called a paper cutter?] These small pieces of card were recycled each day during breaking-up of the pages.

Then an engineer had a thought, and procured a Linotype mould-cap which had no ribs, quite smooth, and some 3-point liners; also a specially-made thin ejector blade to use on a model 5 Linotype. [The trimming knife was not used during ejection.] So we had “leads”; unfortunately, to allow the machine to eject the “slugs” from the mould, the liners were tapered, so the “leads” were tapered from top to bottom [from what would have been the “face” to the foot]. If we were using a lot of them, we needed to be careful to put about half of them one way up, the other half the other way up.

Then a Monotype Supercaster was installed, to produce type for headings; not ideal, there was a problem, because the matrices for casting this style of type were hired for a short time to produce enough, and type was recycled. The machine could also function in a mode which produced leads, which was an advance; mostly the machine worked producing leads. Work was much easier when we eventually were equipped with a Nebitype and an Elrod.

A different approach at the afternoon daily where I worked after my apprenticeship used something I have not seen elsewhere. Plenty of Elrod leads were provided, but also, although rarely used, there was a “negative leading” machine. As the formes [the ones which had “news” in them] were being made up, a “stone editor” was on the floor; if a comp was not able to fit a news story to the place allocated in the page, the stone editor was on call by up to half-a-dozen comps working as stone-hands; he was the man with the calmest temperament I have ever seen. He would “cut” stories to make them fit, or decide which very short “fills” would be used to fill any gap.

But if a comp saw that a story was only a line or part of a line too long, the comp was authorised (without seeking permission) to shorten it with a machine which I try to describe. Because the newspaper used standardised-width columns, this machine was made with a solid bed and two side walls, to neatly accommodate single-column Linotype slugs. Sturdily built, about half-inch steel for the base and side-walls [from my memory]. At the “back” of the machine was a thick wall, and at the “front” was another wall with a very fine screw-thread cut through it and a threaded rod to match, with another (moving) thick wall at the end of the rod, to press against the “top” of the column of slugs. A hand-wheel on the rod turned the fine-thread rod and thus moved the wall at the “top” and exerted considerable pressure on the (usually-short) column of type, pressing the ribs of one slug into the smooth side of the next slug. The “negative leading” was only a small amount for each slug, but it often made enough difference to be effective.

This newspaper claimed to be the fastest comp room in Australia. From when last “copy” arrived by pneumatic tube, to when the forme was handed to the stereotypers could be as short as ten minutes. [Proof-reading was done while the press was running, corrections in the next edition except for a few “printers’ errors” which could have resulted in law-court action; there was one occasion, fortunately corrected “by the skin of the teeth” (it became one of the most famous incidents in Australian newspaper history).]

The stone editor was not permitted to use a compositor’s rule, he used a thin strip of wood which he marked with chalk to show the length of “fill” which he needed to find.

But I would not try “negative leading” on anything except lino slugs.


alan, i love your posts. never heard of negative leading before, i worked as a linotype operator at a daily paper south of Boston, MA. We put out a 30 page daily paper, one day a sports page was running late, it was at the last minute the makeup man was rushing the turtle to the mat roller when he hit a crack in the floor, the turtle stopped but the chase kept going, it hit the floor and bounced once, the second time it hit the floor the whole page came up and landed everywhere. all lino operators were called to the copy desk to get a piece of the page, within 15 minutes the page was on the way back to the mat roller. Your posts jog fond memories of the good old days of hot metal. Dick G.

to dickg and others:

You remind me of three occasions on which formes came off the turtle.

One was at the afternoon daily newspaper; I heard that one castor wheel came off the turtle after the comp had flung the turtle toward the stereotype with a flourish. The locked-up two tabloid pages slid off but stayed intact, and a number of men carefully lifted it, while others carefully turned a turtle (no pun?) to vertical to meet the forme. This was the last forme for the first edition, always a time of tension, but no harm done except for about a minute’s delay. This comp room had steel floors, so they were very lucky.

Another was at the morning daily where I had served my apprenticeship. I was on dayshift, so heard about it next day, with the engineer somewhat concerned about the way the turtles (made of timber with a thick steel top) had been designed. One stick of timber with two castors came off, spread the two tabloid pages across the floor. We were told about half of the type was picked up successfully, about half was re-set by lino operators. After seeing how the turtles were constructed, I wondered how they had lasted so long, the piece which came off was held to the upper parts only by some thin long woodscrews and gravity. There was a very quick re-design and modification.

At the weekly, one afternoon the owner started the press for the last run; the paper was produced by printing four tabloid pages at a time on one side of the sheet, then turning it over to print a different four pages. If the paper was to be not a multiple of eight pages, it was printed with a four-page group, the pages imposed so that they backed-up to give the correct sequence. [Because of the flatbed, the first (inner) pages were printed 2 or 3 days before publication day, when no one knew how many pages would be in the edition, so the pages were not numbered.] The Intertype operators (2) and the comps were chatting when they heard the press start and a loud thump. The senior apprentice ran to the press room, we others followed more slowly. The chase with four pages had not been locked to the bed of the press, slid off with the first stroke of the bed. No harm done, the chase was lifted to the bed and printing successfully proceeded.

Not like when, in the commercial printing section with the morning daily, a chase of hand-set type had an accident; it was about the size of one tabloid page. We heard about it when the veteran comp came to our section (upstairs) and began mitreing slugs and throwing them away; he just wanted to be in another place while the commercial foreman said a few words. The commercial foreman was not the most placid person whom I had known. We did not enquire how this mishap happened.

I give thanks from time to time for the genius of Mergenthaler, and the people who produced the Ludlow and the Nebitype. I think 9 weeks with handset type at an out-of-date print shop was enough for me and for them to tolerate me.


What is negative leading? Do you talking about Monotype without leads between the lines?

Setting without leading is called ‘compact setting’.

to thomas gravemaker and Winston and others

The story about shortening the column of type mentioned only linotype. The ribs of one slug were pressed into the smooth side of the next slug, thus reducing the set-size of the slugs by a tiny amount each, enough over a column of (say) two inches to allow the type to fit where, otherwise, it would be a half-a-line too long. “Shrinking” can be done in a bench vise (vyce in Australia), preferably with a piece of flat thick steel at the top and another at the bottom of the column of type to press on the whole surface of the slugs, but it’s difficult to keep the slugs in good alignment without the custom-made machine I described. It is necessary to visualise that it was used only on single-column text type; this was in a newspaper, where the thinking is slightly different to commercial printing.

The machine probably went to scrap metal when the afternoon newspaper went to cold type.

At the commercial print shop where I worked for only 9 weeks, one day I was given the task of tidying up a job which was mostly wood spacing (reglets) and thin card. To unlock, the only way was to unlock some of the quoins across the width of the chase, remove some of the spacing, then lock up again, then loosening the quoins which had not been touched in the first step, and remove some more spacing, then locking up all the quoins to a gentle pressure. Doing this cycle a couple of times allowed moving the pieces of [1-point or 2-point, I don’t remember which] brass rule which needed to be aligned. The job was a “management tree” of the names of executives in a company, from the Chief Executive Officer (Manager?) downwards, with their departments. This made me think that, if one had powerful quoins, one could compress linotype slugs by putting them into a chase and screwing the quoins up very tightly; but I also wonder what shape the chase would be after that force was put on it.

I am not skilled at writing descriptions of machinery, nor do I have any photos of the machine.


Addendum from Alan:

I am not skilled at the computer; I was editing my comments, but somehow the machine went to Post comment; I was trying to alter the line

visualise that it was used only

to read

visualise that it [the machine used to compress a short column of type] was used only

Does that make it clearer? It certainly makes it longer! Or is it that I write in North Queensland English? Until 40 years ago, we called the automobile which was like a light-weight truck [pick-up in U.S.A.?] a tilly in N.Q., while the southerners called it a ute, both being shortening of the authorised name utility vehicle, said to have been a design, the response of Ford Australia in 1934 to a plea from a farmer’s wife for a vehicle “which could be used to go to church on Sunday, and to market on Monday”.


Alan, I’ve never heard of negative leading until now!!! I worked in basement print shops thru high school, GPO and the Washington Post as a compositor. And I thought I had heard it all. Interesting!!!! Question, would not the letter touch with no space?


I try to answer.

My guess is that you are concerned that the descender on a letter may touch the top of an ascender [or top of a capital letter]; if this is correct interpretation, visualise:

Consider two lines of 48-point Ludlow type:


visualise that the underpinning Ludlow blanks (or Elrod) between the two lines are slightly fewer in number than should be there [this is sometimes done to force type to fit a limited space]; then the top of the w will be closer to the e; but, while the ascender of the t [in the second line] will be closer to the s, it will not touch it until the blanks between the lines are excessively reduced; similarly, the descender on the p will still be clear of the o.

Consider the following lines:

will be
on grass

Even in this fount, does the line spacing appears unequal?

Afternoon daily newspapers are sometimes referred to as “yellow journalism” and delicacy of typography is well down the list of priorities. If it can be read, it is OK. I saw in a newspaper that the

owners of a tree
plantation were de-
termined to forest-
all the “greenies”.

which took a little re-reading in order to understand; anything goes!

Pressing linotype slugs together as I described does not ruin the legibility; it is usual for there to be a small fraction of a point space below the lowest descender on the slug. Line spacing improves legibility, but is a trade-off against getting more text into a page. If the compression of a column of lino slugs (ribs pressed into the next slug) reduces the length from top to bottom by (say) 3%, that is about half a line compression over a depth of about two column inches, enough to get a half-line extra into the page. That is what was the objective. Over four inches, it would be a whole line, thus sometimes compression negated the need for the attention of the floor editor to make a cut in the story.

When making-up a church newsletter (small-offset printing) I found that we had 12 pages, except that there was no room for the heading on one story, no matter how tightly I tried to crowd in the text. [We did not want to leave anything out.] So I found some more text and illustrations, made the issue 14 pages. We had a deadline, the clergyman who did the offset printing had his schedule, the ladies who hand-collated [etc] the finished printing had their day set aside; tight scheduling.

In newspapers, there is no tomorrow, but in an afternoon daily, there is no “next five mnutes”; I guess the overseer of the comp room where I worked (for a year) on the afternoon daily was given a bonus/penalty according to how close to time the pages were available to the stereotype department of the press crew. I saw a most interesting occasion of this, but that is another long story.

Have you ever seen the abominable Adsans typeface (described as four-and-three-quarter point) which has letters such as (lower-case)
g j p q y
lifted from their baseline, so that there are, in effect, no descenders; some punctuation
; ,
is also “lifted”. This keeps the bean-counters happy, a few extra lines per column are possible, although it looks like damaged lino matrices.

Look for Bell Centennial typeface to understand the extremes to which fount designers are driven in order to meet the executives wishes.

Have a nice day.


Does anyone remember: Working in a job shop in Milwaukee,Wisconsin, I remember having wood trays with brass and copper letter spaces from 6pt to 36pt. The brass was equal to 1pt and the copper to 1/2pt, used to help justify lines of hand set or for fine letter spacing. Am now volunteering at Ferrymead Printing Society, Christchurch, New Zealand.