Linotype vs. handset ID?

Is there a way to tell visually on a printed page if text type was set by a Linotype or from handset? I’m trying to ID when a Linotype started being used in an early 20 th century newspaper. Are there certain ” tells” that would help me?

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some newspaper type was used way past its normal life, if you look closly you might see fine lines between some letters, this is a sign that the linotype letters were worn out, if the font of mats were new then there were no hairlines between letters. Its hard to say when linotype started in different newspapers, but around the turn of the last century is when linotypes started becoming popular in larger newspapers.

I would think that by 1900 virtually all newspapers (large and small) were using Linotypes to set their editorial matter. Linotypes were well established by then and where literally light-years ahead of handsetting.

Not only was composition faster, but it also eliminated all distribution. When you think of how tedious it was to handset all of that copy, keep in mind that it all had to be redistributed back into the cases, doubling the time and effort required.

Linotypes revolutionized typesetting in the late 19th century and the changeover was very swift.


mikeb21081, A sure tell all would be to get a lupe and
look and see how crisp the printing is, crisp no worn shoulders printing more than likely lino. best james

The reason I’m asking is that this was a very rural paper that was “old school” to the extreme. The guy who published it from 1914 until he died In 1960 had the reputation of having set some type by hand until the mid1950s. The Linotype there is a model 8 with a 1922 mfg. date. But I have reason to believe he was still buying foundry type in 1930 . So the question in my mind is when did this little rural paper first put in its Linotype? As an example of how old school, the paper continued to print on a 1890 Campbell Country Press until October 1969.

The change over to linotypes was not at all that swift—“by 1900.” Our paper in this town didn’t get their first machine until 1932 and it remained letterpress until 1971. I handset type for the Canyon Courier in Evergreen, Colorado as a kid back in the 1950s as a supplement to machine set type. The cost of these machines new was well beyond many small newspapers even after machines became available on the used market. Handsetting of large amounts of type continued well into the 20th century. Hand set headlines for our paper were still used until at least 1976 and were proofed for pasteup and then shot for negs for offset.

We handset all story headers, captions, headlines etc. even when we used linotype for text. Major newspapers did the same with handset ludlow. I’m not sure what the largest point size available was, but I think 14pt was the largest linotype I worked with. Frequently it was also easier to handset a few lines than to change magazines, reset the mould, ejector, etc.
I put out a 2,000 copy, 4 page, “bulldog” size (We called a “Bulldog” half a full sized newspaper of the time) on a hand fed Babcock 4 times a week. We did it “work and turn”. We printed all four pages at the same time, then flipped and turned, and printed the 1000 sheets on the back, then cut them in half.

Hairlines and occasional misalignment can indicate Linotype composition, and so can the lack of kerns on certain letters like f and j, and in italic they can be very distorted. However news faces tend not to have kerns even in foundry versions: just something to break when stereotyped.
Handset type would be certain (in news context) if there are any work-ups between words, while Linotype may get workups of the blank end of the slug on a short line. Handsetting may also be suggested by workups of leading (inter-line spacing material), since on Linotype you’d normally cast body size plus leading if any).
I worked at a small foreign-language letterpress newspaper in the mid-70s and it was anachronistic even then, just like an old country newspaper of the ’20s. When the only supplier of replacement Linotype mats (in Europe) closed, they had to go offset.