An ex-Linotype operator friend of mine is closing up shop and has a rather large stash of new and used Linotype and Intertype parts available. He also has an Intertype caster and some magazine racks. If you are interested let me know! A few pics here at the following link, but these are just the tip of the iceberg.
The Arm Letterpress
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Is there anything left?
I am interested in the magazine racks.
Anyone interested in
Epitaph of the Linotype
?????? [It’s rather long].
Anyone know anything about
????? [Uses triangular rule laid on top of Linotype slugs which are cast in shallower mould (mold) and matrices with deeper drive.]
i’ve never used one of these but was shown how a long time ago, you use a higher slug with a regular rule and the machine cuts a triangle in the face of the rule in which this thin strip of copper (i think) fits into the triangle cut for your verticle rules, this strip rests on the high slugs, it makes a very good ruled form.
The link did take me to the parts site.
Maybe there’s a better place to put this, but it is slipped in here.
Has anyone written the history of the Intertype Fotosetter? How many were built? Were there different versions? Does anyone know if some were used in regular newspaper production, or were they mostly confined to book production? Will you pardon the ignorance revealed in my questions? If a full history has not already been written, will it be lost?
Are there people out there (still) who earned their weekly wage mostly from operating a Fotosetter? If so, they may be able to answer my surmise that the Fotosetter was produced to provide a machine which could produce useful output with minimal re-training of the keyboard operator; did the Fotosetter operators adapt easily from hot-metal machines? At the newspaper where I worked, we had severe problems when we changed from hot to cold type, because nearly all of the keyboard operators had been working for several months on both kinds of keyboards.
The machined pieces of brass which carried the image of the characters were usually called matrices, but since they did not carry a recessed shape of the character (to be used for casting metal type) they are not, strictly speaking, matrices. But I surmise that operators and maintenance crew would still call them matrices because they were the same general shape and had the seven pairs of distribution-combination at one end.
Only after reading some accounts about the method of working of the Fotosetter did I remember that the “matrices” did not carry the punched section to mould hot metal type; but the matrices were proportioned in thickness according to the width of the character, and that was the key to the width-codes of the characters during the exposure of the film. [Not a scientific explanation, but the closest this octogenarian can achieve.] I do not remember how the “spacebands” (inter-word variable spaces) on the Fotosetter worked.
On a social re-visit to the afternoon paper where I had previously worked for about a year, there was a Fotosetter; being only a visitor, and understanding possible problems, I did not “put my nose” into the small group around it. But I was told that they had to keep the appropriate lubricants in the correct places during routine daily servicing.
It looks like there are no Fotosetter operators out there. — Alan.
i ran linotypes for about 10 to 12 years, worked in a few large shops, mostly smaller shops. I never saw a photosetter, i did pickup a mat to a photosetter somewhere in my travels, don’t know where i got it and don’t know where i put it but thought it was something worth throwing in my collection of stuff.
While not an operator, I have seen with my own eyes a Fotosetter. In 1974, when a student at RIT, the photocomposition lab had an Intertype Fotosetter alongside a Mergenthaler Linofilm machine and a Photon phototypesetter. We did send tape to the Photon and the Linofilm, but the Fotosetter was, at that time, relegated to the “Museum corner”.
There were several newer machines in the comp lab as well, but we got some hands-on time on the older ones just to see how they operated.
Here’s a link to a page in Dave Hughes’ Metal Type website with an Intertype Fotosetter and an explanation of how it worked.
Why should there be any Fotosetter interest out there? Absolutely no photomechanical material is available to do such work today, even if you had a working machine and mats. You can’t even get the paper and chemistry to do work on a Phototypositor or Staromat or Headliner (I have boxes of film spools and rigid strips for those, and they have abslolutely no contemporary use except to be scanned). Do you realize we are on the verge of losing even photomechanical film? They are all just brief flashes in printing history, no more important than BrightType or Cronatype other desperate intermediate methods, all of which are revealed as less valid than foundry, Monotype, Linotype, Intertype or Ludlow, each stll in operation even today in isolated shops. I hope to still have working linecasters when film is discontinued, which may not be far off.
are you telling me that my one mat is worthless???
I also have a Fotosetter mat. I think if we get together and form a coalition, we can push the prices up on Fotosetter bits and pieces. It will become a very collectible piece of printing memorabilia. My assumption is that it is already a “pearl of great price” in the market, there being so few available.
Dick, jhenry, nothing is worthless on eBay. It only takes two fools bidding against each other and you may get more for one mat than a whole Fotosetter is worth.
As long as we don’t both list the item at the same time. That would indicate that there is a glut on the market, and the two fools would each take one.
Hey, just because we are hoarding fotosetter mats doesn’t make us fools, does it?
i don’t think hoarding the photosetter mat makes you a fool, i think its hoarding presses, type and lead is what makes us fools.
Putting my neck on the line (twice) about the Fotosetter, eventually a response appeared; it seems to have lightened the day for some.
But seriously, you (Briar Press members) are preserving an extremely important part of history by preserving the art of letterpress; in referring to letterpress, I mean using the individual metal types, and the successor — slug cast lines.
An understanding of history is important; we need to know how we got to where we are, and what other paths were followed which were not the better ones. We need to understand how to choose the better paths, to avoid the lesser paths, not only in our own speciality, but in life in general.
When our forebears came down out of the trees and walked across the grassy plains (some of us believe in Africa) [apologies to the creationists?] they were able to eat meat and some of us believe this led to the development of the human brain; for hunting meat, they needed to look over the grass, and stood upright.
Humans went around in small groups, probably less than a dozen, because they needed to move to find food, including fruit and other vegetable kinds. Then (some of us believe between the Euphrates and Tigris Rivers) someone found a grass with edible seeds; this was a forebear of what we call wheat today. Someone spread some of the seeds on ground that was favourable, and it is possible that they understood that the plants needed water, or that the plants were close enough to the river to grow well; later, the same group came back and found food — the grain on the plants they had had some contact with. Eventually, grain was farmed, and because it could be stored, did not need to be eaten within a day or so of collecting. This led to settled communities — towns, which led to communities working together and the civilisation of collective workers; when it was found possible to put animals to work for humans, it became possible for one human to produce food for several others of the community, and those others could produce other useful items for use by fellow citizens. Note that, in some countries, animals suitable for domestic “slavery” did not exist, and those countries are often still “third world” countries. Wheat (grain) allowed civilisation as we know it.
People started to write, to pass on their knowledge, to spread it. This knowledge went to comparatively few people until Gutenberg thought of a way of making many copies of books easily, cheaply and quickly (compared with previous methods). A couple of hundred years later, Mergenthaler produced the next major step for civilisation, the Linotype; and others made machines which fitted into the “gaps” between the products of Linotype. We know that the Linotype made useful newspapers possible during the 20th century.
Letterpress reigned supreme for perhaps five or six centuries, then in the quest for cheaper means offset took over; I doubt if any large books are today produced by letterpress, and certainly the majority of newspapers are offset and photoset, although that word photoset is not really descriptive of the current process of getting the thoughts of writers to an image on paper.
Even such means of disseminating knowledge which we believe will eventually replace ink on paper are not wholly the answer; note Murdoch’s IPad.
The transition from letterpress (and its hot metal) to computer-composed page has happened within my lifetime; at a time when I started my apprenticeship, probably very few dreamed that Linotype/Intertype and similar machines would be largely scrapped.
The transition saw many paths being tried; some were very successful, others less so (and we see their deficiencies). It took decades, but I now see that tradesmen compositor keyboard operators are no longer needed, my trade has disappeared. During the transition, many kinds of typesetters, many paths were followed; the Fotosetter was one, which tried to utilise the existing expertise of linotype operators. The path by Fotosetter was not followed any further, but I ask did linotype operators adapt easily? I did not have the opportunity to observe the Fotosetter and its possible advantages. I know of some of the disadvantages, and compare my table-top computer and less-than-$100 tabletop printer with what was available for some years after the cold type revolution began.
This is a plea to retain some history; is there anyone out there? Did lino operators adapt to the Fotosetter. even for a short few years?
I contend that the qwerty keyboard is holding back civilisation; refer to the Dvorak and Maltron ergonomic keyboards. In this town, there are several medical practitioners who are quite unhappy that they now need to be able to operate a qwerty keyboard, though some of the medical practices have installed computer programs which make their day easier; I would very much like to be able to find some way of demonstrating the drawbacks of the qwerty keyboard. There are other spheres of activity for which a more logical keyboard would be a benefit.
Alan, you said that Gutenburg found a cheap way of copying books, are you saying he invented photo copying???
touche, an expression used in some communities.
But I wrote that:
Gutenberg thought of a way of making many copies of books easily, quickly and cheaply (compared with previous methods).
This, I think, infers that books were already being copied from existing manuscripts, as being the only know method then known. Recent reading claimed that one well-known book is an redaction of about 25,000 older writings.
There is no way to discover if Gutenberg had access to materials which would have allowed the invention of photocopying, but obviously he gathered items which led to letterpress printing. He made use of what was available, and apparently improved on some of those methods during improvisation.
Near my home town (actually, 200 miles south) a group of enthusiasts built a successful replica of steam tram (light rail street car) from a small amount of junk on a rubbish heap, having access to the plans; but they lacked a few of the arts of maintaining and operating the vehicle; since, these arts have been re-learned (the hard way) or acquired from someone who had the knowledge. I have seen the video of the replica (in USA) of the first (steam-powered) vehicle which could move under its own power, without horses — refer Cugnot.
During my lifetime I have seen history lost and altered, the alterations being not in accord with what I am certain is correct. My quest for the Fotosetter useage is an attempt to avoid mis-information.
Before Gutenberg, it is recorded that a group of people, most days, sat in a monastery and used poultry feathers and some kind of black fluid to make marks on paper (which they had probably made themselves, from whatever materials they had found would suit) and laboriously made copies of the available copy of the text they wished to multiply. It is known that not all the copies made at any one time were identical; Gutenberg’s copies avoided this problem, under favourable circumstances.
The methods used over a few centuries did not change greatly from those of Gutenberg, he would have recognised them; but mid 20th century, a change began, and it is perhaps useful to record first-hand experiences of a very small facet of that change. A little of the Fotosetter has emerged, and if the matrices are actual Fotosetter mats, unless one has a description of the Fotosetter, not all of their features will be known, because part of that Fotosetter history is not available.
Was the ability to read by the children of early settlers of The West in USA made possible by letterpress? Would the spread of knowledge across the prairies have been more difficult without the letterpress printer?
In Australia, I have read, in early days men living on their own were willing to pay 5% of their weekly money to pay for a newspaper so they could read; and during much of the 19th century, newspapers were carrried at no cost through the post because of their social value to the community; it was not till after the middle of the 20th century that a subsidy was no longer available; when I started my apprenticeship, about half of the circulation went out by post, carriage subsidised. [By the way, circa 1960, the great increase of numbers of people in Australia were gold-seekers who came from such places as California.]
Again, I repeat, Gutenberg and Mergenthaler contributed greatly to civilisation.
P.S. I understood that The Briar Press is preserving history; here is a chance to do just that. — A.
apology, proof-reading error
The wrong century is mentioned in my post; instead of
[By the way, circa 1960, the great increase of numbers of people in Australia were gold-seekers … ]
It should have read, referring to the goldrush of Bendigo and Ballaarat:
[By the way, circa 1860, the great increase of numbers of people in Australia were gold-seekers … ]
Maybe the serif text used in the posted text is easier to read than the sans-serif of the initial typing?
Alan, love your posts, just picking on you a little. I worked in several places that had linotypes over the years, never saw a photosetter, but i think the museum of printing in Andover, Massachusetts has one in its collection, you can get on their site and view their collection. Around here in the mid 1970’s the linotypes were sent to the scrap yards by the hundreds, the cold type machines only lasted a few years before getting scrapped. I never thought the linos would disappear so fast.