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The California job case

Adapted from General Printing, by Glen U. Cleeton, Charles W. Pitkin, and Raymond L. Cornwell. The book was recently reissued and can be purchased from amazon.com.

The page header on briarpress.org follows the structure of a California job case, a typecase (don’t say ‘drawer’) with 89 compartments for individual capital letters, lowercase letters, figures, special characters, and punctuation marks for one size and face of type. A ‘clean’ case has every character and space in its proper place, while a ‘dirty’ case is one into which the characters have been carelessly distributed and are mixed up. A pied case is in even worse shape: spilled.

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For a PDF file to print out and keep by your type cases, see also Type case layout - California Job Case.

Lay of the case

The location of the letters in the case—the lay of the case—is made so that the most used letters are grouped together within convenient reach of the typesetter. The largest compartment is that for the lowercase e, as this letter appears more frequently in English than any other. Compartments for k, z, and other infrequent characters are appropriately smaller.

Capitals, used much less than lowercase letters, are organized alphabetically, with the exception of J and U, which were not found in the alphabet used by early English-speaking printers. When these letters were added to the alphabet, the printers laid them in the empty boxes following the other capitals.

Spacing

The case also contains compartments for spacing material, inserted between words. These pieces of type metal are too short to receive ink or to contact the paper when the type is printed.

The wide spaces are called quads, used to fill out blanks at the end of paragraphs. The em quad is a space that is usually a square. (The width of Monotype em quads, however, varies according to the set—thickness or thinness—of the type.) The 2-em quad is twice as wide as the em quad. The 3-em quad is three times as wide as the em quad.

An en quad is a space one-half as wide as the em quad. The other spaces are known as 3-em (a contraction from 3-to-the-em) space, 4-em space, and the 5-em space.They are respectively 1/3, 1/4, and 1/5 as wide as the em quad.

Learn more

For more information about the California job case, and to explore the astonishing variety of typecase layouts that have been designed, visit the web site of The Alembic Press.