Linotype: A Future Revival

The development of new technology is a constant race to create something that is faster and better than previous technologies. It is an endless cycle in which older technology is constantly replaced by their new and improved version – this cycle can be seen clearly in the history of printing. Before the introduction of the printing press, all texts were meticulously written by hand. This method was soon replaced with the advent of printing, which initially used hand-set type. However, the inefficiency of hand-set type quickly led to the invention of the linotype machine – a machine that greatly quickened the process of printing by eliminating the need for setting type by hand, making it viable for publishing companies to profitably produce mass copies of a single written work. In short, the invention of the linotype revolutionized the world of printing. However, just as the introduction of the linotype made hand-set type obsolete, the linotype machine eventually met the same fate with the introduction of computers and the digital age. These machines were smaller than linotype machines but they were able to produce mass copies of written texts with even less effort and resources than the linotype machines. They were seen, in a manner of speaking, as the future of printing while linotype was seen as something better left in the past.

 However, the introduction of these new technologies does not necessarily spell out the demise of past technologies. Although it is true that linotype printing has become much rarer in the present, with fewer printing families carrying on its tradition and legacy, there is still an interest in it among printing enthusiasts. Just as there has been a bit of a revival in hand-set type, as seen in the Globe Letterpress at MICA, the linotype could experience, or might already be experiencing, the same sort of revival amongst contemporary printers. Although there are many benefits to using newer printing technologies, there is still a sense of craftsmanship in both hand-set type and linotype that the newer technology is not able to capture, at least not to the same extent. The sensation of being personally involved in every step of the printing process, from choosing the type of font to use all the way to applying the inked type to the paper, is not present in the newer technologies as it is in the older technologies. It is this sensation of creation, of making art, that can pave the road for linotype’s future. More and more printers will become attracted to the idea of going back to their roots and experiencing the same type of love and labor that their predecessors felt while using the linotypes. As long as there are still linotype machines, people who can still operate them, and people who are willing to learn how to use them, linotype will not easily fade away from the present-day printing world.    

Some interesting sites to visit:



Linotype Keyboard, Baltimore Museum of Industry, Photographed by Gloria You


Slugs created using a Linotype machine, Baltimore Museum of Industry, Photographed by Gloria You.


Rolling inked slug onto paper, Baltimore Museum of Industry, Photographed by Gloria You



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