The Setting of Annabel Lee

My admiration for the effort of letterpress is never ending. Over these past two weeks I was introduced to hand copied, hand-set letterpress type and Linotype. All of which are “lost” arts to the general public who are so used to the digital type that we use in our everyday tasks such as Facebook, and Twitter. However, more and more people are being introduced to the art of the letterpress and the revolution that was the Linotype.

Linotype Machine. Photographed by Ciara Williams. Baltimore Museum of Industry.

Linotype Machine. Photographed by Ciara Williams. Baltimore Museum of Industry.

The time that went into the setting of each individual letter and every spacing and then making sure the spacing and spelling was correct all before you print it.

Handset type. Photographed by Ciara Williams. Baltimore Museum of Industry.

Handset type. Photographed by Ciara Williams. Baltimore Museum of Industry.

And everything can go wrong after you put it on the press.

The set type Photographed by Ciara Williams MICA

The set type Photographed by Ciara Williams MICA

The patience that the setters had must have been incredible, and I can imagine the shock and awe that they experienced when the Linotype was invented and came to be in their shops as the main tool for printing newspapers and books. It not only mechanized type setting but it also speed it up significantly.

A magazine employing the Linotype Photographed by Ciara Williams Brody Learning Commons

A magazine employing the Linotype Photographed by Ciara Williams Brody Learning Commons

It made mass printing much easier, and that means that more books got printed which helped to increase literacy. The next jump in literacy occurred with digital type so essentially they did the same thing, but one is known for making life easier because now you can type things like this blog with ease and not have to worry about the tiny details like they used to have to. But the art of laying each piece of lead type is still appreciated in the Fine Arts which is a niche that is growing everyday.

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