The Era of Linotype

Does linotype have a future? This question parallels, but also paves way for our generational version of this conundrum: do prints and books have a future? E-books and digitized material alike, seem to be replacing paper print, and it appears that with the progression of technology, physical books could be of the past faster than immediate models of the linotype could be invented in its time. The linotype served its time well—it reduced labor, allowed for greater production, and overcame many hurdles of the former method of manual type-setting.

The linotype’s future, as described in Linotype: The Film, is dependent on interest—interest on the art and processes of historical printing. As printers currently increase in speed and develop capabilities to print in multiple dimensions, the linotype will be pushed further into disuse. Because of the efficiency, safety, and ease-of-use of digitized printing, there is no practical reason for most to turn back to the phenomenon of the 20th century. For these reasons, the future of linotype is retired to museum displays, demonstrations, and some restoration causes. What is, however, more important than recreating a future for the linotype, is allowing a revolutionary invention embrace its historical legacy for what it has contributed to printing and offered to the people of its time. As the 20th century took industrialization by the reins, the 21st century will continue to do the same with digitization.

Linotype. Baltimore Museum of Industry.

Linotype. Baltimore Museum of Industry.

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