March 1, 2019
So, today marks the beginning of a most likely pretty weird 366 day journey! After bringing the world into the information age as the first machine to successfully automate the hand typesetting process for letterpress printing, the Linotype truly ushered in a whole new printing and information revolution at the turn of the last century. That era finally ran its course in the late 1970’s as newspapers switched to photo and then digital composition, and offset lithography replaced most large scale letterpress operations. In our shop, DWRI Letterpress, we cast type on our two Linotypes and Ludlow mainly for poster work, foil stamping slugs for pencils, type for artists and writers projects, and smaller amounts of type for notecards, etc, but the bulk of the fine and commercial printing work we do is from polymer and magnesium plates. However, finding a “new” use for the Linotype has been an ongoing, but elusive, goal. Perhaps the use of these machines meant to quickly spread information - and their (now) slower, and more meticulous approach - can help us decipher the barrage of information we have to sort through every day. And either way, the machines run better if they are being used a lot, so why not?
Curious about what a Linotype is? See some images of the process for making the first card in the series, as well as the film below, graciously hosted at PrintingFilms.com.
NOTE to all of the operators out there who may see my slow composition and and perhaps unorthodox keyboarding technique: I am self taught, and have lots and lots to learn! I cast my first project on a Linotype in 2002, and eventually picked up my own machine, a model 31 from David Vanable at the Little Rhody Press in 2009. My second Linotype (another Model 31, and having two is definitely evidence of some form of serious cast-iron hoarding or other illness) came from Dick Goodwin, and had been used in the New York Timing composing room for the editorial page (or so I have been told). Special thanks to the many many people who have shared their knowledge and experience as I learned how to operate and maintain these machines over the past 15+ years, but especially to Dave and Beth Seat of Hot Metal Services.