Letterpress Typography


Moveable type, Gill Sans bold condensed typeface

Gill Sans

The point size of letterpress type refers to the size of body ( the cast shape the letter is on top of ) not the size of the letter. Every character ( letter ) is calculated by the designer and type founder to occupy a visually pleasing area and to sit comfortably next to, above and below its neighbour whether this is a round letter “o  c”, an  ascender “h  k  l” or descender y p g”

Typeface designed by Eric Gill 1882 – 1947,
sculptor, artist, letter cutter (stone) calligrapher and typeface designer.

(Example: Bush House, The Strand, London)

bush houseQuick time movie on nickgraphic.co.uk

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Caslon Double Lay Type Case Times Roman 12 point


This case was made by the type founding firm Caslon. William Caslon I
( 1720 – 1749 ) was one of England’s finest type engravers ( designer )
and type founders establishing a “family of typefaces” The Caslon interests
and type matrixes ( designs ) were sold to Stephenson Blake & Co. Ltd. Sheffield in 1937. The name of Caslon was kept, becoming The Caslon Letter Foundry Sheffield.

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At The Caslon Letter Foundry

A   V e r y   I n t e r e s t i n g   B l o g   b y   “T h e   G e n t l e   A u t h o r”

Spitalfields Life


Casting Shop, with women breaking off excess metal and rubbing the type at the window.

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Times Roman 12 point and Italic 8 point locked in a “Chase”


This type has been hand-set, “leads” added for “line spacing” and locked up with “quoins” in a “chase” prior to proofing and printing. The extra space, not occupied by type is filled by cast shapes lower than the type. These are “ems” the width of an “M” in that type face and “ens” half the size of an “em” also narrower shapes called “mids, thicks and thins”. Large areas of space are filled with “furniture” originally wood but now cast steel, aluminium or “Resalite” (a type of plastic)

Times New Roman Fount was commissioned from the Monotype Corporation for the Times Newspaper of London and designed by Stanley Morrison in 1932.

The last re-design of Times New Roman was by Neville Brody in 2010.

Typical Case Layout


The most frequently used letters are the lowercase (left hand side) and
are NOT in alphabetical sequence, but in the order of the “most used” letters. This eased the compositor’s work as he had a shorter distance to reach for these letters!
The least used characters are nearer the edge of the type case. The capitals are in alphabetical order on the right hand side. Note: Capital U & J are in an odd position these characters were added to the English language later!

Keith Houston’s Book – Shady Characters The History of Punctuation

Blog Link

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L i n o t y p e    T y p o g r a p h y

The Manual Of Linotype Typography 1923.
The Mergenthaler Linotype Company Brooklyn NY.

This is an example of typesetting on the “Linotype hotmetal”
casting machine. This machine revolutionised the speed of
typesetting in the late 19th century.

A typesetter sat at the keyboard of a linotype machine


moveable brass matrix

moveable brass matrix

Examples of the brass matrix used in the Linotype typecaster, with three lines of lead  Linotype in the background.

E x p l o r e   t h e   I m a g e   G a l l e r y   L i n k   B e l o w

Image Gallery

Photographs and text © Nicholas J Birchall March 2011

Interesting blog!

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1 Response to Letterpress Typography

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