Graphic Design Los Angeles | IN THE BEGINNING: Typesetting

Typesetting & Graphic Design Los AngelesTypesetting & Graphic Design Los Angeles

In the very beginning type was carved by hand in wood, however, we are not going that far back here. We will start at setting the type by hand, picking the letters out of a typesetter’s wooden type box.

This box contained type in individual metal type faces. Typesetters of the time would “pick” the proper type from the box which was partitioned into compartments containing the type. There were no signs or labels to indicate which letters or symbols the compartments contained. The experienced typesetter was able, from memory and experience, to “pick” the proper letters from the box at amazing speed. Forget about twenty six alphabet letters; they dealt with caps, lower case, italics, underlined, and much more.

How did they do it? Starting out in a print shop at the age of 12 or 14¸ their first job was more than likely sweeping the floor. The required experience came from the second job: Breaking down the type from completed jobs not requiring being held for repeating; and distributing the type into the proper compartments. Heaven help the young apprentice if any of the distributed type was in the wrong compartment!

After something like four to eight years, the apprentice could move up to journeyman.

Our next short story will cover Linotype, a machine that looked like a nightmare

About the Author: Don Weston Started working in the printing industry over 50 years ago and remains the mentor of the owner of Weston Graphics, Inc.
See more articles by Mr. Weston HERE.
Read about the Author HERE.
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