Linotype Simplex Line-composing and casting machine

Mergenthaler Linotype Co., New York around 1895

 © Technisches Museum Wien, Photo: Peter Sedlaczek

Composing machine

The Linotype typesetting machine makes it possible to set thousands of letters per hour via a keyboard, thereby making hand composition redundant.

At the end of the 19th century, the American Ottmar Mergenthaler constructs a typesetting machine, which is operated via a typewriter-like keyboard. When one of the keys is pressed, the brass stencil of the corresponding letter drops out of a compartment case. The letter stencils are guided along a groove and are put together to form line stencils. Once a line is ready, the pour-out process ensues, using liquid lead, antimony and zinc. The poured lines are then moved into a collection vessel and arranged to form a page. In the meantime, the stencils are moved upwards, where they are automatically placed back into their corresponding compartments by means of bit-like indentations. Mergenthaler's Linotype, as the "line of types" machine is called, makes it possible for a single typesetter to set thousands of letters per hour. It finds its way into the printing houses, turns its constructor into a successful entrepreneur (Mergenthaler Linotype Co.) and puts many hand compositors out of work.

Inv.Nr. 18353

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