Benton's Vertical Pantograph for Matrices

(Circa 1899)

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1. Kinematic Inversion and Repurposing

Given its outstanding success as a matrix engraver, the adaptation of Benton's pantograph for this purpose might seem to have come surprisingly late. Benton's patent for it was filed February 17, 1899, at least 15 years after his first version of the machine (and 17 years after the first matrices were engraved by machine at the Central Type Foundry ).

Yet there may have been little need for improvements in the machine in this period. It was successfull in doing what typefounders had been doing for decades (cutting patrices) and centuries (cutting punches). Moreover, during the early stages of ATF before Robert Nelson took charge the organization had little focus (indeed, little organization). Soon after, Benton began a period of work with Theodore Lowe DeVinne on the development of the Century typefaces. I wonder also if it wasn't simply the case that, having just consolidated nearly all of the American typefounding industry into a single firm, the last thing ATF needed in the 1890s was an increase in its matrix inventory.

(Rehak discusses his very well-informed view of this period and the origins of direct matrix cutting in Practical Typecasting , p. 107.)

The 1899 version of the machine is the one which was described most frequently in the Twentieth Century, and it is the one being used today at The Dale Guild to cut new matrices for the Twenty-First. It inverts the preferred kinematic arrangement of the patrix/punch version of the machine: the matrix blank is stationary while the cutter head ("quill")moves above it. It may be used with a right-reading intaglio working pattern to cut a right-reading intaglio matrix.

To cut a punch on this version of the machine would require a wrong-reading working pattern. Although Benton's patent addresses both matrix and punch engraving, it is not my impression that this version of the machine typically was used for punchcutting. In his chapter "The Making of Type" in The Building of a Book (1906) Benton says "At present there are two styles of engraving machines employed, - one cutting the letter in relief, - called a 'punch' if cut in steel, and an 'original' if cut in type metal, - and the other cutting a letter in intaglio, - called a 'matrix.'" (34-35).

Early 20th century ATF working patterns were not simply intaglio or relief. Instead, they consisted of a line describing the outline of a character. (In the few ATF working patterns in my possession this line is raised in relief on the working pattern plate, and was formed via electrodeposition over a tracing in wax. Rehak in Practical Typecasting writes of earlier methods involving only a line.) This outline is right-reading. To use it to cut a matrix, it is used with the matrix-engraving style pantograph and the area inside of the line is worked over with the tracer. To use it to cut a punch or patrix, it is used with the earlier punch/patrix style pantograph and the area outside of the line is worked over with the tracer.

2. Literature

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US Patent 809,548 (1899/1906)

US patent 809,548, "Matrix and Punch Cutting Machine." Issued 1909-01-09 to Linn Boyd Benton. Filed 1899-02-17 as application serial number 705,786. Assigned to American Type Founders Company.

3. Other Illustrations

From the 1923 ATF Specimen Book and Catalog (Jersey City, NJ: American Type Founders Company, 1923):

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(The linked image is a 1200dpi greyscale PNG scan from the orginal.)

4. Bibliography

Cost, Patricia. The Bentons: How an American Father and Son Changed the Printing Industry Rochester, NY: RIT Cary Graphic Arts Press, 2011.

Hitchcock, Frederick H., Ed. The Building of a Book. NY: The Grafton Press, 1906

Available online via The Internet Archive, Google, The Hathi Trust, and local copies on CircuitousRoot.

Rehak, Theo. Practical Typecasting. New Castle, DE: Oak Knoll Books, 1993.


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