Huss on Dr. William Church

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1. Dr. Church's "Hoax"

This is much harder than it should be.

The definitive modern source for information on Church's typesetting and typecasting machinery is { Richard E. Huss' Dr. Church's "Hoax". (Lancaster, PA: Graphic Crafts, Inc., 1976) }. In this source, he illustrates the typecaster, typesetter, and press both with some of the drawings from Church's 1822 patent (Great Britain) and with the engraving from the February 14, 1903 Scientific American. He does not reproduce the text of Church's patent.

Determining the provenance of the patent drawings in Huss is a puzzle I've only partly figured out. In his Acknowledgments, he thanks the New York Public Library for a copy of the 1822 Specification. Presumably the drawings he reproduced are from this. [As I write this I've just submitted a copying request to the NYPL to obtain a photocopy of their copy of the Specification. We'll see what I get.]

Huss is skeptical about the feasibility of the typecaster, primarily because of difficulties in heating given the technologies then available. He emphasizes, however, the importance of Church's typecaster as a part of an overall system, a point apparently lost on Church's contemporaries. Huss also articulates what he calls "Church's Law": the (completely counterintuitive) principle that given a sufficiently good typecasting machine it is easier/cheaper to melt down type and recast it after one use than it is to distribute it back to typecases for re-use. Both of the successful composing machine technologies which were developed in the late 19th century and which dominated the 20th century (the Linotype and the Monotype) relied upon this principle.

In his earlier volume, { The Development of Printers' Mechanical Typesetting Methods: 1822-1925 . }, Huss mentions (pp. 13 and 27), describes (p. 30), and illustrates (p. 29) Church's 1822 typecaster. For the image, he cites Scientific American, Vol. 88, No. 7 (February 14, 1903).


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