I suspect that this site will appear confusing at first. If so, I apologize. There is a method behind it. I won't claim that it's the best method, and I'm not really even sure it is a good method. It is, however, at least some kind of a plan.
This set of Notebooks looks at what type-making, letterpress printing, and "hot metal" letterpress technologies are. It contains general overviews, along with some more detailed discussions, of particular machines, technological systems, and craft and industrial practices/processes. (These came about not because I have a general or comprehensive knowledge - I don't - but rather because I kept them as notes while I tried for myself to understand these rather large fields.) Even at their most detailed, though, the Notebooks in this section consist of studies in the "History of Technology." It is for the most part theoretical and historical, not hands-on. It is the "what" and sometimes the "why," but not the "how."
Right now it consists of: a Preface, wherein I make excuses for myself, Introduction I - Survey of the Processes surveying the general processes, Introduction II - Survey of the Equipment (here, additionally, I describe my own adventures in acquiring tons of cast iron for fun (without profit)), and a section of reprints of General Literature related to hot metal and letterpress printing.
Some of the machinery I acquire actually works when I get it. Much doesn't, however, and in the end none of it will unless it is maintained. This section of Notebooks is really the core of the site. It's a set of studies of the detailed technologies of all aspects of making and using metal type. The goal in all of this is to present enough information, ultimately, to allow the re-creation of any of these technologies when they are otherwise lost. Not if, but when. Saving the machines is important, but saving the machines alone cannot work, and is not enough. Ultimately, all machines are destroyed. Technological civilization is beautiful, but despite our hubris it is not durable; it is terribly, terribly fragile.
Of course the writing may be destroyed as well. Remember Alexandria. But the machines will be destroyed. The long view of the history of technology is bleak, yet it is not without hope. Consider two examples from the history of "fine technology": We have the Antikythera mechanism from Roman antiquity (although by accident, and only because it was lost at sea), but we're not even quite sure what it is because we lack documentation. (It was probably a mechanical astronomical computer.) By way of contrast, DeDondi's early-Renaissance "Astrarium," an even more elaborate mechanical astronomical computer, was destroyed in an 18th century war, but now we have several working copies of it because we have the documentation. To fail to document a technology is to condemn it to oblivion.
In any case, this set of Notebooks attempts to cover every machine and tool, and every kind of process and technology used, in making and using metal type (either making it beforehand for use as hand-set type, or making it interactively as "hot metal" type). It's turning into a lifetime project, which is fine by me! It will also inevitably involve a lot of overlap between sections, as they shared many technologies. I started with linecasters (Linotypes/Intertypes and Ludlows), and so the focus is there. I don't have much on Monotypes yet, or material makers. I'm trying to add to the sections on making matrices and type as much and as fast as I can. Stereotype platemaking deserves a lot more attention than it has ever received. I'll never really cover printing press technologies very well, I fear, but those are actually fairly well covered in the general literature.
Right now, this general section consists of subsections on: Linecasters (that is, Linotypes & Intertypes, and Ludlows; in time I may be able to add sections on other less well known linecasters such as the Linograph and the Rogers Typograph), Composing Typecasters (Monotypes, really, and not much here yet), Making Printing Matrices and Types (a vast subject heretofore never comprehensively covered; noncomposing typecasters also go here), Strip-Casters (the Elrod, and perhaps at some point the Monotype Material Maker), Stereotype Plate Making (the critical forgotten technology which enabled high-speed printing), Common Casting Equipment (meaning equipment common between several types of casting machines and processes, such as metal feeders and remelt equipment), Composing Room Equipment (insofar as it requires fixing or other detailed documentation; by chance this includes a fair bit on printer's saws), Printing Presses, and, finally, Bindery equipment.
Things Not Done: I haven't really set up a proper section yet for typesetting (but not casting) machines such as the Paige or the Thorne/Simplex/Unitype, but I should. I'll probably get into a tiny bit of electrotyping in the Making Printing Matrices and Types Notebooks, but doubt that I'll ever do much with larger electrotype plates. (I may prove myself wrong here, though, if I should start to investigate seriously the early technologies of process reproduction in the 1880s, which were fascinating.) I'll stop my studies of type with the end of hot metal. This means I'll include such "modern" devices as the Teletypesetter, but avoid phototypesetting even when it was done with transitional technologies which used recirculating matrices. Papermaking and bookbinding, while noble undertakings, aren't on this already over-full plate.
Actually, fixing it is more fun, for me, but in the end I really ought to use this equipment. This section will cover the actual use of type and printing machinery, both in "cold metal" ( Setting Type by Hand, and Printing From It), and "hot metal" ( Composing and Casting Type, and Making it Ready for Printing). When I get to it, I'll also try to add sets of Notebooks on ( Presswork) and ( Binding and Finishing).
All portions of this document not noted otherwise are Copyright © 2009-2010 by David M. MacMillan and Rollande Krandall.
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