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1. Overview

This was a hand-operated type casting mold intended to allow the printer to copy existing types whose matrices were unavailable. It seems to have been made in England in the early 1950s by either Unicast Ltd. (as attested in one advertisement) or Ufina Ltd. (as attested in a 2002 article); it is likely that these were the same company.

It was a lever-operated mold quite similar to the Typofix from the 1920s. (The similar mold for the Brimulta Sortsmaster used a slightly different lever configuration.)

Alan Brignull has photographed a advertisement for the Unicast from the September, 1952 issue of British Printer. This image is on his flickr account, at: http://www.flickr.com/photos/alan98/8577240488

This advertisement describes it as a "Hand Lever Typecasting Machine" and gives its capacity as "1 1/4 inches square." This is a curious measurement for type (a printer might have expected a measurement of about 90 points). The manufacturer was Unicast Ltd., 5 St. James's Place, London.

2. Other References

2.1. Small Printer (1992)

In 1992 in the English magazine Small Printer there were several references to the Unicast and to the Brimulta Sortsmaster.

Alan Brignull has tracked these down, and posted his findings to the LETPRESS list on 2013-03-21. We are very much in his debt for his work in identifying this device.

It appears that a photograph of a small casting device was published in the March 1992 number (p. 73). Alan has identified this machine as a Unicast (and discovered an original 1952 ad for it (see above).

In a later number, in a letter under the heading "UNUSUAL OBJECT," a correspondent (John T. Harrison) described the use of this device. Alan Brignull has cited this and excerpted from it in his 2013-03-21 LETPRESS posting. The device described must have been a Unicast rather than a Brimulta, because its operation involved a ladle rather than a force pump. Harrison wrote that when he examined the device around 1955 he found that "the accuracy of the resulting type was not really acceptable."

In a possibly later letter ("(5721) Bristol OLD MACHINES") from the same publication, available in a Google Books snippet, another writer thanks "those people who wrote to me explaining the use of my sorts master (March letters — What is it)..." It is not entirely clear if the two machines (Unicast, Brimulta) were being discussed together or if they were being conflated.

2.2. Print Week (2002)

A brief article on the Unicast appeared in the journal Print Week in May 2002 under the title "PRINT'S PAST: The Unicast hand-lever type-caster." This article is available online for free viewing (after answering two marketing questions) via Gale's "AccessMyLibrary" website at: http://www.accessmylibrary.com/article-1G1-87060832/prints-past-unicast-hand.html

There are, however, two points in this article which deserver further study.

First, it implies that the mold was used in one position, and that the matrix was first cast at the top of the mold and then removed and replaced into the bottom. But the mold looks almost exactly like the Typofix and, like the Typofix, has provisions for being easily inverted. The Typofix was used by casting the matrix with the mold in one position and then inverting the mold for casting type. The instructions for the Typofix are quite useful when looking at the Unicast.

Second, the article refers to the use of a layer of soot between the original type and the matrix as "heat insulation." The purpose of the soot is, however, to act as a release agent. (Soot had been so employed in makeshift typecasting since at least the 18th century, and release agents are basic to all forms of casting.)

"The Typographic Hub," a website of the Birmingham [UK] Institute of Art and Design, reprinted this article (in transcription) on 2012-06-26: http://www.typographichub.org/articles/entry/the-unicast/

The Typographic Hub version doesn't explicitly cite an author or source, but the contact for the site as a whole is noted as Dr. Caroline Archer (who wrote the article for Print Week in 2002).

2.3. Ufina/Unicast Corporate History

This has been difficult to trace. The 1952 British Printer advertisement lists the company name as "Unicast Ltd.," but the 2002 Print Week article says "Ufina Ltd."

A Google Books snippet from The Crown Colonist, Vol. 19, [number unknown] (1949): 372 says:

"Ufina Ltd., capital £1,000, owe their existence to a marger between two well-known Liverpool houses. The managing director, Mr. G. Herzberg, was formerly manager of Gregory's of Liverpool (Overseas) Ltd., the export division of Gregory's of ..."

A Google Books snippet from Fruit Trades World Directory, [Vol. and No. unknown] (1950): 387 says:

"Ufina Ltd., Kinnaird House, 2 Pall Mall East, London, S.W.1. TA [telegraph address]: Ufinex. T [telephone]: WHItehall 3641, 3642, 4919. D: G. Gerzberg, R. L. Hawkesworth. Printing and allied machinery manufactures and automatic can coding machinery, food wrappings..."

A Google Books snippet from the same journal a year later ( Fruit Trades World Directory, [Vol. and No. unknown] (1951): 375) says:

"Ufina Ltd., Kinnaird House, 5 St. James St., London S.W.11 [this is probably an OCR error for S.W.1] TA: Ufinex. T: Regent [REgent] 1927. D: G. Herzberg, R. L. Hawkesworth. Printing and allied machinery manufactures and automatic can coding machinery, food wrappings, printed and ..."

This 1951 corporate listing matches the contact details of the 1952 British Printer ad.

Curiously, a 2013 Google search for Unicast Ltd. turns up nothing at all for its corporate history (at least for the company of interest here). "Unicast" has been not uncommon name for both companies and industrial processes, which complicates searches. There was or is a Unicast Development Corp. in Yonkers (NY, USA) which established a Unicast Ltd. English subsidiary in 1965; trade journal entries for this UK firm continue through at least the mid 1980s. One current Unicast Ltd. is a 21st century real estate firm in Northamptonshire, UK. Neither of these seem to have been related in any way with the Unicast Ltd. of interest here. There have been any number of "unicast" casting processes over the years (for die castings, strip casting, ceramic molds for castings, etc.)

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