Patrix Cutting and Matrix Electroforming

image link-topic-sf0.jpg

[UNFINISHED: This is pretty obviously an unfinished draft, both in its arguments and in its exploration of source materials. Still, I don't think that what it says so far is wrong. I've put it online in this preliminary state because it reprints materials that I'm already starting to refer to elsewhere.]

(This essay, while filed as a part of A Matrix Miscellany, is also a part of the loose collection which constitutes A Heretic's Guide to Type. It is an argument for the position of its subject in the history of type-making; for technical information on patrix cutting and matrix electroforming, see ../../ Making Printing Matrices and Types -> Reprinted Literature -> Literature on Electroforming Matrices.)

1. Introduction

There are three major ways in which matrices for casting metal printing types are made:

Endless details and variations occur, of course, but in principle these are the major divisions of the field. Each method was of significant importance; the first (punchcutting) for the first 400 years of metal type and the other two (patrix engraving, direct matrix engraving) for the last 150.

In particular, the method of making matrices by electroforming from hand-cut or machine-cut patrices was of considerable importance. It permitted (I will argue) the development of most of the "fancy" types associated with 19th century "Artistic Printing," and even after these passed from popularity it dominated the production of matrices for casting display types through the first half of the 20th century. Yet it has been omitted from all standard histories of type-making in America. Reading almost any history of typemaking in America is much like looking at a photograph of a group of Soviet-era dignitaries from which some general who has fallen from favor has been airbrushed-out.

There are, I think, two reasons for this. First, the method was associated with the piracy of types, and thus not discussed by typefounders (it is just as easy to electroform a matrix from someone else's type as from a patrix you made yourself). Second, in the highbrow backlash against pantographic techniques in the first three decades of the 20th century (by the Rudolf and Paul Koch, Victor Hammer, and others) punchcutting emerged as the One True Way to make type in opposition to the machine. A technique as machine-based as matrix electroforming (using electricity, even!) inevitably became "collateral damage" in this fight. Interestingly, German texts from this period simply present it as one of the three basic methods of making matrices.

[click image to go to page]

image link-blank-sf0.jpg

A Survey of the Errors

Instances old and new of the misunderstanding (or more commonly entire lack of recognition) of the role of patrix cutting and matrix electroforming in our understanding of type. Many of these define current popular knowledge.

[click image to go to page]

image link-to-survey-of-data-sf0.jpg

A Survey of the Data

Instances from the 19th century literature (with a very few from the 20th century, but only if based on sound hands-on knowledge) which refer to the engraving by hand or machine of patrices and the electroforming of matrices from them. These were systematically ignored by the writers of the 20th century who defined our present view in America of the making of type.

Select Resolution: 0 [other resolutions temporarily disabled due to lack of disk space]