Logotype Keyboards

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1. Logotypes

To a traditional letterpress printer, a "logotype" is a combination of individual types cast as a single unit (from "logos," meaning "word"). Logotypes might be case either by combining the matrices for multiple letters into a unit and casting them in a single operation or by cutting matrices for the entire letter combination. (The former is difficult to accomplish with traditional matrices or any of the Monotype display matrices, but is trivial using Linotype-compatible matrices at the Thompson Type-Caster. I possess a set of Intertype "commercial logotype" matrices, typographically compatible with Vogue, which do the latter.)

The idea behind the use of logotypes was that by casting frequently used words or fragments of words ("the", "and", "ion", etc.) as single units the speed of hand typesetting could be increased. This idea occurred frequently throughout the 19th century. {Huss 1973} describes a number of systems (some with mechanical aids) intended to do this. All such systems for hand composition failed simply because the added complexity of a huge typecase full of logotypes outweighed any increased speed in setting them.

Distinction 1. A "logotype" may be distinguished from a "ligature" (which also involves multiple letters cast as one). Both the true ligatures (such as "st" and "ct" when linked by a line) and the combinations usually referred to as ligatures today ("fi", "fl", etc. as units) are combined for visual reasons rather than speed of typesetting.

Distinction 2. The term "logotype" was at times also applied at times to the embellished versions of common words and phrases used ornamentally in commercial work, such as "and" or "bought of". See for example the "Commmercial Logotypes," "Card Logotypes," and "Billhead Logotypes" in late 19th century type specimens such as the MacKellar, Smiths & Jordon 1892 Specimens of Printing Types (where they occur on pp. 489 and 491). However, the "Card Logotypes" (such as "and", "the", "of the"; often at an angle) were also simply termed "Catch Words" (and are perhaps best so called). See for example the Specimens of Wood Type Manufactured by the Wm. H. Page Wood Type Co. of 1878

2. The Logotype Keyboard Idea

The idea of providing a roughly equivalent function in the keyboard of a typesetting machine occurred at least twice. (At present, I know of no examples of this for composing type- casting machines.)

The general idea is that the underlying character set has some order defined for it (this may be alphabetical, or it may be some other order). If at the keyboard multiple keys are depressed simultaneously, the types will be composed in sequence in which they appear in this underlying order.

For example, if the underlying order of the characters is alphabetical and the keys 'b', 'y', and 'o' are depressed simultaneously, the word "boy" is set.

A "logotype" keyboard may be distinguished from a "chord" keyboard. In both multiple keys may be pressed simultaneously. But in a "chord" keyboard the result is the production of a single character encoded by this combination of keys.

Note: The term "logotype keyboard" is not standard; I just made it up. I am aware of no general term for this kind of keyboard.

3. Moore (1872)

An 1872 patent for a type-setting machine by Charles T. Moore (better known today for his role in the pre-history of the Linotype) describes a logotype keyboard which uses an alphabetical encoding:

"... more than one key may be struck at the same time, ... for instance, to set the word 'boy' the keys may all be struck at one time, and still the type will come out in their regular order. In the word 'girl,' as another example, the keys represented by the letters g, i, and r may be struck at one time, but the key for the letter l must be struck separately and an instant later.

"In all type-setting machines heretofore invented it has only been possible to strike one key at a time, or, in other words, set one letter or type at any one time,... "

[click image to read]

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US Patent 137,466 (1872/1873)

US patent 137,466, "Improvement in Type-Setting Machines," issued 1873-04-01 to Charles T. Moore of White Sulphur Springs, WV. Application filed 1872-05-28. Half-interest was assigned to Thomas L. Feamster, of Lewisburg, WV.

Moore's 1873 patent for a type-writing machine (issued 1876) also envisions a logotype keyboard:

[click image to read]

image ../../press/noncastcomp/moore/link-to-us-0173232-1876-02-08-moore-type-writing-machine-sf0.jpg

US Patent 173,232 (1873/1876)

US patent 173,232, "Improvement in Type-Writing Machines." Issued 1876-02-08 to Charles T. Moore of White Sulphur Springs, WV. Application filed 1873-05-21. One-fourth assigned to James O. Clephane.

4. Thorne (1894)

The primary objection to an alphabetical character encoding for a logotype keyboard is that the most common words in English (such as "the" & "and") are not alphabetical.

The Thorne Type-Setting Machine (q.v.) in the version described in 1894 employed a logotype keyboard with a non-alphabetical underlying encoding designed to make these common words work.

[click image to read at The Internet Archive]

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Thorne (1894)

"The Thorne Type-Setting Machine." (Hartford, CT: The Thorne Type-Setting Machine Co., 1894)

This document has been digitized by Stephen O. Saxe from a copy in his collection. The icon at left links to a presentation of this digitization at The Internet Archive. There it may be read online or downloaded in its original PDF or other formats.

Here is the same PDF file which is presented at The Internet Archive. ThorneTypeSettingMachine1894.pdf (This PDF is 66 Megabytes, generated at a mix of 75 and 85 percent JPEG "quality" level.

Here are views of the overall machine and its keyboard layout, from this document.

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[click image to view larger]

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Note that each key is assigned a number.

This brochure describes its keyboard operation as follows:

"The arrangement of the keys is such that in playing in the direction as indicated by the figures 1-2-3-4- etc., to 90, the operator may play with the utmost rapidity; thus, the word 'and' with the sapce which would follow it, is located as represented on the diagram by keys numbered 12-14-16-19, and even if these keys should be played simultaneously, the word would come into th eline correctly and be followed by its space. A study of the key-board shows a large number of such possible combinations, both of words and syllables, such as and-as-at-any-by-can-con-cone-com-cot-cat-cast-cut-for-far-fast-fat-in-it-ink-is-ion-jet-jot-job-joy-last-let-lit-line-list-lion-lay-my-net-on-one-or-out-past-put-pay-pat-pan-pet-ply-pry-qu-try-th-thy-was-war-wet-etc., etc., and by becoming familiar with these, the operator is enabled to play out type with great speed, with little mental or physical effort."

Note that not all versions of the Thorne/Simplex/Unitype machine supported a logotype keyboard, and at least three different keyboard layouts were used. I have been unable to find a claim for the logotype keyboard in the Thorne patents (but I may simply have missed it).

5. Non-Examples

The Mergenthaler-Lawrenz "Logotype Casting and Composing Machine" did not employ a logotype keyboard. It used a 4-row variation of a conventional etaoin keyboard. It was a "logotype" machine because it cast word-length logotypes which had been composed by conventional keyboard techniques. See {Huss 1985}

As noted, I have a set of Intertype matrices for what I'll call "commercial logotypes." [TO DO: Doublecheck that these ran pi and therefore had no keyboard support; I'm pretty sure they did.]

6. Notes and References

{Huss 1973} Huss, Richard E. The Development of Printers' Mechanical Typesetting Methods, 1822-1925. (Charlottesville, VA: By the University Press of Virginia for the Bibliographical Society of the University of Virginia, 1973.)

{Huss 1985} Huss, Richard E. Mergenthaler's Last Invention - The Logotype Casting and Composing Machine . (Lancaster, PA: By the Author, 1985.)

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