The Issue of Patrix Cutting in Soft Metal

A Survey of the Data

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"... soft metal, such as is now generally used by type engravers ..." - William E. Loy. Designers & Engravers of Type (1898).

This Notebook collects and excerpts all instances known (to me, so far) from the 19th century literature, and some from the 20th century if based on sound hands-on knowledge, which refer to the engraving by hand or machine of patrices and the electroforming of matrices from such originals. It excludes works discussing the electroforming of new matrices from existing types (whether legitimate or piratical) and works devoted purely to the technologies of electroforming.

Patrix cutting in soft metal for matrix electroforming was systematically ignored by American writers of the 20th century and since these are the writers who defined our present view in America of the making of type it is entirely missing from our early 21st century histories. But it is increasingly clear to me that patrix cutting was the dominant method of producing ornamental and display type from the middle of the 19th century to the middle of the 20th.

Situating this Notebook:

This is a part of the Notebook on the history of Patrix Cutting and Matrix Electroforming (and one of the essays loosely collected in my Heretic's Guide to Type).

For a set of links to all locations in CircuitousRoot which discuss patrix engraving (including arguments and evidence for its historical importance), see ../../ Patrix Cutting in Soft Metal (By Hand and Machine). In particular, since especially in the 20th century there is some overlap between this list of sources attesting patrix cutting and the more detailed technical literature on and illustrations of the subject, see the Notebook on the literature of Patrix Cutting in Soft Metal by Hand.

List of Instances:

Terminological Notes:

In the 19th century sources cited here, "metal" typically means "typemetal" (when Schraubstadter or Loy mean steel, they say "steel.")

I will attempt consistently to adopt the term "patrix," even though there was never any consistency in this regard in the literature (and even though many of the writers cited here would never even have heard the word). Sometimes the term "pattern type" is used in the literature instead. I'm using "patrix" because that's the term Jim Rimmer used. Anything good enough for Rimmer is good enough for me.

1. Bruce (In 1874 Referencing 1833)

Unsurprisingly, early evidence is relatively elusive, and sometimes cryptic in nature.

In his memoir, compiled by 1874 but not published in a modern edition until 1891, David Bruce, Jr. discusses one of the inventions prior to his pivotal type caster which led to it: the typerfounder's force pump. He was at the time working at the firm of George Bruce & Co., and was engaged in the production of ornamented German types. It was found that these could not be cast successfullly using the traditional method of pouring typemetal into a hand mold with a ladle, and so he introduced the force pump to secure good casting.

What is interesting in the present context is that in describing these types he says "In fact it was found impossible in the ordinary process of type casting to produce for the printer the ornamental designs of the letter or punch Cutter." ( {Bruce 1833/1874 (1981)}, p. 4.

His reference to a "letter ... Cutter" as distinct from a punch Cutter suggests that by 1833 ornamental types were being engraved on patrices for matrix electroforming. This date is some years before Starr's 1845 patent on what was essentially the modern matrix electroforming process. But Carl Schraubstadter, reviewing the technology in an 1887 article, makes it quite clear that matrix electroforming by less elegant methods predated Starr's patent:

"Soon after the discovery of electrodeposition, type founders attempted to use it to produce matrices. The first results were crude, and were almost wholly confined to copying faces that had been cut on steel. [italics mine] ( {Schraubstadter 1887, p. 382.)

The problem with Bruce's account is that the date of 1833 predates the development of electrotyping for the making of printing plates (ca. 1837-1839). It is likely, therefore, that Bruce's memory in 1874 of these events was off by a few years. However, his easy division of cutting into letter cutting and punch cutting suggests that by an early date patrix cutting was well established.

2. Bruce (1850)

George Bruce, founder of what became Bruce's New York Type Foundry and the uncle of David Bruce Jr. (the inventor of the pivotal type caster), wrote a historical and semi-technical account of "Type Founding" in America which appeared in the Report of the Commissioner of Patents for the Year 1850 . Its references to "electrotyping" for matrices are interesting, though slightly frustrating. He writes:

"The next improvement to be mentioned, is the appliation of electrotyping to the formation of matrices, by which a great saving of labor is effected. In old fashioned type founding, the original of each character, is formed on a separate steel punch, which being hardened and tempered, is driven into copper a 16th of an inch or more to form the face of the type, called a matrix. This matrix being adjusted to the mould, which is to form the body of the type, is then ready for casting. If the punch with its matrix be of very plain or simple character, it will have cost two dollars, and have occupied a day of one workman, though generally, the punch and matrix are made by different workmen. If the punch be of a fancy character, with scrolls and figures in it, requiring tedious engraving with much nicety and mathematical accuracy, it may occupy many days to cut it, and may be worth fifty dollars; but more commonly a fancy or ornamental character costs from five to ten dollars. Our type founders generally adhere to the old way of getting matrices for the fonts, commonly used in printing newspapers and books; but stereotyping is resorted to for many of the ornamental fonts and borders. The French have produced a great variety of fancy types within the last fifteen years, and offer to sell matrices of them for fair prices, but even such matrices without the punches come high. They also sell the type, which being brought to this country, are used by our type foundries, to produce electrotyped matrices, from which similar type can be cast, and thus a very great saving of time and money is effected." (p. 401)

He goes on to discuss the morality of copying type by electroforming and to argue for copyright on typefaces.

In this passage, he does not explicitly discuss cutting patrices in soft metal. But he does indicate that (a) electroforming of matrices is common, and (b) that type founders use punches in steel only for newspaper and book type, not for fancy or ornamental type. All that he actually says, however, is that "stereotyping is resorted to for many of the ornamental fonts and borders." This is a curious introduction of another process (stereotyping) into the middle of a discussion of electrotyping, and it is quite possible that it is a misprint for "electrotyping." (If so this would be an error on the part of the compositor, not an error in Bruce's original text. George Bruce and his brother David Bruce Sr. introduced stereotyping to America.) This misprint is likely, in my present opinion, as stereotyping typically was not used for fancy borders (while non-matrix electrotyping was), and stereotyping has never been used for the making of fonts of type. His reference to punch cutting as "old fashioned" reinforces this.

If we accept "electrotyping" as a correction for a misprint here, then this is a clear argment that even by 1850 (only five years after Starr's patent) patrix cutting and matrix electroforming had replaced cutting punches in steel and driving solid matrices for ornamental and fancy types.

If we deny this correction and read, as written, "stereotyping," then we must set aside Bruce's Report in this survey of the evidence for patrix cutting. But doing so leaves us with two unresolved questions: First, how were American typefounders making matrices for ornamental (non-newspaper, non-book) types if, as Bruce says, they were not used steel punches for them? Was it the case that all ornamented types in America in the 1840s were pirated from France? Second, what does it mean, technically, to say that they were using stereotyping to produce matrices for fonts of type? This would be a process not elsewhere attested.

3. Waldow (1884)

The 1884 Illustrierte Encycklopädie der Graphischen Künste und der Verwandten Zweige of Alexander Waldow discusses punchcutting, hand patrix engraving, and machine patrix engraving. It identifies the first two as standard practices and the third as new. {Waldow 1884}: 719

First, let's consider the passage on hand patrix engraving:

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Transcribed and then translated, this is:

"Ein zweites Verfahren zur Herstellung des Originals ist die Gravierung in Schriftmetall. Dieselbe erfolgt in derselben Weise wie der Stempelschnitt, nur dass das nachgiebigere Metall eine leichtere und schnellere Bearbeitung zulässt, wodurch das Verfahren sich weit billiger stellt Besonders vorteilhaft erweist sich diese Manier für Schriften von 3 - 4 Cicero, für grössere Einfassungen und Ecken, und es gibt selbst Fälle, in welchen ein Original in Schriftmetall einem solchen ans Stahl vorzuziehen ist." (p. 719)

"A second process for production of originals is the engraving in typemetal. This is done in the same manner as punchcutting, except that the more compliant typemetal allows easier and faster work, whereby the process is far cheaper. Particularly advantageously, this style proves for fonts 3-4 Cicero [36 to 48 Didot points], for larger borders and corners, and there are even cases in which such an original in typemetal is preferable to the steel."

(The translation was a collaborative effort with Google's machine translation service. Google supplied the basic structure of simple German grammar and I supplied the knowledge of typefounding that Google lacks.)

Next, let's consider the section on machine patrix cutting. [... UNFINISHED - I don't yet have a good translation of the next paragraph, which is in relatively complex German using unfamiliar technical idioms.]

Here is an extract of the entire set of sections on type-making from Waldow: waldow-1884-illustrierte-encyclopaedie-der-graphischen-kunste-google-Vs5GAQAAMAAJ-minn-extract-pp718-737-pdf740-761-schrift.pdf

4. Pye (1885)

In his 1885 series of articles on "Typefounding" in The Inland Printer, Alfred Pye describes punchcutting in his first installment, but in his second goes on to describe patrix cutting and matrix electroforming. ( {Pye 1885}, p. 84.)

"Roman and Italic body types, small faces of job type, and most of the scripts are cut on steel, and the matrices made with punches. Most of the job type, and the larger faces of Roman letter are made by the electrotype process, which is less costly, and, in fact, more practicable. Some large faces are cut in steel, but it is not usual to do so, as it is a somewhat difficult matter to make a good drive with a large punch.

"For the electrotype process the letters are engraved on metal which is a composition of the same ingredients as typemetal, but blended in different proportions. Typemetal is too brittle for engraving purposes, as in cutting fine lines it would break, so a somewhat softer composition is needed for cutting the originals upon. Equal care is necessary in cutting letters on metal as in punchcutting, seeing that both are destined to produce the same result; namely, the making of a matrix for reproducing the form of the originals as often as needed.

"The face [sic, not faces] of the letters so engraved are highly polished, and every line needs to be sharp and clear, or the inaccuracies, if any exist, will appear in the matrix. When the cutter has finished all the characters in a font, he hands them to the electrotyper, who proceeds to convert hem into matrices in the following manner:

"A small brass plate, varying in thickness according to the size of the type to be made, with a hole punched near one end, is needed for each character, letter, figure or point, and sometimes ornaments, in the font. These plates are laid upon a flat surface, the letters placed int he holes, face down, and fastened in position with quads or spaces, care bing taken to get them as square as possible to the head and sides of the plate. Wax is poured over the portions not intended to be exposed to the action of the battery, and a number of these plates are fastened together, side by side, and placed in a battery, being connected with it and a copper plate by means of wires forming a complete circuit. The battery causes the copper to be deposited around the face of the type in the opening in the brass plates, filling up the opening and becoming virtually a part of the plate. The time necessary for the accomplishement of this process varies according to the size of the letter, some of the larger sizes needing to be immersed twice or three times as long as the smaller. When sufficient copper has been deposited to fill the opening in each plate, they are taken out of the battery, the letters withdrawin, leavint their image deeply imbedded in the copper, the back of the plate filed smooth, and another brass plate firmly riveted thereto, making the whole of sufficient thickness for use as a matrix, and are then handed to the fitter." (p. 84)

(Pye then goes on to describe the justification of matrices by the matrix fitter.)

5. Carl Schraubstadter (1887, 1888)

The brief article by Carl Schraubstadter, Jr. on "Electrotype Matrices" in The Inland Printer in 1887 {Schraubstadter 1887} is probably the most important contemporary source for establishing the importance of patrix cutting and matrix electroforming. He was one of three sons of the co-owner of the Central Type Foundry, Carl Schraubstadter, Sr., and was active in the foundry. (He and his brothers went on to found the Inland Type Foundry after the amalgamation of the Central into ATF.) His brother, William A. Schraubstadter, cut the first matrices by pantograph in America in 1882. He knew of what he wrote.

He wrote:

"While almost every treatise on the history of printing mentions or describes the copper matrices struck from a punch; the electrotype matrices - which in this country probably exceed the other kind in a proportion of seven or eight to one - are barely mentioned, and when a few words are spoken of them, it is to condemn their use."

[This figure of "seven or eight to one" does not, of course, distinguish between matrices electroformed from original patrices (an act of original production) and matrices electroformed from other founders' types (an act of piracy). Schraubstadter acknowledges this latter activity:]

"... the comparative ease with which faces can be copied, has tempted a few to open foundries without proper tools or appliances ..."

[However, he immediately goes on not only to praise the technical merits of electroformed matrices over driven matrices (in the larger sizes, at least), but also explicitly to attribute to them the great increase in ornamented types in the 19th century.]

"... there is no doubt as to their producing, when well made, as good type as that cast from a copper strike. In the larger sizes, 36, 48 and 60 point, the tendency of the matrix struck from the punch, is toward hollowness of face - a bad fault which the electrotype does not have. Besides its many other advantages, it has rendered possible the production of the handsome modern faces, with their delicate lines and shadings."

[Schraubstadter concludes by making specific reference to the advent of hand patrix engraving and Benton's early machine patrix engraving.]

"In later years, a new school of engravers, headed by Mr. Ruthven, of Philadelphia, has sprung up, cutting exclusively on metal, and producing ornamentation and finish the punch cutters never dared to attempt.

"In perfection of finish, such faces as the Raphael, Ruskin, Steelplate Gothic, etc. silence all attempts to bring the process into disrepute, and altely Mr. Benton has cut roman type on metal with his engraving machine, having such a high finish that it is safe to say that even in this field, until this time wholly given up to the punch cutter, the electrotype matrix will also drive out its copper rival."

In The Typographic Messenger (the house organ of the "United States Type Foundry" of James Conner's Sons), James Madison Conner took issue with Schraubstadter ( {Conner 1887} and {Conner [1887] 1888}). Conner characterized electroformed matrices as technically poor and conducive to piracy. Schraubstater responded to this in a letter to the editor printed in the January 1888 number of The Inland Printer ( {Schraubstadter 1888}). His response is particularly interesting because it is a strong argument for and partial catalog of the importance of patrix engraving in 19th century typemaking. It is difficult to avoid simply quoting it in its entirety here. He says, in part:

"If I made but little reference to the 'piratical' custom of many foundries in using this process to copy original designs cut in steel,' it was because this has no bearing on the matter. A good thing is not to be condemned because put to a disreputable use."

"I make no effort to convince the reader that copper strikes are bad; only that electrotype matrices are capable of casting just as good type. I am willing to let the specimen books speak for themselves, as the writer wishes. Compare the old products with the modern faces of the Johnson [later MS&J], Central and Great Western [BB&S] foundries! No more elegant borders and word-ornaments than those of the Johnson Typefoundry are in existence, and some of the finest scripts in that establishment, and those of George Bruce's Son & Co., Cleveland, Central and Great Western foundries were cut on metal."

"I have not the time to ask each founder the proportion of electro-matrices to strikes, but I am sure it is at least seven or eight to one, and I think it is larger. When such foundries as the Johnson, Central, Farmer, Little & Co., Cincinnati, Boston, and George Bruce's Son have nearly all their later matrices made by this method no one can call the process a disreputable one."

"No doubt the improvement in the casting machine and mold have much to do with the improvements in type, but let us give the metal cutter and electrotype matrice [sic] their share of the credit."

6. MacKellar, Smiths and Jordan (1896)

In 1896, the MacKellar, Smiths & Jordan type foundry of Philadelphia had been a part of American Type Founders for several years. Yet the various surviving constituent foundries of ATF had not yet really merged into a single business entity. In this year, MSJ produced a luxurious volume commemorating the 100th anniversary of what they saw as their origins with Binny & Ronaldson in 1796. ( {MSJ 1896}) In this book, they give a well-illustrated popular account of the making of type. About patrix engraving and electroforming they have this to say:

"Most every one in reading has notice a particularly sharp outline about script and italicized letters which makes it impression upon the eye in print. That is because most of these, like Roman and other body type, are cast from matrices made with punches which are cut on steel in the manner described. Few large-faced type, however, are made from such matrices.

Strange to say, it is by the electrotype process that some of the most satisfactory and uniform matrices are produced, and it has the additional advantage that whole fonts, including ornaments and everything, can be made at once, or small quantities of different letters be turned out quickly and with ease. Nevertheless quite as much care is required in the preparatory stages of this process of matrix-making as in punch-cutting, though in this no punch is used. Pieces of metal softer than that of which type is made (which would be too brittle) have the letters cut on them very sharp and clear, and these specially engraved type or ornaments, or whatever they may be, have the letter or figure on them reproduced in the battery, the action of which causes copper to be deposited around the face of the type in the holes of the brass plates, of which there is one for every figure, letter, or point, to be made. The portions of the plates not intended to be exposed to the action of the battery are covered with wax before they are put in. Matrices can be made this way in the battery now by an improved process in a few days.

"When the metal letter types are withdrawn from the plates their images appear imbedded in copper, and this, when filed and attached to a brass plate, becomes in turn a matrix ready to reproduce type after its fashion and proportions when it has been finished, though the finishing requires some expensive machinery, and also dexterity on the part of the fitter." (p. 47)

This volume also provides several illustrations which give rare views into patrix making in the 19th century.

In the photograph of engravers at work, it is difficult to determine with certainty whether the engraver shown on the left is cutting a patrix or a punch. But several things suggest that it is in fact a patrix:

If indeed he is engraving patrices, then it is, further, likely that the person to his right is at work engraving patrices as well - on a pantograph of some kind which is not otherwise attested in the literature.

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(From {MSJ 1896}, p. 45. 1200dpi version)

Next, they show the electroforming bath.

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(From {MSJ 1896}, p. 49. 1200dpi version)

Finally, they show the process of finishing matrices as they are removed from the electrolytic bath.

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(From {MSJ 1896}, p. 47. 1200dpi version)

Of course, in theory these could be matrices pirated from types of other foundries, but it is scarcely credible that MacKellar, Smiths and Jordan would have highlighted piracy in a richly produced commemmorative volume for their centennial. I think it's pretty clear that these are matrices electroformed from original patrices.

7. Skopeo, of No. Six (1896)

(Note: the "No. Six" in the pen name of this author refers to the International Typographical Union local No. Six, in New York.)

In an article in The Typograhical Journal (the journal of the ITU) in 1896, "Skopeo" presents a high-level overview of "The Typefounder's Art." In it he describes patrix cutting and electroforming as common. Note that he refers to patrices as "punches," but is clearly describing soft metal patrices, not steel punches.

"Matrices are also made from soft metal punches by the electrotyping process. This is a much slower process, as it takes about ten days to develop an electrotype matrix from the punch, which can only be used once, while a steel punch can be used indefinitely. There is also greater labor in fitting an electro-matrix. But this process has, I learn, become very common, as it saves considerable expense in cutting in steel. (p. 243).

8. Loy (1898-1900)

William E. Loy's series of articles on "Designers and Engravers of Type," which appeared originally in The Inland Printer from 1898 to 1900, is one of the primary sources of information for type-making in the 19th century - and one of the first sources which admitted type-making and designing as an independent profession. {Loy 1898-1900}. It has been reprinted in an excellent modern editon edited by Alastair M. Johnston and Stephen O. Saxe (New Castle, DE: Oak Knoll Books, 2009). The original articles had only portraits of each type-maker. In their edition, Saxe added comprehensive illustrations of each type mentioned. Although I've reprinted the original articles (linked from each of the citations below), they are no substitute for the beautiful Saxe/Loy edition.

No. 1 (Introduction), in The Inland Printer, Vol. 20, No. 5 (1898-02): 621

"The discovery of the electrotype process of multiplying matrices became an incentive to type founders to create new faces, resulting in a bewildering variety of slightly differing styles of type. This made it possible to bring out new styles at a moderate cost, as the pattern letters are cut on soft metal and electrotyped, instead of the old method of cutting everything on steel." (621)

"The most recent advance in the rapid reproduction of pattern letters is the mechanical cutting of all the sizes in a series, say from 6 point to 60 point, from one set of patterns or drawings. This is done rapidly on a delicate machine on the principle of the router, the various sizes being cut automatically and in exact proportion by the application of the pantograph movement. Now another improvement has been made, the matrix being cut with a similar machine, isntead of the pattern letter, which ahs to be electrotyped." (621)

"The active development of the type founding industry has produced a large number of ingenious designers and engravers of type, about whom the public knows very little. Formerly men of this class were regular employes [sic] of the type founders, but latterly they have separated themselves, and the best ones now cary on the business independently, having their own workroom or place of business. They design a new alphabet, and having submitted drawings or trail proofs from engraved letters, an order is taken for one or more sizes. The soft composition metal used for the engraved letters permits a freedom of manipulation which would be practically impossible in steel, and the engraving or cutting of the pattern letters is much more rapid." (621)

No. 2 (James West), in The Inland Printer, Vol. 20, No. 6 (1898-03): 774

"The delicacy of manipulation necessary for the production of a steel punch, or its modern equivalent, the soft metal pattern letter, calls for the skill of the wood engraver, with the most exact accuracy of eye to preserve the proper proportion, weight and color." (774)

"Very few engravers of type faces work from their own designs; indeed, the qualifications are so dissimilar that one would hardly expect to find them in the same individual. It is true that some engravers work out designs from the ideas or suggestions of others, or that they make sketches and submit them for criticism to the type founder or printer, afterward making such changes as may be deemed advisable, then cutting the pattern letters. Then the manipulation of steel and the soft composition metal largely used call for entirely different treatment. One only finds the skill to handle either or both in the old cutters - those who began with steel and adopted soft metal when it became possible to utilized it. One of this kind is the subject of this sketch - Mr. James A. West, of Chicago." (774)

No. 4 (Herman Ihlenburg), in The Inland Printer, Vol. 21, No. 2 (1898-05): 182-183

"Up to 1875 all the punches for scripts and delicate borders were cut on steel; but his experiments in cutting the once much-admired Drapery Border and the Centennial Script in type metal showed that it was a great improvement." (182)

No. 8 (Alexander Kay), in The Inland Printer, Vol. 21, No. 6 (1898-09): 723

After emphasizing Kay's work in steel punchcutting, Loy says that "The only work in soft metal [by Kay], such as is now generally used by type engravers, is the old but beautiful 'check lines.'" (723)

No. 12 (Julius Herriet, Sr.), in The Inland Printer, Vol. 22, No. 4 (1899-01): 465

[Note: This reference is ambiguous. It establishes Herriet's familiarity with "multiplying" matrices by electroforming (which could either be the copying/pirating of existing types or the making of new types from patrices). But Loy continues by saying only that Herriet designed and engraved type, without specifying his method.]

"[The start of Herriet's employment at the Johnson Type Foundry in Philadelphia] was in 1854, when the type founders were beginning to multiply matrices rapidly by the electrotype process. Mr. Herriet was occupied in facing up the letters for the battery, a task for which is experiences as an engraver and printer fitted him.

"..., besides facing types for the battery in the process of electrotyping matrices for the foundry.

[Having moved to New York] "Mr. Herriet at once began designing and engraving of type in New York, and his first work was an alphabet of Shaded Roman ..." [Note: A shaded face would be an excellent candidate for cutting in patrices rather than punches.]

No. 15 (Edward Ruthven), in The Inland Printer, Vol. 23, No. 1 (1899-04): 64

[Note: Loy describes Ruthven as "The oldest, and in many respects the best, designer and engraver of type in America".]

"It was in 1846 he came to America, and from that time forward he gave his time entirely to designing and engraving type faces, first on steel and later on metal for electrotyping the matrices. At the time Mr. Ruthven began his connection with the Johnson foundry [1846] he was probably the only cutter in steel in America then actively engaged. Shortly afterward he conceived the idea of electrotyping matrices, and he was probably the originator of this method of making matrices. After he began cutting type on soft metal he employed as many as twelve apprentices at one time, but all of this number but two were considered skillful, the late W. W. Jackson reaching the highest degree." (64)

No. 16 (Harrison T. Lounsbury), in The Inland Printer, Vol. 23, No. 2 (1899-05): 216

[Note: Loy describes Lounsbury's types as "among the best of their class" in the era of "eleaborately ornamented designs".]

"Mr. Lounsbury was essentially a cutter or engraver, and so far as can now be learned his work was all on soft metal. V. B. Munson, who has been connected with the Bruce foundry for more than thirty years, and is now its proprietor, says of him: 'He was for many years in our jobroom, and worked up, with great credit to himself, the larger sizes of Penman Script in metal.' This work occupied the major portion of Mr. Lounsbury's time for more than a year." (216)

No. 21 (John E. Hanrahan), in The Inland Printer, Vol. 24, No. 1 (1899-10): 95

"Mr. Hanrahan entered the typefoundry [Ryan & Ricketts, "Ryan's Type Foundry," Baltimore] the latter part of 1872, engaging at first in the electrotyping department, which was under Mr. Rickett's immediate charge. Here he was soon advanced to the correcting table, where the most exacting demands were made on his skill. He was all the time giving his spare time to letter-designing, attending an evening class at the Maryland Institute School of Art and Design. After spending two years in the electrotyping department, he was transferred to the matrix-making department, where he was given the task of facing letters for the battery. Most of the matrices made at that foundry were by the electrotyping process, and Mr. Ryan maintained that if proper care were given to the dtails as perfect type could be cast in an electrotype matrix as in one made from a drive. The greatest care was, therefore, given to facing up and correcting any minor defects in the letters, and in many cases the latter would be entirely recut. Every letter was examined critically for size, shape, and weight, and the necessary alterations were carefully considered. Thus, for a number of years Mr. Hanrahan gave his time entirely to work of a general character, and while it was well calculated to train boht eye and hand, he did not have an opportunity to do original work. The business of the Ryan foundry was chiefly in romans and plain jobbing faces, but it was of large volume and had a large territory with multifarious clientage. There was thus constant demand for special accents and peculiar characters. Most of Mr. Hanrahan's work was thus done in soft metal, and he learned its capabilities and limitations. He is firmly convinced that the most intricate and exacting work can be done as well or better in soft metal than in any other." (95)

Note (DMM): It is interesting to note that Hanrahan, in 1899, became one of the principals behind the Compositype type caster. While the Compositype itself was not in the end commercially successful, the possession of its important matrix library became a matter of controversy between the Nuernberger-Rettig (aka Universal) and Thompson Type Machine companies.

No. 26 (John M. Wehrle), in The Inland Printer, Vol. 24, No. 6 (1900-03): 852

"His later work was done on soft metal."

Note: The references in Loy suggest very strongly that not only was patrix cutting in typemetal common in the late 19th century, it may well have been the dominant technique. He does, however, make one remark which might be seen to contradict this. He says that matrices driven (from punches) are "almost a necessity" with "the steam perfecting casting machine." Since the type casting machine completely displaced hand-casting during this period, one could argue that this remark implies that punch-driven matrices were necessary (and that patrix cutting must therefore have been uncommon). I believe, however, that he is in error here.

First, his remark is simply incorrect from a technical point of view. Speaking from personal experience as a typefounder, casting from electroformed matrices is a matter of routine. While it is possible for a matrix to fail in casting, this is relatively rare and, when it happens, due always either to a faulty matrix or poor operating practices.

Second, electroformed matrices (specifically, Lanston Monotype display matrices before WWII) formed the basis of the independent typefounding industry in America in the 20th century (and still do in the 21st). These were always intended to be cast by machine. (While it would not be impossible to build a hand mold to cast them, I am unaware of any instance of this. If such a mold existed, it would have been a curiousity.)

Third, Loy credits the advent of patrix cutting ("pattern letters" in "metal" in his terminology) and electroforming with enabling the explosion in ornamented faces during the late 19th century. David Bruce, Jr., credits the introduction of (his) pivotal type casting machine. Bruce is correct insofar as he goes - the increased casting pressure of machine typecasting is, I believe, necessary for the successful casting of complex faces. I would argue, further, that Bruce does not go far enough - that it was the combination of the (relative) ease of cutting complex faces in soft metal patrices and the increased pressure of the typecasting machine (over hand casting) which, together, enabled the ornamented faces of the 19th century.

9. DeVinne (1900)

In his authoritative The Practice of Typography (first volume, on Plain Printing Types), Theodore Low DeVinne confirms that after a rough start in the 1840s electroformed matrices from "model letters ... cut on type-metal" were now "used for large types in all type foundries."

Matrices are also made by a process of electrotyping, for which the punch of steel and the operation of striking are not required. The model leters are cut on type-metal, and, after preparation, are suspended in a porcelain-lined jar containing a solution of suplhate [sic; sulphate] of copper in connection with a voltaic battery. ..." ( {DeVinne 1900}: 18)

And in a footnote to the same paragraph which discusss the origins of this process:

"... The first electrotype matrix for types was made by Edwin Starr of Philadelphia in 1845, and used in the foundry of James Conner of Ne York. This innovation was not then received with favor, for the new matrices were inferior. The objections made against the first electrotyped matrices do not apply to all that are made now, because they are used for large types in all type-foundres." (p. 18)

10. Röder (1901)

Although it is in German and I cannot read it, it seems that the 1901 article "Die Herstellung von Stempeln für Buchdrucktypen" by Hermann Röder appears to cover the history of patrix cutting and matrix electroforming in Germany in the 19th century {Röder 1901}. It is cited by Wilkes as his primary source ( {Wilkes 1990}, p. 43.)

[click image to read]

image link-to-roder-1901-die-herstellung-von-stempeln-fur-buchdrucktypen-hathi-njp-32101064458373-sf0.jpg

11. McCue (1909)

McCue's early 20th century article is an interesting transitional point. He acknowledges that typefounders have "long employed" patrix cutting and matrix electroforming, but emphasizes instead the use of this method by printers, not typefounders. In modern terms, he advocates direct piracy of type by end-users. The primary focus of his articles is on the generation of typecasting machines introduced in the first decade of the 20th century which were intended for use by printers, not typefounders: the Compositype, the Nuerrnberger-Rettig, and the Thompson. This association of patrix cutting and matrix electroforming with piracy is, I believe, one of the two reasons why the acknowledgment of this method was suppressed from the second quarter of the 20th century. McCue writes:

"The invention of the art of electrotyping has resulted in once more placing in the printer's hands the manufacture of his own type. Typefounders themselves have long employed this method to rapidly produce new faces and reproduce old ones. [italics mine]

"If duplication of a font of type already in existence is wanted, the characters are prepared for the electrotyping bath. If a new design is wanted, it is cut in type-metal, cheaply and rapicly. THese are suspended in the electrotype solution and a copper shell removed and mounted in a brass plate, backed up, fitted and is then ready for the machine. The type cast from these matrices is in every way equal to that cast from the steel-driven copper matrices. Instead of a restricted and narrowing art, the production of type at once became a universal possibility. Electrotyping methods were familar to many; punchcutting to the few." (p. 220)

12. Thibaudeau (1921)

In La lettre d'imprimerie: origine, développement, classification & 12 notices illustrées sur les arts du livre (Paris: Bureau de l'Édition, 1921) François Thibaudeau says that type from 5 to 14 points (Didot) was made by cutting punches in steel, while types from 16 point (Didot) upward were cut in type metal for electrotyping:

"On peut déduire l'économie de chacun des trois procédés [that is, hand punchcutting in steel, hand patrix engraving in typemetal, and pantographic patrix engraving in typemetal] de gravure par cette constantion qu'on grave géenéralemente sur poinçons d'acier du corps 5 au corps 14 [Didot], puis sur plomb et mécaniquement tous les gros corps à partier du 16." (p. 483)

He doesn't even mention the direct pantographic engraving of matrices.

(Thibaudeau is identified as the "chef d'imprimerie" at Peignot by John A. Lane in his article "Twentieth-Century Punchcutters" ( Matrix 11 (Winter 1991): 9.) I am indebted to Lane for spotting this reference - as I do not read French, I'd never have seen it on my own.

This work has been digitized by the Silver Buckle Press of the University of Wisconsin, Madison (now housed at the Hamilton Wood Type Museum in Two Rivers, Wisconsin). See: for volume 2.

Here is an extract of the section on patrix cutting and electroforming:

[click image to view larger]

image link-to-thibaudeau-la-lettre-dimprimerie-1921-vol2of2-silver-buckle-sf0.jpg

13. Koch (1923; Poortenaar (1935))

A very brief passage in Jan Poortenaar's The Art of the Book and its Illustration (London: George G. Harrap & Co., Ltd): 25. implies that Rudolf Koch cut his face Neuland as patrices (but, unusually, using counterpunches as well). This reference is still fraught with issues and should not yet be relied upon. Since, if true, it would document a rare instance of the use of counterpunches in patrix cutting, I've filed the main discussion of it in the Notebook of technical literature on Patrix Cutting in Soft Metal by Hand .

14. Werner (1927)

Although Nicholas J. Werner is writing in 1927, his words count as a contemporary report because he was there. He was present at the Central Type Foundry when the first pantographic type-making in America was accomplished there in 1882 (although they were engraving matrices directly, not patrices). A few years later he left the Central along with Gustave Schroeder to form the first independent pantograph-based matrix engraving service in the country.

In a 1927 article in The Inland Printer {Werner 1927}, Werner notes:

"Later on matrices were made by an electrotyping process, which resulted in much so-called 'piracy' among the type founders, who were addicted to stealing in this manner any face that was found to be popular. The electrotyping process, however, proved itself to be highly valuable in the production of original faces, these being first cut in a special type metal alloy by experienced engravers, who could achieve better results than the punch cutters. By this method the founders were able to issue new series more speedily and in greater numbers. It was at first supposed that fine, delicate faces could not be engraved on type metal, but this idea had to give way when one of the Central Type Foundry's engravers cut the twelve and fourteen point sizes of a light-face script face on such metal, his work rivaling that of any done on steel." (765)

15. Bauersche Gießerei (1927, 1930)

In 1927, 1928 (according to Worldcat), and 1930 the Bauer type foundry produced a small booklet entitled Wie ein Druck-Buchstabe entsteht showing type-making at their foundry {Bauer 1927}. I have examined the 1927 edition and own the 1930 edition. Both contain the same illustration of hand patrix cutting over the caption "Handstempelschneider." The work is being done on an engraver's sand or shot bag. The book does not illustrate hand or machine punchcutting, although it does show an unjustified matrix strike which must have been produced from a punch. It shows the pantographic machine direct engraving of matrices (but not punches or patrices). I can't read German, so I'm not sure if the text mentions these things.

See the entry on this text in the Notebook of technical literature on Patrix Cutting in Soft Metal by Hand for a reproduction of this illustration.

16. Mahr (1928)

In 1928, the Verein Deutscher Schriftgießereien (Association of German Type-Cutters [I'm deliberately avoiding the formulaic translation as "punchcutters" here]) published a book of woodcuts and associated verses illustrating and describing many facets of typefounding by Karl Mahr, Der Druckbuchstabe: Sein Werdegang in der Schriftgießerei dargestellt in Holzschnitten und Versen {Mahr 1928}.

(For more on this book, and its reprints and translations, see the entry on it in the Notebook of General Literature on Making Printing Matrices and types. )

In this work, of course, Mahr depicts "der Stempelschneider." Conventionally, this may be translated as "the punchcutter," but what is interesting is that the object being cut by der Stempelschneider is not a punch! It is a patrix in soft metal. Moreover, similar patrices are shown on his workbench - but no punch is to be seen.

[click image to view larger]

image ../../literature/general/bauer-mahr-hand-punch-cutter/link-to-bauer-human-touch-1937-1200rgb-hand-punchcutter-sf0.jpg

The illustration also shows his tools - including the tool identified in Bohadti (see below) as the "Lötwerkzeug," or lead-working tool (a gas-heated "soldering iron").

A further confirmation of the operation shown here occurs in the verse which accompanied this woodcut. It describes "der Stempelschneider" as working with the graver "in harten stahl, in weiches blei" (Paul Hayden Duensing, in his edition of Mahr, translated this as "in hardened steel and in soft lead.")

For a more detailed disucssion of this illustration, see the Notebook on Mahr. The Hand Punch-Cutter.

17. Carter (1930), Davis & Carter (1958)

Harry Carter was probably the finest scholar of the technical processes of the making of type in the first half of the 20th century. In his translation of Fournier's Manuel Typographique of 1764, itself one of the most important treatises on pre-industrial type-making, he says this in the context of punches for large types:

"Since the application of electrolysis to matrix-making, by Starr of Philadelphia in 1845, large letters and ornaments are always cast from deposited matrices 'grown' upon originals cut in typemetal or brass. The present practice is to cut letters larger than 14-point in soft metal, with a certain loss of artistic effect." ( {Fournier 1764 / Carter 1930}: 40, n. 1)

It is interesting that Carter, writing in 1930, speaks of the practices of his own time. (There were exceptions: the four Linotype and Intertype companies are known to have used machine-cut steel punches from early dates, ATF (which used several methods over the years) was probably using machine-cut matrices in 1930, and post-WWII Monotype Corporation (UK) practice also used machine-cut steel punches. But Carter's claim is significant. It cannot be coincidence that Lanston Monotype display matrices start at 14 point.

At a slightly later date, in their notes to their edition of Moxon's Mechanick Exercises, Herbert Davis and Harry Carter write:

"The difficulty of counter-punching large letters (as of forcing them into copper to make matrices) is long forgotten, because for many years past matrices for the larger types have been made by electro-deposition on originals cut in soft metal." ( {Moxon 1684 / Davis & Carter 1958}: 110 [note to "as before"])

(This note appears in the original 1958 edition by Davis & Carter and in all subsequent editions and reprints.)

18. Konrad F. Bauer (193x, 195x)

In both of the editions of Konrad F. Bauer's Wie eine eine Buchdruckschrift entsteht, cutting patrices in soft metal is presented simply as one of the three basic methods of making type (along with punchcutting in steel and machine matrix engraving) {Bauer 1930s}, {Bauer 1950s}. This work also presents a sequence of photographs showing the stages of cutting a patrix and electroforming a matrix from it. However, in the 1930s version there is a photographer's error which makes this sequence extremely confusing. See the entry on this text in the Notebook of technical literature on Patrix Cutting in Soft Metal by Hand for more information.

19. Bohadti (1954)

Gustav Bohadti's Die Buchdruckletter contains significant technical information on the cutting of patrices in soft metal. The chapter containing this information was translated into English by Paul Hayden Duensing as Type Matrices {Bohadti 1954} {Duensing 1968} See the entry on this text in the Notebook of technical literature on Patrix Cutting in Soft Metal by Hand for more information and a reprint of Duensing's translation.

20. Dair (1956)

In his letters collected as Epistles to the Torontonians, the Canadian type and graphic designer Carl Dair notes that when he studied punchcutting at Enschedé in 1956 he was given his choice, at the start, between cutting in typemetal, brass, or steel. {Dair 2015}

21. Rimmer (1984, 2003)

The independent Canadian type-maker Jim Rimmer hand-cut patrices for his type Juliana Old Style and machine-cut patrices through a trial version for his cutting in metal of Carl Dair's face Cartier.

He documented his hand patrix cutting work in an article "Original Font Cut in Lead, Matrics [sic] Are Electroformed" in the American Typecasting Fellowship Newsletter , Vol. 9 (May 1984): 27-31 (Note that this issue was mis-identified as No. 11 on its masthead.) This account was not illustrated. Later in 1984 the text of this article (plus drawings by Rimmer of his techniques, a specimen, and a showing) was reprinted under the title "Engraving Type Designs in Lead" in The Devil's Artisan, No. 15 (1984): 14-20. (This is the title as it appears with the article. In the Table of Contents it was given as "Engraving Type Designs in Metal.")

He documented his machine patrix cutting in another article, "The Cutting of Cartier in Metal," in DA, A Journal of the Printing Arts [formerly The Devil's Artisan], No. 52 (Spring/Summer 2003): 15-20. This issue of DA was devoted entirely to Rimmer, and with it was distributed a keepsake consisting of a small illustration by Rimmer of himself at work cutting patrices at the stereo microscope.

These sources aren't really a part of the present list, which attempts to document the dominance of patrix cutting. Rimmer was an isolated craftsman working on his own. Nevertheless, his work is of such importance that they must at least be mentioned.

See the entry on Rimmer in the Notebook of the literature of Patrix Cutting in Soft Metal by Hand for a discussion of Rimmer's hand patrix cutting.

22. Schmets (1987)

Ronald Schmets' Vom Schriftgießen ( {Schmets 1987}, not to be conflated with Wilkes' Das Schriftgießen, {Wilkes 1990}) contains several photographs of patrix engraving See the entry on this text in the Notebook of technical literature on Patrix Cutting in Soft Metal by Hand for more information.

23. Bibliography

{Bauer 1927} Wie ein Druck-Buchstabe entsteht: Ein Werkfilm der Bauerschen Gießerei. Frankfurt am Main: Bauersche Gießerei, 1927, [1928], 1930.

The title of this booklet suggests that it might have been produced to accompany a film (I can't read German, so I don't know if it says anything about this). I have been unable to discover any information about such a film, if it exists.

According to Christopher Burke, in his book Paul Renner: The Art of Typography (NY: Princeton Architectural Press, 1998), the British distributor for Bauer, Soldans, issued a translation of this booklet under the title From Sketch to Type. Worldcat dates this translated edition to 1932. I have not yet been able to locate a copy.

{Bauer 1930s] Bauer, Konrad F. Wie eine eine Buchdruckschrift entsteht. Frankfurt am Main: Bauersche Giesserei, n.d. [1930s].

{Bauer 1950s] Bauer, Konrad F. Wie eine eine Buchdruckschrift entsteht. Frankfurt am Main: Bauersche Giesserei, n.d. [1950s].

Konrad F. Bauer (1903-1970) was "no relation to Johann Christian Bauer" [founder of the Bauer Type Foundry). K. F. Bauer was the head of the Bauer Type Foundry's art department from 1928 to 1968. See: Eason, Ron, Sarah Rookledge, Phil Baines (ed), and Gordon Rookledge (ed). Rookledge's International Handbook of Type Designers: A Biographical Directory. (Carshalton Beeches, UK: Sarema Press (Publishers) Ltd., 1991): 23. N.B., this volume has now been replaced by Macmillan, Neil [no relation to the author of CircuitousRoot]. An A-Z of Type Designers. (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2006.)

{Bohadti 1954} Bohadti, Gustav. Die Buchdruckletter: Ein handbuch für das schriftgiesserei- und buchdruckgewerbe. West Berlin, West Germany: Ullstein A. G., 1954.

{Bruce 1833/1874 (1981)} Bruce, David, Jr. History of Typefounding in the United States. Ed. James Eckman. (NY: The Typophiles, 1981).

{Bruce 1850} Bruce, David, Jr. "Type Founding" in the Report of the Commissioner of Patents for the Year 1850 (Washington, DC: Office of Printers to the House of Representatives, 1851): 398-403.

This Report has been digitized by The Internet Archive from a poor-quality microfilm copy: An extract of Bruce's report from this has been reprinted in two locations on CircuitousRoot (well, it's important): in the Notebooks of General Literature on Making Printing Matrices and Types and Pivotal Type Caster Literature.

{Conner 1887} Conner, James Madison. [title probably "Electrotype Matrices"] The Typographic Messenger. [vol. and no. unknown] (1887)

At such time as I find a copy of this, it will be reprinted in the Notebook of Literature on Electroforming Matrices But see also {Conner [1887] 1888}.

{Conner [1887] 1888} Conner, James M[adison]. "Electrotype Matrices." Typo: A Monthly Newspaper and Literary Review. Vol. 2, Issue 15 (1888-03-31): 22. This is a reprint of {Conner 1887}.

Reprinted in the Notebook of Literature on Electroforming Matrices .

{Dair 2015} Epistles to the Torontonians. Toronto, Ontario and New Castle, DE: Coach House Press with Sheridan College and Oak Knoll Press, 2015.

{DeVinne 1900} DeVinne, Theodore Low. The Practice of Typography [Vol. 1]: A Treatise on the Process of Type-Making, the Point Sytem, the Names, Sizes, Styles and Prices of Plain Printing Types. NY: The Century Co., 1900.

{Duensing 1968} Duensing, Paul Hayden, trans. & ed. Type Matrices: Being Chapter IV of Die Buchdruckletter, translated, with a biographical note, the original illustrations, and a bibliography. Kalamazoo, MI: The Private Press and Typefoundry of Paul Hayden Duensing, 1968.

{Fournier 1764 / Carter 1930} Fournier, Pierre Simon. Trans. Harry Carter. Fournier on Typefounding: The Text of the Manuel Typographique (1764-1766) translated into English and edited with notes. London: Soncino Press, 1930.

This was reprinted, with a new Foreword and additional bibliography, in 1980 (NY: Burt Franklin, 1980).

{Loy 1898-1900} Loy, William E. "Designers & Engravers of Type," a series of 28 articles in The Inland Printer which appeared monthly from Vol. 20, No. 5 (February, 1898) through Vol. 25, No. 3 (June, 1900) [but no installment in Vol. 25, No. 2 (May, 1900)].

I have reprinted some of these online. However, any serious student of type needs to have the edition of Loy's articles edited by Stephen O. Saxe and Alastair M. Johnston, published under the title Nineteenth-Century American Designers and Engravers of Type (New Castle, DE: Oak Knoll Press, 2009).

{Mahr 1928} Mahr, Karl. Der Druckbuchstabe: Sein Werdegang in der Schriftgießerei dargestellt in Holzschnitten und Versen . ([no location, but Mahr in Frankfurt a. M.]: Verein Deutscher Schriftgießereien E.D., 1928).

{McCue 1909} McCue, Alfred. "Talks on Typecasting, Part 1." The Inland Printer. Vol. 44, No. 2 (Nov. 1909): 219-220. Digitized by Google from the University of Minnesota copy and available via The Hathi Trust. Excerpted and reprinted by CircuitousRoot.

{MSJ 1896} One Hundred Years. Philadelphia, PA: MacKellar, Smiths & Jordan, 1896. An excerpt of the portions on matrix making, mold making and typecasting has been reprinted by CircuitousRoot .

{Moxon 1684 / Davis & Carter 1958} Moxon, Joseph. Ed. Herbert Davis and Harry Carter. Mechanick Exercises on the Whole Art of Printing. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, 1958, 1962.

The 1962 second edition was reprinted in paperback by Dover Publications in 1978. ISBN: 0-486-23617-X

{Pye 1885} Pye, Alfred. "Typefounding" [part 2]. The Inland Printer. Vol. 3, No. 2 (November, 1885): 84-85. Extracted and reprinted by CircuitousRoot.

{Röder 1901} Röder, Hermann. "Die Herstellung von Stempeln für Buchdrucktypen." Archiv für Buchgewerbe. 38 Band, Heft 7. (1901): 300-302.

{Schraubstadter 1887} Schraubstadter Jr., Carl. "Electrotype Matrices." The Inland Printer, Vol. 4, No. 6 (March, 1887): 382. Reprinted by CircuitousRoot.

{Schraubstadter 1888} Schraubstadter Jr., Carl. "Electrotype Matrices." The Inland Printer, Vol. 5, No. 4 (January 1888): 279-280. Reprinted by CircuitousRoot.

{Schmets 1987} Schmets, Ronald. Vom Schriftgießen: Porträt der Firma D. Stempel, Frankfurt am Main. (Darmstadt: Technische Hochschule Darmstadt, 1987). ISBN: 3-88607-050-6.

{Skopeo 1896} Skopeo, of No. Six. "The Typefounder's Art" The Typographical Journal. Vol. 9, No. 7 (October 1, 1896): 253-256. Scanned by Google, and extracted from this scan and reprinted by CircuitousRoot.

{Thibaudeau 1921} Thibaudeau, François. La lettre d'imprimerie: origine, développement, classification & 12 notices illustrées sur les arts du livre Paris: Bureau de l'Édition, 1921.

{Waldow 1884} Waldow, Alexander. Illustrierte Encycklopädie der Graphischen Künste und der Verwandten Zweige. Leipzig: Alexander Waldow, 1884.

Digitized by Google from the University of Minnesota copy. Google Books ID: Vs5GAQAAMAAJ

{Werner 1927} "Saint Louis' Place on the Type-Founders' Map." The Inland Printer. Vol. 79, No. 5 (August 1927): 764-766. Reprinted by CircuitousRoot.

{Wilkes 1990} Wilkes, Walter. Das Schriftgießen: Von Stempelschnitt, Matrizenfertigung und Letterguss: eine Dokumentation von Walter Wilkes . (Darmstadt, Germany: Technische Hochschule Darmstadt, 1990.) also (Stuttgart:, Germany Hauswedell, 1990). ISBN: 3-7762-0311-0 (same for both Darmstadt and Stuttgart editions). ISBN-13: 978377620311.

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