Typesetting Machines

Typesetting Machines


machines designed to produce the text portion of printing plates. The first typesetting machines were used in the early 19th century to mechanize the composition of lines of text from separate letters. In 1822 the Englishman W. Church constructed a typesetting machine equipped with a keyboard. In 1866–67 the Russian inventor P. P. Kniagininskii designed the original “automatic typesetter,” which was a typesetting machine with programmed control using punched tape. The beginning of widespread industrial use of typesetting machines came about with the invention of Linotype and Monotype in the late 19th century. The original attempts at designing photocomposition machines also date to this period.

Three main types of typesetting machines are distinguished according to the principle of image formation: casting machines, composing typewriters, and photocomposition machines. Casting machines produce plates in the form of individual characters or lines with a raised printing surface, cast from type metal. Casting machines include Linotypes and Monotypes. Casting machines have become most common in the production of letterpress plates. Composing typewriters make possible the production of type matter in the form of imprints on paper, film, and other materials, using the principle of letter-by-letter printing. Such machines are used mainly in the preparation of offset plates for short-run editions with limited quality requirements. Modern photocomposition machines are more productive and are technologically combined with the offset printing process.

The technological potential of typesetting machines is characterized by the assortment of characters that can be set, the range of type sizes and line measures (length of lines), and the ability to set tables and multiline formulas. These features determine the applicability of specific models of typesetting machines. Machines also exist that are designed for the production of various elements of printing plates—for example, strip casters. There are also large-type casting machines for heads, as well as casting machines used to cast type for manual composing.

In machine composition of text, the required character or group of characters is brought into working position, and the image of the character is placed and reproduced in a line of a given measure according to the textual content and instructions for its layout. In this case it is necessary to produce justified lines (that is, lines of equal length).

Typesetting machines may be semiautomatic or automatic, depending on the degree of mechanization of the process. In the case of semiautomatic machines, the typesetter’s function consists mainly of keyboarding. Automatic machines are controlled by a program recorded on punched tape or some other data carrier. The control programs are prepared by an operator using a programming keyboard or by automatic programming systems using computers. In the latter case, automatic readout devices are used.

Modern high-speed automatic typesetting machines use cathode-ray tubes for the formation of images of characters. This makes it possible to set more than 1,000 characters per second. In the 1970’s, systems using laser technology and holography are being developed.

Logical division of words, as well as the layout of lines and columns, is performed automatically in systems with automatic programming. Video terminals are being used successfully for solving problems of automation of processes of complex makeup and editing. Development of such systems leads to the creation of automatic systems for integrated processing of text and illustration data.

In 1972, Soviet Linotype machines were in use in printing plants of 56 countries.


Kolosov, A. I., and A. G. Lavrent’eva. Izgotovlenie pechatnykh form. Moscow, 1963. (Tekhnologiia poligraficheskogo proizvodstva, book 1.)
Shul’meister, M. V. Monotip, books 1–2. Moscow, 1961–63.
Petrokas, L. V., and L. A. Shneerov. Mashiny nabornogo proizvodstva. Moscow, 1973.


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Back then, the world of printing revolved around these two automated typesetting machines.
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A printer since before World War II, Gordon maintains a collection of antique printing equipment that includes two operating Linotype typesetting machines, a 1920 cylinder proof press and an antiquated hand press, plus several cabinets of type drawers chock full of old type.
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