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Invention Of The Dry Mat

( Originally Published 1927 )

The honor of inventing the first entirely dry mat and making a new product which constituted the basis of all later dry mats, belongs to GEORGE EASTWOOD, of Kingston, England.

There has been some controversy as to whether the Englishman Eastwood or the German Schimansky was the original inventor of the dry mat cold process of stereotyping. A careful examination of the English and German patents of these men show that Eastwood applied for his original patent on the 27th of November, 1893 (English patent No. 22732) and Schimansky for his first patent on the 28th of December, 1894 (German patent No. 86865).

The former experiments of Eastwood on the subject of cold stereotyping, which led to the entirely dry mat have been described above. The text of Eastwood's patent is worthy of being recorded in full, being that his new matrix opened the new era in the art, the era of cold stereotyping. (East-wood employs the Franco-English term "flong" in place of the general appellation "matrix" or "mat"). Eastwood describes his invention as follows; the brackets containing an-notations of the author of this booklet. It consists in the manufacture of a flong from one thick sheet of blotting-paper or other bibulous paper faced on one or both sides when dry with composition or paste. The invention also comprises a special composition or paste for the purpose, the said composition or paste being one that will dry, consolidate, and harden upon the surface of the paper.

In carrying out the invention, the composition or paste (coating) is preferably applied to the bibulous paper by means of a brush and in a warm state. It is then allowed to dry, and when it is dry the flong is complete and can be kept in stock in the dry state for practically any length of time.

"In practice I find it desirable to face both sides of the paper with the composition, because by so doing I avoid any tendency of the paper to warp while drying. It is also well to apply a second coat of the composition after the first coat is dry. When this Bong is to be used, the face upon which the mold is to be produced is preferably smoothed with sandpaper; but this is not essential. This face is then slightly dampened with water or with the composition by means of a sponge or otherwise (humidifying) and it may then be covered with one or more sheets of tissue of other suitable paper, damp or dry. (At the present day many foundries in England still paste one tissue on dry mats, producing extra humidification through the wet paste.) Then it is preferably rubbed with French chalk or other suitable material which will absorb superfluous moisture. The flong thus prepared is placed upon the type or in a frisket or frame, and is then surrounded by heated air (a kind of scorcher) for a few seconds, so as to just soften the composition and render it plastic. When in this state it is pressed upon the form by means of a platen press. The mold is thus taken and becomes at once fixed.

It will be understood from the foregoing description that my flong is a dry flong with the composition or paste on the face. When the flong is used the blotting or other paper does not contain moisture, but the composition or paste, after being slightly dampened, as above described, becomes sufficiently softened (humidified) by the heated air or by contact with the form (when this is heated) to enable a perfect mold to be taken by the press. The special composition or paste which I preferably employ for facing the bibulous paper consists of treacle or other saccharine liquor, glue, flour, whiting, borax, and water. I do not limit myself to any particular proportions, but I recommend that the amount of treacle used should be about one-twentieth, by weight, of the combined weight of the other ingredients employed, exclusive of water."

Eastwood then describes in length the proportions of his paste. Eastwood's patent claims were:

1. A flong for producing matrices or molds for stereotyping consisting of a thick sheet of dry bibulous paper having on its face a dry composition, substantially as hereinbefore described.

2. A flong for producing matrices or molds for stereo-typing consisting of a thick sheet of bibulous paper having a normal unimpregnated interior and having on its face a coating of a dry paste composed of saccharine liquor, glue, flour, whiting, borax, and water in approximately the proportions specified.

3. A composition for coating the bibulous paper of flongs used for producing matrices or molds for stereotyping, the said composition consisting of treacle, glue, flour, whiting, borax and water in approximately the proportions specified.

Thus, through Eastwood, the dry mat appeared upon the market. The first product was given to the foundries in England in 1887, and after having applied for his second patent, the new dry mat was introduced. American stereotype foundries learned of the new invention and in 1893 the "American Bookmaker" reported as follows: "From time to time during the past two years we have heard of the new method of stereo-typing invented in England, and in which the matrix does not need to be dried off the type by heating the form but is removed while the type is still cold. The processes were kept secret, but they were understood to be the use of papier-mache not as wet as formerly, a different facing from any previously used and a current of cold air over the back. We hear that the results are by no means marked. The forms take as long to be finished properly as electrotyping would require, the pages stand no more impressions than before and the plates are brittle. The requirements here are such that the greatest speed must be attained, and if there is a difference of one minute to each page by different processes this would be sufficient to throw out that which is slow."

Shortly after, it appears, that samples of the new dry mats were received in the United States, tested in several foundries and the following verdict arrived at in the same trade paper :"The cold process of stereotyping from which much was hoped as a means of taking matrices for daily papers, does not seem to have yielded the results expected. The pages took a long time to make, were soggy and moist when the metal was to be poured in, and the generated steam beneath the hot fluid was often sufficient to injure the plate. It is to be hoped that some method will be devised by which the plate can be made quickly without involving the necessity of heating the type, which suffers thereby and becomes permanently lengthened, sometimes to the thickness of a cardboard. Otherwise the papier-mache (mashed paper or wet mat) process seems the perfection of simplicity."

In October, 1895, an American cold type stereotyping outfit (The Potter), was advertised in trade journals as ready for shipment, and a stereotyping expert stated that "now country printers can do their own stereotyping," meaning that the monopoly of making stereotype plates only in the large foundries in the big cities could be accepted as over and done with. "No beating of type to spoil the face, nor heating of type to make it soft and elongated. The molding is done on scientific principles and in about one-twentieth of the time required by the old papier-mache method. The manufacturer supplies the matrix, with full instructions for use. The form is laid on the molding machine, the matrix is placed on the form and by the rotating of a heavy iron cylinder the matrix is pressed into the form, and the mold is made. This mold is then taken from the form, placed on a hot plate to dry, and is then put in a casting box, into which hot metal is poured and the cast is made."

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