The Future Of Stereotyping
( Originally Published 1927 )
In Europe about ninety percent of all book printing and plate making is done by stereotyping and only about ten percent is electrotype work. In America the reverse is the case. In Europe practically all newspapers that stereotype are using dry mats; in America it was only about two years ago that the dry mat cold process of stereotyping began coming, slowly but surely, into its own. There is hardly any doubt that what prevails on the other side of the Atlantic will, in the not all together too far off future, prevail in America. There is still open a very large field for stereotyping, namely color printing, and book and magazine printing from stereotype plates. When stereotyping was invented, many of the finest books were printed by that means, and it appears that the same condition will prevail again, as the art of stereotyping advances and the best kind of printing will be achieved with stereotypes.
HENRY BEAMISH in "Wesel Topics" writes as follows : "Publishers know that the public will refuse to go beyond a certain figure in purchasing a popular edition. Raise that figure and the printing 'goes dead.' Recently, a large edition of a scientific work was published and sold at an excel-lent price. Apparently, the market was then saturated but a lower popular priced edition of a hundred-thousand was later printed, against the advice of many. But the entire hundred-thousand was sold almost immediately.
Recently, much agitation arose over the exorbitant price of books,—a decided disadvantage for both the publisher and the reader. It was pointed out that one of the ten best sellers, as a matter of fact, did not sell successfully in its first high-priced edition, and never became a best seller until published in a popular lower-priced edition.
'But', the printers contend, 'books cannot be produced at a lower price.'
At least a half-dozen of America's largest book printers are reducing book production costs by adopting stereotype plates for even the highest quality editions with commendable results. Stereotype book plates have been successfully used in England for some time, with a resultant decrease in production costs.
Careful and extensive examination of various high quality editions printed with stereotype plates, has proved conclusively that the results are equally as satisfactory as any other method. The reluctance to adopt stereotype plates for high quality books has been merely a question of tradition,—the old contention 'that it has never been done before.'
As for advantages of mechanical production, they are largely obvious. Considerable press time is saved, running into thousands of dollars on large editions. Make-ready costs are appreciably reduced, and the resultant saving deducted from the production cost. Savings in metal costs are quite extensive. After the edition has been printed, the stereotype metal can be remelted and the matrices saved for the next edition. The saving in storage space is tremendous. The space required for the electrotypes of a single book is sufficient for storing the stereotype matrices of fifty books,—a worth-while consideration in a large publishing house.
At the height of a press run, time is extremely valuable. If a plate becomes accidentally battered or damaged, a new stereotype can be made in five minutes and the run resumed, as against anywhere from twenty minutes to four hours to produce the same plate by electrotyping. Ordinarily, good-quality stereotype plates render excellent results up to 50,000 impressions; if longer runs are required, nickel-faced stereo-types can be used."
The clay and plaster-of-Paris methods of stereotyping dominated the field for over one hundred years; the wet mat stereotyping process, due to celebrate its centenary in 1929, is still in great vogue. The infant among the matrices, the dry mat, is firmly implanted and promises to supersede its parent and grandparent. The American master-stereotyper is well aware of the fact that stereotyping is an art as worthy of consideration and esteem as are the many arts of the graphic industry, and he knows that the sum-total of all of the above recited laborious experiments, and the brilliant successes achieved by his ancestors in the craft have given to the art of printing an indispensable link, without which a modern printing establishment cannot be imagined.