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Invention Of Stereotyping

( Originally Published 1927 )



The first experiments at stereotyping in the sense of the definition placed at the beginning of this chapter were made in Europe in 1701. JOHANNES MUELLER, clergyman of the Reformed Church in Leyden, Holland, discovered a new way of utilizing the art of printing by employing movable types. After the pages had been composed, corrected and set up in a form, he turned this form over on its face and cemented it into one solid plate by means of a mastic (window-putty) or, in a second experiment, with a metallic composition (lead). Later on Mueller immersed the bottoms of the types nearly up to the shoulder of the letter in the mastic or solder, thus rendering the entire page one solid mass.

The first trial of this process was made in 1701 with a book of prayers of Jean Havermans, printed by Mueller's son, William. Later on, Mueller and his son associated themselves with VAN DER MEY, the father of the celebrated Dutch painter, Jerome Van der Mey, and these three men, in 1711, prepared in the above described manner for Samuel Luchtmans, a bookseller of Leyden, the pages of a quarto and of a folio edition of the Bible. One hundred years later, Luchtmans' successors sent copies of this stereotyped Bible to Paris, accompanied them by a letter stating that "we have sent you a copy of our Stereotype-Bible. All the plates of it are now in our possession, and nothwithstanding that many thousand copies have been printed from them, they are still in very good condition. They are formed by soldering the bottoms of common type together, with the same melted substance, to the thickness of about three quires of writing paper."

This invention of Mueller may be considered as an intermediate link between the operations of the common letter-press printing and those of stereotyping, as practiced at the present day. Mueller soldered his plates together, and therefore he required separate composition of the types for each form made. Stereotyping, however, in the modern sense of the word, means reproduction by casting and its advantage is multiplication without re-setting of type.

The great objection, however, to Mueller's method was its costliness, as the type used was no longer available for any other use. Johannes Mueller died in 1720, and his art of preparing solid blocks was, at the death of his associate Van der Mey, not employed any more.

A process of so-called stereotyping somewhat similar to the one practiced by Mueller and Van der Mey, is reported to have been used shortly afterwards by Athias, a printer in Amsterdam. Athias executed at a great expense, in what year is unknown, an English Bible, of which he preserved all the forms of the type, in such a manner that nothing could be added to, nor taken from them. Gessner, a Zurich printer, who first related this fact, adds that he had seen these solid forms carefully preserved. It is also generally recorded that Athias ruined himself by this speculation, such an edition of the entire Bible having tied up an immense amount of money.



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