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Polytyping And Logography

( Originally Published 1927 )



Conforming to the chronological order of this booklet, a report is now due on two methods known as Polytyping and Logography.

Polytyping is the art of producing by mechanical means, from engraved plates or otherwise, any number of plates capable of multiplication. The "sister arts" Stereotyping and Polytyping are so connected, and the processes, which have been used in one, have often so great an alliance with those of the other, that it is not easy to separate them. The process of Polytyping differs from Stereotyping in the fact, that while a stereotype is taken by pouring molten metal on the mold, the polytype is made by a method akin to die-sinking.

Polytyping was used only for the reproduction of small wood-cuts or typographical ornaments. For that purpose it was considered by some founders to be superior; duplicates could be produced more rapidly than by stereotyping, and at a cheaper rate, and the blanks or whites of the polytype were much deeper than those of the stereotype.

Logography is a method of composition consisting in the art of arranging and composing for printing with entire words, their roots and terminations, instead of single letters.

The first experiments with Logography were made by HENRY JOHNSON, a compositor of London, in the printing establishment of his employer, Mr. Walter, owner of the "Times." A patent for Logography was granted him in 1783. Johnson's aim was to simplify the basic technique of type-setting, which had remained stationary for centuries. He cast certain of the most used words and syllables and used these casts together with the ordinary type, hoping thereby to speed composing to a degree. Altho this method was never universally adopted, it found imitators and perfectors even up into our times. Johnson also intended to save labor for the compositor, for instead of lifting the word "and" in three letters, if cast as a logotype, he picks it up as one. The combined letters stated to have been found of greatest value were:

be corn con ent ion in

for ge ing Id me the

and th ve al re os

The London "Times," when it was first published, used logotypes for a while but then abandoned them, on account of their proving practically useless, the compositors being able to set up more type in a given time by the old method, than by using logotypes. Other weighty objections urged against logotypes are the additional space or case-room they require (about 480 cases), if they are sufficiently numerous to be of material service; and the waste of type which results from the necessity of destroying a whole word whenever a single letter is battered. For some years, this "Times'' and a few other unsuccessful experiments, led to the total abandonment of the logotypes, but recently they have attracted the attention of inventors.

The names given in the course of years to the different inventions of this nature were many; for instance, Logography, Logotypography, Polyamatiamie, Typocheographie, Hamapoligrammatiamie (!) .

As far as the art of Polytyping is concerned, the first invention therein was made in 1784 by FRANZ IGNAZ JOSEPH HOFFMANN, a native of Alsace, who had drifted to France and settled in Paris. Hoffmann was incited thru Ged's work and thru a remark concerning several metallic combinations made by Darcet in 1773. The method Hoffmann discovered was: with a page composed of types in the usual manner, he made an impression on a mass of soft fatty earth mixed with plaster of Paris or gypsum, and prepared with a glutinous paste of syrup of gum and potato starch. This impression became a matrix, into which a composition of lead, bismuth, and tin being pressed at the moment of casting, gave plates which exhibited in relief, facsimiles of the types which had been used to form the matrix. The impossibility to sink each single letter absolutely in the same horizontal direction and in the same depth into the matrix composition, in connection with other relatively less important drawbacks convinced contemporaries that this method was entirely impracticable and unserviceable. The apparatus used for Polytyping somewhat resembled a pile-driver.

A further practice of Hoffmann was that he formed two sorts of types or puncheons; one for detached letters, and the other for letters collected into the syllables most frequently occurring in the French language. This was simply following up Johnson's independent discovery of logography. Hoffmann was granted a patent and a franchise in 1785, and his three volume work, printed with logotypes, created quite a sensation, notably in France, but notwithstanding this success, his establishment was closed in 1787 thru a Government decree. It appears that the reason for this act was that Hoffmann had been engaged in printing prohibited writings.

In 1785, JOSEPH CAREZ, a printer at Toul in France, happened to obtain some numbers of Hoffmann's "Journal Polytype". He was struck with the advantages which the new process seemed to offer, and carried on a series of experiments in editions which he called "omotyped", meaning the junction of many types in one. Carez executed several liturgical and devotional works, and among others the Vulgate Bible in nonpareil, which possesses great neatness. Carez carried out his process in the following manner: The page being locked up, was placed downwards on a block of wood suspended from one arm of an iron lever. On the top of a wooden pillar there was a cardboard tray smeared over with oil. A quantity of molten type-metal was taken from a furnace, and poured into the cardboard tray. The moment the metal began to be clouded by cooling he let fall upon it the block of wood and the page attached. In this way an impression of the page was formed. This plate, after being trimmed, was fixed to the under side of the block, and let fall upon some fused metal placed as before on the bed of the machine, and thus was obtained a plate in relief fit for printing. The most serious drawback of the Carez method was the difficulty encountered in getting his type-form off the chilled metal.

In 1786, PINGERON, a skilful mechanic, varied the Hoffmann process: For the purpose of stereotyping, he pro-posed to make a composition, formed of talc, gypsum, clay, Venice tripoli, and formers sand, capable of receiving a clear impression; to press into this mass the face of a page composed of types and then to pour melted type-metal into the matrice thus formed. He also used a sand-pit for molding, and a composition of German spar, salammoniac, etc., which would bear several castings before being destroyed.

All experiments of this nature were doomed to failure, as they were in direct opposition to the basic principle of the art of printing—the division of written matter into small and movable parts, namely into single letter types.

The art of stereotyping received a great deal of attention during that period of money inflation when the French government ordered the printing of the collossal quantities of paper money, so-called assignats. This work had to be done as fast as possible, and it was necessary to guard against forgery of those bills. Recourse was taken to stereotyping and not only were the hitherto known methods practiced, but a number of new ones were discovered. The first issue of assignats was printed in 1790; they were, however, scarcely out of the hands of the printer before they were counterfeited and great difficulty was experienced in recognizing the genuine assignats of the government. It became evident that every plate would have to be identical. A modification of Hoffmann's polytype process was resorted to; casts were taken of the separate parts of the bills and these became matrices, these again were united and a single matrix formed, which was struck into molten metal. This operation was called clicher, the word being used by the die-makers to express the striking of melted lead, in order to obtain a proof. It signifies to let a writing fall perpendicularly and forcibly upon molten metal. Since this time up to the present day the word cliche has been generally applied to stereotype plates by the French.

In 1795, when the Revolutionary Convention had begun to issue lottery tickets, a printer named GATTEAUX was charged by the National Assembly to print these tickets. The process he developed was to sink the face of the type into a plate of cold metal by means of a screw press. Gatteaux's brother-in-law, Anfry, invented a harder metal than that heretofore used for types, which prevented their being damaged when being violently impressed in a plate of lead. This hard metal of Anfry was largely composed of silver, therefore very costly.

During this same period, the printing establishment of FIRMIN DIDOT (born 1764, died 1836) operated an extensive stereotyping plant. Didot is the name of a family of eminent printers in France, who have pursued the calling with remarkable success from the year 1713 to the present day. Firmin Didot deserves special mention for his elegant and correct cheap stereotyped editions. He published as his first Gaillets "Logarithms" which he announced as a "stereotyped" work, thus being the coiner of the now so familiar word. This book was set up in types and the pages afterwards incorporated in one solid mass, the plate soldered at the base. This shows that in the start, Didot followed the process invented almost a century ago by Mueller and Van der Mey.



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