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The Composing Room

( Originally Published 1930 )



The Jobs in the Composing Room.—The work in the modern composing room is divided among a number of persons, each one of whom performs a special job either by hand or with the aid of machines. In the large composing rooms there may be groups of workers employed at the same kind of operation. Some composing rooms are different from others depending upon the jobs for which they are organized. Speed is essential in a newspaper plant, and accuracy and quality are sometimes dispensed with in the effort to get out the newspaper in a short period of time. In a job shop and in similar shops, speed is sometimes sacrificed for accuracy and quality in production.

In the job, the magazine, and the book shop composing rooms will be found the following type of workers: hand compositors, linotype operators, monotype-keyboard operators, monotype-caster operators, proofreaders, layout men, and imposition men or stonemen.

There is a somewhat greater division of labor in the newspaper composing room. There are two main divisions in this shop. One of these divisions is concerned with the setting up of advertising copy, and the other prepares the news copy. In the advertising division there are linotype operators and hand compositors or "ad men." In the news division are found another group of linotype operators; bank men, who assemble the type as it comes from the linotype operators and who correct all errors; make-up men, who arrange the copy in page form; proofreaders; copy-cutters, who distribute the news copy among the linotype operators when it comes from the editorial rooms; and the compositors, who set the headings by hand for the news columns. Every newspaper office also has a number of apprentices or learners and several machinists who are specially skilled in the repair and the adjustment of the machinery used in the composing room.

The newspaper composing room receives its copy from two places—the advertising department and the editorial room. The copy for the news items comes from the editorial room to the copy-cutter in the composing room. This man divides the copy among the linotype operators, and he also gives those headings which cannot be set by the machine to the hand compositors. Each linotype operator places on the assembling bank or table the type he has set, together with the copy. The assembling-bank men gather together the type set by the operators and the headings for one news item and give it to an apprentice to "pull" proofs. One copy of these proofs is taken to the proofreaders who compare it with the original copy and make note of any errors in composition. At the same time that the proof is taken to the proof-readers, the type is placed on the correcting bank where it stays until the corrections, which are made by the linotype operators, are inserted by the man who is stationed here. After the corrections have been inserted, the type is placed on the make-up bank. Here it is placed into page forms by the make-up men together with the advertisements that have been set in type.

The advertising copy comes to the composing room from the dispatching department, which in turn receives it from the advertising department. A hand compositor receives the copy and indicates on it the sizes, widths, and styles of type to be used in that particular advertisement. It is then given to the advertisement linotype operators (ad-machine men) who set all the type that it is possible to set by machine. The linotype operator also places on an assembling bank all that he has produced. The advertisement hand compositor (ad man) then takes the linotype slugs to his bank where he assembles them and the display lines which he has set by hand with the illustrations, if there are any. A proof of the completed advertisement is taken to the proofreaders who indicate the errors if any have been made. After the corrections have been made, another proof is taken for the advertiser. If he passes the advertisement, it is given to the make-up man who consults the schedule which indicates the page and the place on the page which will be occupied by particular advertisements. The make-up man then places the composed type in a form, locks it up, and thus makes it ready for the stereotyping process.

The work in a job-shop composing room is performed at a slower pace than is that of the newspaper composing room. In the job shop the copy is sent to the layout man or some one expert in print-shop practice, who makes out a job ticket upon which are entered the plans and the specifications for the particular job. The job is planned out for the other workers so that it may progress in an orderly manner through the composing room. The job ticket is then sent to the composing-room foreman who divides the work among the journeymen and the apprentices. The linotype and monotype operators receive the parts of the copy which are to be set by machine. These pieces of copy are known as "takes." The hand compositors also receive those "takes" which must be set by hand, and in addition to this operation, they perform others which a machine operator cannot do upon his machine. The machine operators place the composed type in columns with no spacing between the lines on flat-topped tables or banks. Apprentices place this type upon long, narrow, shallow trays of brass or steel known as galleys. These galleys are then placed upon a proof press, the type is inked by means of a roller, a sheet of paper is placed upon the surface of the inked type, and. a heavy iron cylinder is rolled over the paper to give the impression. The impressions which are made in this manner upon long, narrow strips of paper are called galley proofs. These are sent to the proofreaders to be compared with the original copy.

Copy-holders hold the original copy and read from it to the proofreaders who mark upon the proof sheets any errors which they may detect. The marked proofs are then returned to the machine operators and the hand compositors to reset or correct the lines that. are at fault. When it is thought that all errors have been eliminated, another set of galley proofs is "pulled," and these are given a second reading. After they have been read and the errors have been marked, they are called revised proofs. If no errors are found, they are called clean proofs and are marked with the office O. K. A copy of this is sent to the customer for his criticisms and suggestions.

When the customer's proof is returned, additional corrections are made upon his suggestion and certain compositors who are known as make-up men proceed to arrange the galleys of type into page forms. They insert thin strips of metal in the form so as to produce the necessary amount of white space between the lines and the paragraphs. Then they put in place the page numbers and the cuts which form the illustrations, and they make the pages up to a uniform width and depth. Another proof is "pulled" which is called the page proof. The page proofs are again read or compared by the proofreaders, copies are sent to the customer for his approval, final corrections are made, and the pages of type are sent to the stone or imposing tables. The stone-man or imposition man arranges the type pages so that the printed pages will follow each other in correct numerical position when the large sheet upon which they are printed is folded. In book, catalogue, and magazine printing, as many as 8, 16, or 32 pages are placed in one form and printed at once. After the stoneman has arranged the pages, he proceeds to lock up the form. In this process he places a chase or metal frame around the type pages, and he spaces off the margins by means of pieces of wood or metal which the printers call furniture. Then with the aid of metal wedges or quoins and quoin keys he locks the type and spacing material within the chase. The type is pounded down in order to level it, and sometimes a proof is taken to check the margins and the positions of the pages.

When everything is checked, the form is sent to the press room.

During their period of training the apprentices assist all of the workmen, and in this way they are taught to perform all the operations necessary to the completion of a job. When they become journeymen, they may specialize if they secure work in a large shop; but if they obtain employment in small shops, they may be called upon to perform all of the operations.

The Tools and Materials Used.—The hand compositors use hand tools, bench tools, and machine tools in their work. The hand compositor uses a composing stick, in which to set the type and in which he justifies or spaces the lines, a galley or shallow metal tray, upon which he places the type when the composing stick is filled, and tweezers, with which to lift the individual letters when correcting errors. He also makes use of a line gage to measure the work, steel composing rules and a make-up rule. The planer, which is a smooth block of hard wood, and the mallet are used by the stoneman to beat down the forms and to level the type. This man locks up the form by means of a chase, furniture, quoins, and a quoin key.

A device known as the lead and rule cutter is used to cut to length the smooth strips of lead which are placed between the lines of type and the strips of border rule which surround the pages of many jobs. The mitering machine is one that bevels strips of border. This tool is used when it is desired to have the borders meet at the corners. The trimming of the sides and the bottoms of printing plates is done by means of a plane, a trimmer, a router, or a typehighing machine, and proofs are taken upon a proof press. The tools mentioned in this paragraph are in some cases operated by hand, but in many shops today they are operated by electric power.

The linotype and the monotype are the most commonly used machines with which type is set. The monotype process of setting is done by two machines, one of which is called the monotype keyboard and the other, the monotype caster. The keyboard machine is like a very large typewriter, but it has 260 keys which can strike the letters of five alphabets. The operator of the key-board machine simply punches a strip of paper into a pattern of holes, each hole corresponding to a letter of the alphabet. This pattern, which is called the con-troller paper, is placed in the type caster, which automatically sets the type according to the pattern. Both of these machines are controlled by compressed air, and they are quite complicated. The linotype machine sets a solid line of type in contrast with the monotype, which casts each letter separately. This machine also has a keyboard, but it is not as large as that of the mono-type and instead of marking a pattern on a strip of paper it molds the line of type directly. This is done by means of matrices, or forms which are contained in cases or magazines at the top of the machine, and by molten metal. When the operator presses a key, he releases a matrix which joins others at a certain place where a mold covers them. The molten metal, which is kept hot in a pot attached to the machine, then pours in and hardens immediately. In this way the slug or line of type is cast.

The composing-room workers use ink, paper, type, and spacing materials in the course of the day's work. The spacing materials consist of leads and slugs that divide the typed lines, and of furniture which is composed of pieces of metal or wood that are placed about the type matter in the chase.

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