Friday, November 30, 2012

Print nostalgia with Linotype:The Film

In one of my former lives I worked in a commercial print shop. I did paste-up with hot wax and an X-acto knife, and I set type on a machine something like this one:

Thanks, Marcin Wichary and Wikipedia.

This might be a newer model than the one I used, because it appears to have a slot for 8" floppy disks, and ours used cartridges of some sort. But you get the idea. A single line of type appeared on the screen... not in the font one was using... just a pixel-y little line that disappeared into the techno-ether once a certain number of characters were typed. For you youngsters out there, each letter was flashed onto photosensitive film, then processed chemically to paper. Until the type galleys came out of processing, one didn't know if the entire paragraph had been accidentally typed in boldface. Our machine didn't have a "Save" feature... so mistakes had to be typed and processed all over again.

I had a love-hate relationship with that machine. Mostly hate. And I was delighted when "desktop publishing" appeared, allowing me to see entire pages of type at once and to make corrections quickly and easily.

But as a printmaker, and a relief printmaker at that, I often feel a nostalgia for the "good old days" of wood or metal type. I have a few pieces that I've found here and there– and one of these days when I get Presszilla into a workable space of her own I hope to invest in some complete alphabets– but I've never personally set type by hand. (Well, there WAS that rubber stamp set I had as a child... The one with tweezers and tiny individual letters you set into a frame.) As a type geek I'm a dilettante, but I think my days as pilot of the beast above give me enough street cred to be delighted by Linotype: The Film. My own copy arrived here mere days after the DVD was released...

I hope you have a few minutes to take a look at the trailer, and if you have an opportunity to see the entire film, I encourage you to do so. It's great fun... and if you don't believe me, just ask Etaoin Shrdlu. (More clips are available on the film's website.)

"Linotype: The Film" Official Trailer from Linotype: The Film on Vimeo.


  1. Hey Sherrie, I started in a studio doing paste up too! The only typesetting I did though was with an old IBM 'golfball' machine and dry transfer lettering so you were at the cutting edge of technology!

  2. in the printing studio at college there is a huge chest of old drawers full of typesetting pieces. i can't even imagine how many pieces are in all the drawers, i would kill for the whole chest :p

  3. I want to see the film, but must admit, Sherrie, that my college lettering class scared me off of graphics for a lifetime. I wasn't interested in that kind of perfection and don't get me started on serifs..... I've tremendous respect for those brave souls who can navigate the rocky shoals of FONTS.

  4. Hey Mike! I still have a couple of sheets of dry transfer around here somewhere. I think. I could send 'em to ya. ;-)

    Yeah, Jen... I'd hover around the case waiting for someone to decide they don't need it anymore if I were you!

    Hm... Patrick... I could loan you my DVD! Seriously, if you want I can mail it you. Kinda like Netflix, only slower and cheaper.

  5. now idea how you would move the cabinet. even empty it probably weighs a ton. surprised the floor doesn't collapse :p

  6. Thanks for posting that, Sherrie, I remember watching Linotype and Monotype machines, they were fascinating. I never regretted the demise of pasteup with wax nor of Letraset. Just thinking about those things makes me want to hug my mac:-)


Linocut in Progress: The Third Act

Time to wrap up this linocut ! And we are wrapping at warp speed (see what I did there?)... because there are deadlines. Exhibition deadline...