"I cannot live without books: but fewer will suffice where amusement, and not use, is the only future object." -- Thomas Jefferson

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Linotype: The Film

If you are a print addict, this is a Must See documentary.

Using lively interviews with experienced Linotype typesetters, museum owners and staff, historians, and more; great graphics; and old news clips, director, Douglas Wilson, tells the story of the Linotype, a semi-automated hot-metal typesetting machine that dominated the print industry for almost 100 years.

In February 1890, Ottmar Mergenthaler, a German watchmaker and inventor, introduced the Linotype. Not since Gutenberg invented a printing press that used movable type has an invention had such an impact on the world at that time.

Edison called it the eighth wonder of the world.

A Linotype is a mammoth machine with hundreds of moving parts and molten lead. Essentially, the typesetter keys out text, character by character, and the machine has a bank of letter, punctuation, and space molds that fall into place. Molten lead fills the molds to create a solid metal strip that is added together with other strips to create a page of metal type that is taken to a printing press.

Until the invention of the Linotype, creating a page of metal type for print was composed by hand. So, the process could only go as fast as the compositor.

With the introduction of the Linotype, the speed of creating a page of metal type increased. Now, one person could do the work of six. Now, newspapers could print larger editions, multiple editions and could include various articles to attract more readers.

People now had inexpensive access to printed material. There was a huge appetite for printed materials, so the number of newspapers and magazines mushroomed.

Literacy rates grew.

Sales of the Linotype boomed around the world.

In the documentary, you will see why Linotype operators were craftspersons and you will see how much they loved their profession and the machine, the Linotype. The joy of typesetting, the beauty of typefaces, the art of creating a line of type became part of thousands of pieces of printed materials.

The introduction of phototypesetting in 1940s spelled the end of hot-metal typesetting. By the 1970s, thousands of Linotype machines were scrapped after being replaced by phototypesetting equipment. Phototypesetting machines were later replaced by desktop publishing by computers.

Many of the people in the documentary are so passionate about the Linotype, they collect and maintain Linotypes. Some of the people you will meet are a traveling Linotype mechanic who goes to various print shops or museums that still use a Linotype; and a man who bought numerous Linotypes and started The Linotype University on his property alongside six miles of railroad track he built for his train.

As a former phototypesetter in the late 1970s and early 1980s, I had heard of hot-metal typesetting. In my research, I had learned some of what was covered in film, but I never got to see a working Linotype. So not only did I enjoy seeing a working Linotype in the film but I also appreciated the depth of information and history, Director Wilson presents.

Director, Douglas Wilson; Cinematographer and Film Editor, Brandon Goodwin; and Sound Technician Jess Heugel have created a comprehensive, fascinating documentary about the man and the machine that revolutionized the print world.

Contact Info:

In Search of the Eighth Wonder of the World

2733 E. Battlefield Street, #141
Springfield, MO 65804



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