20 June 2011

Linotype Lives!

Yesterday my husband and I made the short trip to the town of North Andover, Massachusetts, which is home to the Museum of Printing. Normally this would excite me, but the fact that they actually run the equipment every Father's Day was enough to put me over the edge. We were unable to go last year so I was really looking forward to this.

They host a Printing Arts Fair and there were a few vendors out front, as well as a paper making demo, when we arrived. We went inside and got the basic info from the volunteers and we were on our way. Most of the stuff was exactly what you'd expect--wooden type, letterpresses, RIPs, assorted printing books, phototypesetting equipment, typewriters, old Apple computers and the rest.

Then I turned a corner and there she was staring me right in the face. The Linotype. This was the most important, most elusive piece of equipment in my entire printing career as I have never seen one in the flesh--or in the metal, I should say. I won't bore you with the details, but it pretty much revolutionized typesetting and the publishing industry.

I was really excited to see this, poked around for a bit and went about our business. We then entered the room where the equipment was running and lo and behold there was a Linotype running! Enter Ray, who is probably one of the coolest guys I've ever met. An experienced Linotype operator from back in the day, he seemed to be having the time of his life explaining this wonderful piece of machinery to anyone who would listen. You could tell this man had passion and he enjoyed answering questions from a handful of us that were around. This video is Ray describing the Linotype and how it works.

Linotype from Brooke Hamilton on Vimeo.

It's not surprising that Thomas Edison called the Linotype, "The eighth wonder of the world."

Even if yesterday wasn't Father's Day, I would have called my dad anyway because he is the only person I know that would appreciate my experience. He's been in printing since high school, graduated from RIT and has probably forgotten more than I know about printing today. He told me that when he was in college he was taking typing and Linotype at the same time. I can only imagine how hard that could be due to the fact that Linotype keyboards are completely different than your standard qwerty format. Personally, I found the ligatures on the Linotype interesting.

You can read more about the Linotype here. And it should be noted that there is a documentary currently being made. You can learn more about Linotype the film here.