Last week we took a look at punchcutting, the first step in the production of metal type. Next up, what do you do with a punch that’s been cut? You strike a matrix, that’s what.
|(via NY Times) Matrices for the Romain de l’Université typeface.|
|two halves of a hand-mould. (via the University of Manchester)|
In composition casting , the matrices for a complete font are loaded into a matrix-case and inserted into a casting machine, which casts the required characters automatically. Below is the matrix case for a Monotype composition casting machine containing the entire set of characters for a font to be cast.
|A font of matrices loaded into a matrix-case ready for insertion into a Monotype composition casting machine.|
This machine would allow a printer to typeset printed matter automatically, by casting individual pieces of type in the order necessary in a manuscript. The operator would key in the text via a keyboard, which punches a paper tape which will determine the casting of type.This tape is then taken to the Monotype caster, which reads the tape, and produces the a column of justified type from which the text entered on the keyboard can be printed. The holes in the tape tell the caster where in the matrix case each required character is located.
Another variation of this is the linotype, which produces type set in complete solid lines, called slugs. Matrices for the linotype have a distinctive pattern of teeth cut into one edge of the metal, which conveys information to the machine about which character it represents.
We’ll take a closer look at these fascinating pieces of machinery next week- stay tuned for another exciting chapter in the life cycle of type.
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