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Text is everywhere. What role did a man called Ottmar Mergenthaler play in this? In Honor of Ottmar Mergenthaler’s

Heidelberger Druckmaschinen AG Kurfuersten-Anlage 52–60 69115 Heidelberg Germany Phone +49-62 21-92-00 Fax +49-62 21-92-69 99

150 th B i r t h d a y



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Bedtime is when many people snuggle down for a good read. The next morning at breakfast they may like to catch up with events from a freshly printed newspaper. And later in the day, during a visit to the dentist for instance, they may try to distract themselves from the sound of drilling in the next room by flicking through a sports magazine or burying their noses in a lifestyle or science magazine. Even in the age of the Internet, reading is still a popular pursuit – whether it’s to entertain, educate or inform. Text comes in a huge variety of forms – printed, written, even sprayed – and since PCs made their way into our homes, anyone can play around with choosing fonts and formatting text. Typographers, graphic designers and book designers do this on a professional basis, and at some point most of them use fonts from LinotypeLibrary, which has been a subsidiary of Heidelberger Druckmaschinen AG since 1997. This brand stands for quality and variety and has a proud tradition. Everyone who deals with typefaces these days is familiar with Palatino, Sabon, Helvetica, Syntax, Univers and Frutiger. But do most people know the origin of the name Linotype? Do they know that a certain Ottmar Mergenthaler was responsible for it? This talented Swabian inventor, a trained watchmaker who emigrated to the United States in 1872, was born in Hachtel, Germany on May 11, 1854. The 150 year anniversary of his birth is therefore the perfect occasion to remember him and his groundbreaking invention, the Linotype typesetting machine. In the 19th century, the age of the industrial revolution, the printing industry was also undergoing a transformation. The key phrase of the time was “faster, cheaper, more”. The competition to achieve greater speed had been sparked by Koenig’s high-speed flatbed cylinder press, and Bullock’s rotary press was a further step forward. The complex process of entering text, which involved composition and justification, and distribution of the matrices, had been a major obstacle to mechanization for a long time. Mergenthaler was the first to solve this problem. The following is an attempt to outline the life of an inventor and chart the history of the resulting company down to the present day. It addresses technical and social issues as well as the topics of text and typography. This is what LinotypeLibrary stands for today – by supplying high-quality typefaces, it lays the groundwork for outstanding typography in all types of printed matter.

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Korea: The first attempts to sand-cast individual characters from metal (similarly to coin minting) or using the lost-wax process.

Ulman Stromer operates the first German paper mill in Nuremberg, an important development for the success and spread of printing.

China: According to tradition, blacksmith Pi Sheng produces characters from burnt clay, which are then assembled in a setting frame to form text and serve directly as printing forms. As with wooden-plate or block printing, this form of printing involves the use of a dry brush.

Middle of 11th Century

Circa 105 AD

China: The invention of paper goes back to the 2nd century BC, but it is court eunuch Ts’ai Lun who ensures its continued use in 105 AD. The newly produced material, first made from silk fibers and later from mulberry tree bark and other natural fibers, quickly becomes more popular than other writing materials (strips of wood and bamboo or silk scrolls). Paper makes its way along the Silk Road to the Arab countries and from there to Europe during the 10th century.

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Beginning of 13th Century


From the mechanization of writing to the mechanization of typesetting. Gutenberg’s system for reproducing text was brilliant. He divided a single entity (the text) into its basic components (letters, numbers, punctuation), which could then be taken apart and put together again as desired. He also invented a method that could produce these basic components (using male dies, female dies or matrices, and a manual casting instrument). The production system consisted of the very laborious process of type casting and manual typesetting, followed by printing in the press using the letterpress method. But he achieved his aim of mechanizing and thus simplifying a complex process. That was an early form of mass production. But typesetting and printing had been done long before Gutenberg. There was already an established market for handwritten books. The Chinese began producing books many centuries earlier; they carved characters or pictures in reverse into wooden panels,

applied ink, and then transferred the results onto paper. The oldest preserved and dated book is the Diamond Sutra from 868. Even older prints were made in the form of scrolls with Buddhist magic spells (Dhâranî) in the 7th century, however. It is reported that in the middle of the 11th century, the blacksmith Pi Sheng invented a method of producing individual characters from clay that could be used directly as printing forms. Around 1312/13, Wang Zhen began experimenting with wood. He placed the 30,000 wooden characters required to write Chinese on two round, rotating typesetting tables. However, this system was not particularly suited to the Chinese system of writing with its very large number of pictograms. It was generally easier to carve whole texts into wood and copy them using the block printing method. This also remained standard practice for centuries.



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Koenig’s flatbed cylinder press increases the demand for faster typesetting, and the race to invent the typesetting machine begins. English engineer William Church receives a patent for a typesetting machine. Freshly cast hand-composition types are arranged in lines by striking keys. After printing, they are melted down. There is no useful application for the invention, however. Is it ahead of its time? In any case, it marks the first in a long series of further creations by other inventors.

Englishman James Young and Belgian Adrien Delcambre are awarded a patent for the Pianotype, developed together with Henry Bessemer. It is the first functional typesetting machine with justification and distribution capabilities. The downside is that between four and six people are required to operate it.

Like the Chinese, the Koreans also have a long tradition of printing. In the 13th century, individual characters were first cast from metal there. King Sejong’s orthographic reform of 1440 facilitated the typesetting of individual characters. He brought about the creation of a phonetic alphabet made up of 28 geometric characters (the “Hangul”). Regardless of how printing forms were made, actual printing in China and Korea continued to be done by manual block printing without a press until the 19th century. In contrast, there was no better or more cost-effective typesetting and printing method for our phonetic alphabet with its 26 letters than that invented by Gutenberg. He was the one who launched the first media revolution. His invention helped to change the world. There would have been no Reformation without Luther’s printed word, no Peasant Wars without pamphlets, no Enlightenment without encyclopedias, and no political reforms in Germany without the “Intelligence Gazette”. Early colonists and missionaries often took type punches, manual casting instruments and presses with them on their journeys to new lands. And even when they did not produce printed material themselves, reports about distant countries and strange cus-



Printing steps up a gear: Friedrich Gottlob Koenig receives English patent no. 3496 for his innovative flatbed cylinder press. In the night from November 28 to 29, 1814, the first two-cylinder presses, capable of producing 1,100 sheets per hour (on one side), print the entire production run of “The Times”.


Middle of 15th Century

Johannes Gutenberg completes his system for reproducing text with type casting (for series production of reusable types), hand composition and production on a platen press. In addition to the 42-line Gutenberg bible, he also prints school textbooks, dictionaries, forms, and other commercial jobs.

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toms found their way in printed form back to those they had left behind. The demand for narratives and reports was great but very few people were able to read, even well into the 18th century. One person recited the story while others gathered to listen. The age of the Enlightenment, which began in the second half of the 18th century, introduced many reforms, particularly in education. As the desire for information and access to reading materials grew, so did the numbers of those able to read and, indeed, the number of those fanatical about reading. It was essential for the printing industry to step up production. The process set in motion by Gutenberg enjoyed a renaissance as a result of industrialization. The number of new publications and the length of print runs rose continually, and newspapers and magazines grew in size. Numerous advances in printing technology over the course of the 19th century meant it was possible to satisfy the growing desire to read in all levels of society by increasing print output and quality. It began with Louis Robert’s papermaking machine (in 1799) and Friedrich Koenig’s “flatbed cylinder press” (in 1811). In 1886, Ottmar Mergenthaler finally also mechanized typesetting.



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Even faster printing: William Bullock of Philadelphia successfully utilizes the rotary principle (round printing form/impression cylinder) with curved stereos. It is capable of attaining speeds of 10,000 sheets per hour (double-sided). Its main area use is for newspaper publishing. At roughly the same time, John Walter III (“The Times”) commissions the construction of the first rotary web press.

Ottmar Mergenthaler is born on May 11 in Hachtel, Bad Mergentheim. He is the fourth child of village schoolteacher Johann Georg Mergenthaler (1820–1893) and his wife Rosine Ackermann (1828–1859).

Christian Sörensen’s Tacheotyp high-speed setter sets the type and redeposits it back. It works with special types. Although awarded the “Great Medal of Honor” at the Paris Industry Exhibition in 1855, the Danish invention fails to find success.

Mergenthaler’s mother dies on October 5.

The family moves to nearby Ensingen, where Ottmar Mergenthaler attends elementary school.







Mergenthaler’s father marries Karoline Hahl on February 12.

It was not until 350 years after Gutenberg that there were any major changes in the printing industry. All parts of the graphic arts industry saw an increase in output during the 19th century. However, it was a long time before it was possible to mechanize the complex process of composition, justification and distribution of the matrices. In print shops, legions of manual typesetters struggled to keep up with a handful of high-performance presses. More than 200 inventors in Europe and the USA worked to solve the problem of typesetting, which cost some particularly obsessed tinkerers and daring investors everything they owned and allegedly drove one expert mad. Even the writer Mark Twain invested a large sum of money in the Paige machine, which worked very well but was far too complicated. In the end, he lost everything. Around 2,000 patents were filed worldwide. Only a few of these would-be “typesetting machines” actually found their way into print shops.

The most successful machines were those produced by Charles Kastenbein (1869) and Josef Thorne (1880). One weakness had to do with the mechanically moving type. The soft metal tended to jam the channels. These machines also usually had to be operated by several people and were highly inefficient. The approach of working directly with type proved to be wrong. Experiments with machines that stamped out characters from cold metal strips were also unsuccessful. An entirely new approach had to be taken to the problem.


More type – the first complete casting machine is produced by Englishmen J. R. Johnson and S. Atkinson. Improvements in France and Germany in the 1880s increase output to up to 50,000 ready-forcomposition types a day.



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Ottmar Mergenthaler begins a clockmaker’s apprenticeship with his uncle, Louis Hahl, and cousin Theodor in Bietigheim in May. In his last year of apprenticeship, he is even paid a wage because of the outstanding quality of his work. At the same time, he continues his education during the evenings and on Sundays.

Mergenthaler has finished his apprenticeship, but there are high levels of unemployment in the newly unified German Empire following the Franco-Prussian War. The 18-year-old decides to emigrate and contacts his cousin August Hahl, who builds electrical instruments and patent models in Washington D.C.. Hahl promises Mergenthaler a job and even fronts him the money for the journey.

On October 26, Mergenthaler arrives on the “Berlin” steamer in Locust Point and travels on to his cousin’s in Washington. His work there brings him into contact with many inventors.


Mergenthaler becomes manager at Hahl and acquires his first patent on March 17.



German Karl (Charles) Kastenbein develops a typesetting machine for hand-composition types with a separate distribution device. Four people are required to operate it: a keyboard operator, justifier, distributor, and someone to change the type channels. Kastenbein’s machine is extremely successful. For example, it is used in London (by “The Times” from 1872 onward), in Paris, Copenhagen and Dresden (by the “Dresdener Nachrichten” newspaper from 1882 onward).


Around 1865

Ottmar Mergenthaler’s technical skill is already manifesting itself. For example, he succeeds in repairing the church tower clock, which even the town’s clockmaker could not fix.

Born in a time of upheaval, Ottmar Mergenthaler played a key role in the technical evolution of the printing industry. When a boy named Ottmar Mergenthaler was born on May 11, 1854 in the small village of Hachtel near Bad Mergentheim, Germany, the first trains had also started operating and Justus Liebig’s newly developed artificial fertilization process was starting to be used in agriculture. Niepce and Daguerre had both invented photographic methods independently of each other, in the form of heliogravure and daguerreotypes, while elsewhere Samuel Morse invented the first usable electromagnetic telegraph system and built the first telegraph line connecting Washington and Baltimore. Ottmar Mergenthaler was born in a period of groundbreaking scientific and technical inventions and discoveries: a time of dramatic political and social upheaval. His father, Johann Georg Mergenthaler (1820–93), was a village school teacher. In 1858, he moved with his family of six to nearby Ensingen, where they lived in modest circumstances. Ottmar’s childhood consisted of school

and work in the home and on the land. A bright child with a wide range of interests, he succeeded – among other things – in repairing the broken church tower clock in Ensingen, an early sign of his technical ability. However, unlike his two older brothers, he did not have the opportunity to continue on at school. Money was too short. Even his wish to become a mechanical engineer or “manufacturer of mathematical instruments” could not be fulfilled. Instead, he completed an apprenticeship as a watchmaker with his uncle, Louis Hahl, and his cousin Theodor in Bietigheim – a fortunate occurrence, considering what followed. There he learned how to work with springs, metal alloys and stones and “that, if a watch is to work, the mechanism must be regarded as a single entity. Each new element must be in harmony with the other parts to form a whole which is complete down to the finest detail and in which everything is perfectly coordinated.”


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American engineer Josef Thorne builds a machine similar to the Tacheotyp invented by Danishman Christian Sörensen. It improves on Sörensen’s model, as distribution is performed automatically. Only two people are required to operate it: a keyboard operator and justifier. The machine becomes widely used. It can output between 6,000 and 7,000 characters per hour.

Mergenthaler has his first brush with the printing industry on August 17, when Charles T. Moore visits the workshop with plans drawn up by James O. Clephane for a typewriter composing machine for lithographic printing.. Mergenthaler improves on them over the course of a year.

The Hahl company moves to Baltimore.

Mergenthaler attempts to improve on the stamping press, but gives up. Instead he designs a line casting machine, but then tears up the plans. James O. Clephane encourages him to continue.

The stamping press is completed at the end of the year. Mergenthaler becomes a partner of cousin Hahl.

Mergenthaler splits from August Hahl and establishes his own workshop in Baltimore’s Bank Lane. To continue with his invention work, he finds a new financial backer in lawyer L. G. Hine.

Mergenthaler marries Emma Lachenmayer and they have five children between 1883 and 1894.

Mergenthaler was on the right track. The threat of unemployment in Germany coupled with already having family ties overseas prompted the eighteen-year-old to emigrate to America in 1872. His cousin August Hahl had a workshop in which he built patent models and other items in Washington D.C., which was also where the national patent office was located. This meant that there was plenty of work, and Mergenthaler could realize his dream of becoming a “manufacturer of mathematical instruments” and technical equipment. In 1876, he first came into contact with the printing industry and the issue of typesetting through the inventor Charles T. Moore. This signaled the start of an obsession with mechanizing manual typesetting. His extensive and initially unsuccessful experiments to this end led to financial difficulties in the company (which he was now co-managing with Hahl) and eventually to his leaving the company. In 1882, Mergenthaler set up his own workshop in Baltimore and continued his experiments alongside his day-to-day work. Mergenthaler never wasted even a single idea when it came to designing a typesetting machine. He quickly found out about previous attempts at mechanization







James O. Clephane approaches Mergenthaler in the summer. He wants to have a stereotype-based matrix stamping press built.



and set off on an entirely new path. He liked the idea of taking an indirect approach. This led him from stamping raised type based on the stereotype system to the invention of the first hot-metal typesetting and casting machine in 1884. It produced solid lines of text cast from rows of matrices. Each matrice was a block of metal into which an impression of a letter had been engraved or stamped. After a few rows of matrices were assembled, it was transferred mechanically to a moldmaking device. Molten metal alloy was forced into the mold against the matrices and hardened almost immediately. The result was a bar of metal of the desired length of line with raised letters. The presentation of this machine on July 26, 1884 to a small circle of interested persons may be regarded as the birth of the modern typesetting machine. But even then, Mergenthaler did not rest on his laurels. He continued his work and solved the problem of automatic justification with the double-wedge space band. When he wanted to file a patent for a new machine fitted with it in 1885, it emerged that J. W. Shuckers already owned a patent for essentially the same invention, which he had licensed to the Rogers Typograph Company. In the dis-



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The “Blower” with freely circulating matrices is the first working matrix-setting and line casting machine. It is patented on July 17, two weeks after its demonstration at the “New York Tribune”. The machine becomes known as the “Linotype” after publisher Whitelaw Reid exclaims “A line of types!” The first machine-set book, “The Tribune Book of Open Air Sports”, is published in the same year. Expensive matrix production remains a problem. So much so that, in the end, Mergenthaler himself sets up a matrix plant and constructs 30 special machines for producing them.

After several trials, the “Simplex” becomes the final form of the Linotype. In contrast to the “Blower”, it has a column base and the matrix magazine is attached diagonally instead of vertically. The first article acknowledging the Linotype appears in the “Journal für Buchdruckerkunst” (printing journal) on October 3.

pute over who had the idea first, Mergenthaler drew the short straw. If he was going to build his machine, he had no choice but to buy the patent from his competitor – for the exorbitant sum of 416,000 dollars. Almost ten years later, Mergenthaler’s Linotype Company eliminated this competitor by taking it over. Mergenthaler pursued his objective with exemplary persistence. It seems that he also understood how to convince investors to back his projects. On July 3, 1886, he presented the “Blower”, which operated with compressed air and was the first machine with a circulating matrix. This is usually regarded as the actual “birth” of this machine. In any case, the hundredth anniversary was celebrated in 1986 with the presentation of a new photocomposition machine (the Linotronic 500 with laser technology) and the Centennial font specially designed by Adrian Frutiger for the jubilee. The 1886 machine also experienced teething problems. Mergenthaler, a perfectionist by nature, did not want to begin mass-producing it until these problems had been resolved. However, the shareholders were of a different opinion. As a result, Mergenthaler unceremoniously left to set up his own factory and dedicated

Differences of opinion lead Mergenthaler to found his own company with the aim of improving the “Blower”, which is still not working perfectly. In the same year, he falls ill with pleurisy and does not fully recover. Six years later, this illness leads to the onset of tuberculosis.



Linn Boyd Benton invents a machine for punchcutting, which Mergenthaler makes immediate use of. It greatly facilitates the labor-intensive production of Linotype matrices.




The improved machine is presented in the presence of American President Chester A. Arthur. A malicious article in the “Journal für Buchdruckerkunst” (printing journal) does not prevent the machine from being patented in Germany on May 12 of the same year.

The “American Newspaper Publishers’ Association” (ANPA) is founded in February in Rochester, N.Y. American newspaper publishers actively organize and promote forwardlooking development projects. Germany is not as innovative. The “Verein deutscher Zeitungsverleger” (organization of newspaper publishers) is founded in 1894.

himself to perfecting his idea. In 1889, he produced his last and best typesetting machine: the Simplex with a column base and diagonally attached matrix magazine. It was in this form that the modern typesetting machine finally arrived in Germany, in 1894.


Mergenthaler’s first line casting machine is presented to a small group of experts on July 26. As a result, the National Typographic Co. is founded.


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The first Linotype typesetting machine is exhibited in Germany at Französische Strasse 33a in Berlin in November. At the end of the year, Mergenthaler falls ill with tuberculosis and seeks a cure in Maryland.

Ottmar Mergenthaler sees his father again on a visit to Germany. By the end of the year, 1,000 Linotype typesetting machines are in operation in the USA.

The Linotype is shown to the general public for the first time in Germany at the Berlin Trade Exhibition in May. Four machines successfully typeset the exhibition newspaper. Founding of the Mergenthaler Setzmaschinen-Fabrik on October 28 in Berlin, with Carl Mühleisen as technical manager. Manufacture is done by Berliner Maschinenbau AG (BMAG), formerly L. Schwartzkopff.


The Linotype is extremely successful at the World Exhibition in Chicago.




An exhibition in the Judge Building in New York results in the start of mass production of the Simplex typesetting machine and the opening of the first Linotype typesetting school. Mergenthaler’s own company merges with the old firm to form Mergenthaler Linotype Comp. Brooklyn. The first president is Ph. T. Dodge. A subsidiary, Linotype Machine Co., is founded in Manchester, England.

A first for Europe: The first Linotype built in England begins operation on October 5 at the Amsterdam newspaper print shop “De Nederlandsche Financier”. The typesetters go on strike because of it and the newspaper is published five days late as a result. Their scorn and concern are portrayed in a reprinted caricature that had first appeared in 1875.



Not only faster, but better too. The machine was fast, but it could only produce simple body text without accentuation, display characters or ornamentation. The hourly output was 6,000 to 7,000 characters. American newspaper publishers considered this to be sufficient, but not the inventor. The Simplex represented a technical high point but was by no means the end of the development process. Aspirations grew, and the ensuing machines became increasingly versatile over the course of time. This began before the turn of the century with the two-letter matrix and double magazines for mixing fonts, and led to detailed improvements, add-ons and new models which met different needs, including price considerations. One key innovation was “exchangeability” (each individual part fitted all Linotypes), which eventually spawned the idea of modular extendibility. It was no longer necessary to buy the four magazine machine straight away; instead, it was possible to buy

a machine with two magazines and add more magazines later if required. The new machines first conquered the newspaper and the advertising sectors and subsequently came to dominate high-quality scientific and foreign language publications. The Teletypesetter (TTS) resulted in a further increase in speed. Here, data was entered at the perforator. The casting process was then controlled by punched tape. The Lino Quick typesetting machines equipped with TTS, which were introduced in Germany in the 1950s, were able to cast 18,000 characters an hour. The development of hot-metal composition machines continued into the age of photocomposition, Linotype playing a vital role in this development. This reached its peak in 1963 with the Universa with six magazines and distributors for font sizes between 6 and 42 pt. The Quadriga single-distributor machine, launched in 1970 and featuring four magazines and casting forms for fre-

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Offset printing is born. It is developed by two inventors independently of one other: Ira W. Rubel in New Jersey and Caspar Hermann, who emigrated to the United States and is credited with bringing the process to Germany (Leipzig) in 1907. In terms of market share, offset printing takes until 1980 to overtake letterpress, but it has an early impact on the development of photocomposition. A collective wage bargaining agreement on typesetting machines enters into force on January 1 in Germany. Only trained manual typesetters are permitted to operate the machines. Their working hours are limited to eight or nine a day, and they qualify for between 25 and 30 percent more pay.

A variety of typefaces: After Mergenthaler works on a two-character matrix, Carl Mühleisen in Berlin constructs the first doublemagazine Linotype for mixed typesetting. The following decades are shaped by more enhancements and additional equipment for the machine to improve typesetting quality and speed up the process.

The first Linotype of German origin is delivered to the “Zerbster Extrapost”, where it remains in operation for 30 years.


Ottmar Mergenthaler dies of tuberculosis at the relatively young age of 45 on October 28 in Baltimore. He is buried in the Laudon Park cemetery.

quent typeface changes, was a big seller from the very outset, and in 1973 the in-house company magazine “Linotype-Post” reported on the success of the latest Delta version. It was used by newspaper print shops in Flensburg and Constance as a “fast and flexible correcting machine”. In those years the company enjoyed record sales, mainly due of hot-metal composition machines. But the era of hot-metal composition was coming to an end. Machine production was stopped in the USA in 1970 and Germany followed suit in 1976. This happened exactly 100 years after Ottmar Mergenthaler met Charles T. Moore in Hahl’s workshop in Washington and was first acquainted with the problem of typesetting through Moore’s “lithographic typewriter composing machine”. The fresh ideas of the newcomer to the field meant that it was only ten years before Mergenthaler solved this major technical problem.

The year of the giant Gutenberg celebrations brings Jacques Mayer, cofounder and manager of the Berlin branch, and typecasting works owner David Stempel together. A contract signed on December 12 sees David Stempel taking over matrix production for continental Europe. The first type matrices are in Fraktur No. 5 in both light and semibold typefaces, which later becomes known as Gutenberg Fraktur.


On October 11, Edgar Herfurth, publisher of the “Leipziger Neueste Nachrichten”, is the first in Germany to order two Englishbuilt Linotypes. They probably go into service in January 1898. To keep up with the competition in Leipzig, other newspaper publishers immediately follow suit. Three Linotypes are ordered for the “Hamburger Neueste Nachrichten” and four for the “Münchener Generalanzeiger”.

A prairie fire in November destroys Mergenthaler’s property in Deming in the state of New Mexico, and with it go all of his records. The family survives and returns to Baltimore.


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The Leipzig Trade and Industry Exhibition also shows the Linotype in action. In a competition with other machines, the Linotype emerges as the “queen of the typesetting machines”.




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Film instead of brass: Munich-based print shop owner Adolf Müller patents a photocomposition machine built according to the Linotype principle. The matrices have characters on negative film, and the caster is replaced by an imaging unit. Samuel Friedman and Otto Bloom build a prototype in 1922. There are no more developments until 1946, when an Intertype-Fotosetter based on the same principle appears and achieves widespread popularity. The first experiments with photocomposition had begun back in the 1870s.

Even faster, even more up-to-date: The Teletypesetter Corporation in Chicago presents the first systems for fully-automatic control of typesetting machines like the Linotype. These TTS units are mostly installed at large American news services between 1932 and 1950. A control center enables numerous typesetting machines in different locations to be controlled by means of punched tape. As of 1939, only two such units are in operation in Europe (in the Netherlands and the United Kingdom). Alfred Utesch in Hamburg becomes the first in Germany to utilize the TTS system, in 1954.

The first Arabic text is typeset on a Linotype.




The 5,000th German Linotype is supplied.


The 1,000 Linotype of German origin is supplied. th

On the 25th anniversary of Ottmar Mergenthaler’s death, a small museum is set up in his native town of Hachtel and a memorial sign put up outside the house where he was born.


The four-magazine Linotype is presented at the Bugra exhibition in Leipzig. Mixing fonts is now even easier, and the Linotype’s range of application is greatly increased as a result. In addition, the Heidelberg platen is introduced. Between 1914 and 1985, more than 165,000 of these presses will be manufactured.





The story of the introduction of Linotype was different in America and Germany. American newspaper publishers played a key role in the development and introduction of the Linotype typesetting machine. It took another ten years before the first typesetting machines were in operation in newspaper pressrooms in Germany. Since the 19th century, daily newspapers had been the primary print medium driving innovation, because they had to be up-to-date and required quick output. It is no coincidence that the first flatbed cylinder presses and rotary presses were used in newspaper pressrooms, and that Charles Kastenbein’s typesetting machine was first put to the test in this sector. In Germany in 1882, the Liepsch & Reichardt printing company, which owned and published the “Dresdner Nachrichten”, installed its first Kastenbein typesetter and distribution machines. By 1890, not only 36 male but also 20 female typesetters worked here, before the machines were gradually replaced with Linotypes after the turn of the 20th century.

It is clear, however, that German newspaper publishers did not actively support the development of typesetting machines. Their attitude was generally rather skeptical and the response of the trade press to new typesetting machines was very negative. They simply did not recognize the potential of the Linotype. The usually wellinformed “Journal für Buchdruckerkunst” immediately labeled Mergenthaler’s 1885 demonstration as “the great typesetting machine scam”. In contrast, several American publishers supported Mergenthaler’s work with great enthusiasm and large sums of money. Support came from a seven-member “syndicate of prominent newspaper publishers” that included Whitelaw Reid (New York Tribune), Stilson Hutchins (Washington Post), and Victor F. Lawson (Chicago Daily News). Naturally, these entrepreneurs wanted to benefit from the new invention as quickly as possible.

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The “Comet” high-speed typesetting machine manufactured by Mergenthaler Linotype Company in New York ushers in higher levels of performance. The teletypesetter becomes a fully automatic typesetting device able to output over 20,000 characters per hour. A branch is set up in Frankfurt am Main and soon becomes the company’s head office.

A clear winner: Approx. 110,000 hotmetal typesetting machines are in use worldwide at this time, compared with only three (American) photocomposition machines.





Second World War …

On what would have been his 100th birthday, much is done to honor the inventor of the Linotype, including a special commemorative stamp and a Mergenthaler commemorative postmark by the German Post Office. The highlight is the opening of the new Mergenthaler memorial in Hachtel. Pauline and Hermann C. Mergenthaler travel from the United States for the occasion.

They regarded the “Blower” of 1886 as ready for largescale production and founded the Mergenthaler Printing Co. to achieve this. By 1888, 128 machines had been delivered to the syndicate’s printing plants. The Linotype was expected to prove its value in practice, but its success was limited. There was intensive discussion of its shortcomings, which ultimately caused Mergenthaler to stop production and fix the faults. However, not everyone agreed and the inventor left the company to continue developing the machine on his own. The company and Mergenthaler were reunited after the presentation of the Simplex. The Mergenthaler Linotype Company, as it was now known, subsequently eliminated the competition through patent litigation and takeovers. It established a monopoly in North America and enjoyed good profits. When the Linotype patents expired after 15 years, it was another group of publishers that supported the construction of an alternative machine. The result was Intertype. This typesetting machine, very similar to the Linotype, remained the only real competitor in North America. The pragmatism of the American publishers is also shown by the agreement concluded at the beginning of

Five Linotype models are showcased at Drupa, the first largescale postwar exhibition for the graphic arts industry.

In Baltimore, the new “Mergenthaler Vocational Technical High School” known as “Mervotech” is officially opened on January 17. In the same year, the innovative Linofilm phototypesetting machine is demonstrated in Brooklyn and the first punchedtape-controlled (TTS) German Linotype Quick System is demonstrated at Drupa in Düsseldorf. Keyboard output is around 12,000 characters per hour and casting output approx. 18,000 characters per hour.

the 1890s between the ANPA publishers’ organization and the Remington typewriter company. They had recognized the importance of easily legible manuscripts and invested in typewriters and typists who typed up illegible handwritten texts. Following the establishment of a Linotype factory in 1890 in England, Mergenthaler’s colleague C. A. Albrecht, the publisher William Mayer, and his son Jacques traveled to Germany in 1894 to find business partners there. The first Linotype exhibited in Berlin immediately captivated the interest of newspaper man August Scherl. He had it installed in his print shop for testing and even considered buying the licenses for production in Germany. However, he was unable to make up his mind and was beaten to it by Berliner Maschinenbau AG., formerly Schwartzkopff, and the first Linotypes – which were still being produced in England – were put into operation in late 1897 not in Berlin, but in Leipzig newspaper printing plants. Companies in Hamburg, Munich and Stuttgart followed. The first German Linotype went to the “Zerbster Extrapost” in 1899, where it was used for over thirty years. The economic pressures to invest in a typesetting machine were not as great for German publishers as for


At the end of the war, the Mergenthaler Setzmaschinen-Fabrik finds itself in East Berlin, but Berliner Maschinenbau AG, formerly Schwartzkopff, is in the French sector. As a result, a sales office is set up in the West. After dismantling and removing the BMAG equipment and the Linotype building, which had opened in 1925, work begins again in July. The motto is “repair and maintain”. Regular production does not resume until 1949.

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Digitization: The era of optomechanical photocomposition machines (with grids whose characters are projected and imaged on the photographic material as a single entity) signals a move away from physical, inflexible negative type with the introduction of the Hell Digiset. A cathode ray creates and images the characters from many small dots. Hourly output is over a million characters. The main disadvantage is the high price.

The Linofilm, fitted with an electronic flash tube, is presented in Germany at Drupa after a field test at the New York “Daily News” in 1956. It is one of the first electronically controlled photocomposition machines and consists of a keyboard, automatic photocomposition unit, and correction and assembly devices. Grids: 18 type frames made from glass and steel each with 88 characters and arranged in a circle in a magazine drum. Maximum output of 43,000 characters per hour.

Multifunctional: Linotype “Universa” for bookwork composition and large-font composition up to 42 pt, with six magazines and distributors and a casting wheel with six molds.

Since the start of cooperation in 1900, 300 million matrices have been produced at D. Stempel in Frankfurt.

North American companies, because the manual typesetters were paid much less. Overseas, and even in Britain, wages were 50 to 500 (!) percent higher than in Germany. It is not surprising that the Anglo-Saxon typesetters took to the barricades when the “iron colleague” appeared on the scene and threatened to condemn many of them to unemployment. In Germany, where employees had been organized into unions since 1866 (the print shop owners established their own organization in 1869), the emphasis was on working together to achieve better results. This resulted in an early wage agreement and finally in the collective wage bargaining agreement for typesetters of 1900. This introduced higher wages, an eight-hour working day, and the guarantee that only trained manual typesetters who belonged to the union could be promoted to machine typesetters. This agreement – and the increasing demand for printed material – meant that there were no unemployed male typesetters in Germany at the time. However, the story was less than ideal for women typeset-

The first Linofilm is installed in Germany, at Belser in Stuttgart. Sixty units have already been sold worldwide by this time.





Mass production begins of the new electronic Lino-Quick-Perforator, developed in Germany and unveiled the previous year.

The LinoQuick-Setter achieves 24,000 characters per hour.





ters, many of whom faced unemployment. One notable and often overlooked detail in the history of the development of typesetting machines is that the early phase (typesetting machines) promoted the appearance of a female workforce, while with the advance in technical development (typesetting and casting machines), machine typesetting became a male domain. Seasoned typesetters had mocked the first “typographic keyboards”. It was only gradually that the derision turned into concern about unwelcome competition, which in the end was successfully eliminated. But that is another story. The triumphant progress of the Linotype was unstoppable. The typesetting machine gradually also succeeded in meeting the high typographical requirements. A huge variety of typefaces were developed, especially for newspapers. This was preceded by studies on legibility and technical issues. Ionic No. 5 (1926) and Excelsior (1931) are the best-known of these typefaces with enhanced legibility. During the 1950s, articles in the Linotype-Post repeatedly called for good,


Three in one: Jan Tschichold’s Sabon is the first font with identical letterspacing for three different systems: hand composition, the Linotype line composing and casting machine and the Monotype single letter composing and casting machine. A faithful replica of this classic typeface for use on the latest technology is designed in 2003 by Jean François Porchez for the LinotypeLibrary; it is called Sabon Next.

The company base moves from the USA to Mergenthaler Allee 55–75 in Eschborn near Frankfurt.

Production of Linotype hot-metal typesetting machines is discontinued in the USA. In Germany, Linotype enjoys its most successful year in the company’s history, particularly through the sale of hot-metal typesetting machines.

D. Stempel AG records record sales of hot-metal types.

The newly presented Linofilm VIP, whose optomechanical imaging unit can achieve speeds of approx. 70,000 characters per hour, consequently becomes the best-selling computer-controlled photocomposition machine in Germany. It also greatly increases the typeface library. Introduction of the Linocomp II photocomposition machine and the CRT-based Linotron 303/TC and 505/TC.

i.e., tightly justified, bookwork composition and intensive maintenance of the matrices. The Printing Art Foundation (Stiftung Buchkunst) honored successful efforts to achieve high quality by bestowing numerous awards.




Mergenthaler Setzmaschinenfabrik GmbH and Linotype GmbH merge to form Mergenthaler Linotype GmbH headquartered in Frankfurt on the Main.



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The first Linotron 505 goes into operation at Mohndruck in Gütersloh, Germany. Brought out in 1967, it soon outstrips the expensive Digiset. It generates characters by using CRT imaging to scan a text grid matrix consisting of thin, vertical lines.

Far-sighted: D. Stempel executive board member Walter Greisner begins developing modern type carrier production methods for photocomposition.


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The American Linotype Group is taken over by Allied Chemical in Morristown, N.J.

Seven years after production of typesetting machines stopped, the manufacture of matrices also ends. The Group headquarters, together with the development and production departments, also relocate to Eschborn.

Linotype AG takes over photocomposition font production from D. Stempel on June 30 and integrates the company and its workforce into the Eschborn plant.



The DTP era begins at the same time as offset printing and photocomposition finally push out letterpress and hotmetal composition. The prerequisite for its success is the device-independent PostScript page description language, developed at the beginning of the 1980s by Adobe founders Chuck Geschke and John Warnock.

The Linotronic 101 utilizes laser technology.


Production of Linotype typesetting machines is discontinued in Germany. Numerous Linotypes are still in operation.




A new generation of photocomposition machines uses a Raster Image Processor (RIP) and laser technology. Monotype's Lasercomp is the first machine of this type.

The Stempel typomatic photocomposition device for headline setting by daylight enjoys considerable success.

Looking ahead: Using PageMaker layout software and a laser printer, the Apple Macintosh is capable of producing printed matter on the desktop for the first time (desktop publishing). Linotype acquires the second PostScript license from Apple and thus enables DTP on its laser imagesetter (Linotron 300).


The first microprocessor-controlled Linotronic is presented at Imprinta in Dusseldorf. It features possibilities for correction on the monitor, data storage on floppy disk and optomechanical imaging (40,000 characters/hour).

The compact CRTronic becomes affordable for smaller print shops (300,000 characters/ hour).

From hot-metal composition to photocomposition and Macintosh & Co. No less exciting than the history of hot metal composition machines was the development of photocomposition, in which the Linotype companies in the USA and Germany played a key role. The initial idea to use photographic methods for typesetting date back to the 1870s. We can only give a brief outline of the development process here. A distinction is made between the following development stages: 1. Mechanical photocomposition machines These were hot-metal composition machines which were converted for photocomposition. Instead of brass matrices with engraved type, photographic mats with characters were imaged from a negative film onto paper or negative material using keys. An imaging unit replaced the casting machine. In 1946, the Fotosetter from Harris Intertype was the first functioning machine of its type. Its hourly output was between 6,000

and 8,000 characters, the same as contemporary hotmetal composition machines. 2. Electromechanical photocomposition machines This second machine generation used type plates. These were controlled directly using a keyboard (Lumitype or Photon) or indirectly by punched tape (Linofilm). In the Linofilm, which was launched in 1954, imaging was performed using an electron flash tube with an hourly output of up to 40,000 characters. The pages were assembled by hand on a light table using scissors, a scalpel, and glue. 3. Electronic photocomposition devices The key words here are digitization and cathode ray tubes (CRTs). Individual letters were created from an electronically stored database. This move away from physical text negatives brought many advantages for typesetting European languages with all of their special

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The Linotronic 300 and Linotronic 500 are the most-purchased laser imagesetters.

Takeover by Heidelberger Druckmaschinen AG. Linotype Library GmbH becomes an independent subsidiary of the company, headquartered in Bad Homburg (from 1998 onward). The company successfully organizes the first “typo[media]” conference in Frankfurt, which is followed by further large-scale specialist events. In-house classic typefaces are reworked, new innovations such as Zapfino are brought out, and the FontExplorer, a tool to support font selection and ordering, is created in 1999. At the same time, selling typefaces via the Internet becomes even easier.

Persuasion: Dr. Wolfgang Kummer, president of the American parent company since 1983, arranges for the purchase of the Linotype Group by a German banking consortium and oversees its transition to a joint-stock company, thereby creating a German company from an American one.




Merger with Siemens subsidiary Dr.Ing. Rudolf Hell GmbH of Kiel on October 1. The company name now becomes LinotypeHell AG.

A sign of the times: Linotype begins producing typefaces for PostScript. Adobe licenses the entire Linotype typeface library.


On the 600th anniversary of Johannes Gutenberg’s birth, Heidelberger Druckmaschinen AG celebrates its 150th anniversary by officially opening the Print Media Academy.

characters. The Digiset, introduced in the 1960s, was the first device of this type. However, the most important innovation of the 1970s was the Linotron, although it still used a rather antiquated text grid matrix. Imaging was performed in narrow vertical lines. Recording, processing and output were integrated in a closed system. 4. Laser technology, DTP and open systems Optomechanical imaging units were slow but accurate, and CRT technology was considerably faster but had some esthetic drawbacks (e.g., stepping of round shapes). The spline functions (outline fonts) in PostScript resulted in clear improvements in this context. Imaging with laser beams and Raster Image Processors (RIP) brought further progress. Introduced with the Mono-type Lasercomp, this technology became very popular. Electronic data processing had a revolutionary effect. Since the development of the device-independent PostScript page description language by Adobe, typesetting could be performed at any desk with a computer and layout software (DTP). Both complete amateurs

The inventor of the line composing and casting machine Ottmar Mergenthaler was born 150 years ago on May 11. The Linotype name is still alive as part of the title of the LinotypeLibrary.





and professionals used this language. The many years of experience developing various typesetting machines enabled Linotype to produce a steady stream of successful systems complete with hardware, software and fonts. The Linotronic 300 laser imagesetter was already using PostScript back in 1985 and paved the way for DTP. It is interesting to note that, long before, a Leipzig daily newspaper (the “Leipziger Neueste Nachrichten”) had introduced the first Linotype hot-metal composition machines in Germany, and a hundred years later another Leipzig newspaper, the “Leipziger Volkszeitung”, began using Macintosh computers and QuarkXPress in its layout room – using the Linotronic 530 imagesetter. However, it continued to use a Linotype typesetting machine for headlines until 1990. The era of hot metal composition machines is over, but in a few workshop museums you can still see the Linotype and, in some places, even see it in action. It remains an object of fascination.



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References (a selection)


Ottmar Mergenthaler and the Linotype

Chauncey Hawley Griffith The Linotype Development of Type Faces; 1938

Vierzig Jahre Mergenthaler SetzmaschinenFabrik GmbH. 1896/28. October 1936; Berlin 1936 100 Jahre Ottmar Mergenthaler. Special issue of the Linotype-Post. In-house announcements of Linotype GmbH (Linotype GmbH publication) Berlin and Frankfurt/Main N.F. No. 19, May 11, 1954 Willi Mengel Die Linotype erreichte das Ziel. Linotype GmbH Berlin and Frankfurt on the Main 1955 Carl Schlesinger The Biography of Ottmar Mergenthaler, Inventor of the Linotype. Delaware/USA: Oak Knoll 1989 (A New Edition, with added Historical Notes, Based on Recent Findings; Original Edition of the Autobiography: Baltimore 1898) Development of the typesetting machine: technical and social aspects Otto Höhne Geschichte der Setzmaschinen Leipzig 1925 Satzherstellung; No. 2: Der maschinelle Bleisatz. Technische Hochschule Darmstadt. Gewerbelehrerstudium Graphisches Gewerbe 1979 L. W. Wallis A Concise Chronology of Typesetting Developments 1886–1986 London: The Wynkyn de Worde Society; in association with Lund Humphries 1988 Brigitte Robak Vom Pianotyp zur Zeilensetzmaschine. Setzmaschinenentwicklung und Geschlechterverhältnis 1840–1900; Marburg: Jonas Verlag 1996 Matthias Otto Die Rolle der Zeitungsverleger bei der Einführung der Setzmaschine am Ende des 19. Jahrhunderts. Ein Vergleich von Innovationsprozessen in Deutschland und den USA. In: Leipziger Jahrbuch zur Buchgeschichte Vol. 6 (1996), pp. 341-352 Rudolf Stöber Deutsche Pressegeschichte. Einführung, Systematik, Glossar. Konstanz: UVK Medien 2000 (Uni-Papers series Vol. 8) Christoph Reske Die Ablösung des maschinellen Bleisatzes durch den Fotosatz. Presentation at the 2002 annual conference of the International Association for Printing History in Leipzig (printed in late 2004 in Volume 4 of the contributions on printing history by GNT-Verlag Berlin, Diepholz) Reinald Schröder Der Setzmaschinentarif des Jahres 1900 sowie seine technischen und sozialen Wurzeln Presentation at the 2002 annual conference of the International Association for Printing History in Leipzig (printed in late 2004 in Volume 4 of the contributions on printing history by GNT-Verlag Berlin, Diepholz)

Max Caflisch Zeitungsschriften auf dem Prüfstand. In: Max Caflisch: Schriftanalysen. Untersuchungen zur Geschichte typographischer Schriften. Vol. 2, Typotron St. Gallen 2003; pp. 136–145 A selection of museums and workshops with Linotype hot-metal typesetting machines. Gedenkstätte Ottmar Mergenthaler (Ottmar Mergenthaler Memorial) Rathaus Ottmar-Mergenthaler-Strasse 97980 Bad Mergentheim Phone +49 (0) 7931/2894 (Visits can be arranged by prior arrangement) Maschinelle Satztechnik. Historische Sammlung (Historical Collection of Mechanical Typesetting Technology) Klaus Max Trefzer Krafft-Areal 79650 Schopfheim-Fahrnau Phone +49 (0) 7 6 22/66 66 80 Opening hours: Sundays 10 a.m.–noon and by appointment Museum für Druckkunst mit Offizin Haag-Drugulin (Printing Museum with Offizin Haag-Drugulin) Nonnenstrasse 38 04229 Leipzig Phone +49 (0) 341/480 62 60 Opening hours: Mon–Fri 10 a.m.–5 p.m., Sat 10 a.m.–3 p.m. Das Druckmuseum – Haus für Industriekultur (Printing Museum – House of Industrial Culture) Kirschenallee 88 64293 Darmstadt Phone +49 (0) 6 151/89 91 76 Opening hours: Tue 10 a.m.–noon; Thu 3–5 p.m, Fri 10 a.m.–noon Last Saturday in month 2–5 p.m. Additional addresses of historical museums, collections and workshops can be found in: “Schwarze Kunst” Europa-Guide 2003 (2003 European guide to printing museums) An updated edition will be published in time for drupa 2004. Available for 5 euros from: Deutsches Zeitungsmuseum (DZM) (German Newspaper Museum) Phone +49 (0) 6834/9423 0

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