What is a Linotype machine?


Interior of the Linotype works, Broadheath, undated. Trafford Local Studies Collection, cat. ref. TL2536. 

TRA377 - Inauguration souvenir, the Linotype Composing machine.jpg

The Linotype Composing Machine. Illustration from The Linotype Company's Works - Souvenir of Inauguration, 14 July 1899. Trafford Local Studies Collection, cat. ref. LHC/377

Invented by German watchmaker Ottmar Mergenthaler in 1884, this was a machine for use in printing, sold by the Mergenthaler Linotype Company of New York, and related companies. It was a hot metal typesetting system that cast blocks of metal type for individual uses. The new machine cut down on labour and saved space, revolutionizing typesetting, particularly in newspaper publishing.  A single operator could take the place of six people setting type by hand. It was also much faster than other machines and so enabled newspapers and periodicals to increase production. Linotype became one of the main methods for typesetting, especially with small-size text, for newspapers, magazines, and posters from the late 19th century to the 1970s and 1980s, when it was largely replaced by phototypesetting and computer typesetting.

The name of the machine comes from the fact that it produces an entire line of metal type at once, hence a line-o'-type. This was a significant improvement over the previous industry standard, i.e., manual, letter-by-letter typesetting using a composing stick and shallow subdivided trays, called ‘cases’.

What is a Linotype machine?