Linotype Machine

The Linotype machine vastly reduced the cost and time needed to prepare printing plates, making newspapers and books faster and less expensive to print.

Described as “the next Gutenberg,” Germany immigrant Ottmar Mergenthaler made typesetting vastly simpler. Whereas before his innovation typesetters would have to look for individual letters, arranging them together, his innovation did this automatically, line-by-line. The Linotype (Line-O-Type) enabled faster and cheaper production of printed material.

Individual letters sit next to one another in pre-Linotype equipment. Typesetting is the term for this process. Returning individual letters to their separate bins was a dull and laborious task. Eight pages were the maximum length of a newspaper before Linotype.

Instead of movable type, the Linotype machine used dies to cast an entire single line of text using molten metal that quickly cooled, called slugs. Finished slugs, stacked into a frame, act as a printing plate. Melted slugs enable reuse after printing.

Whereas Guttenberg worked in a coin mint, Mergenthaler worked as a watchmaker. Both had experience creating small precision parts using molten metals. Mergenthaler worked extensively with the New York Times while inventing the machine.

“I am convinced, gentlemen, that unless some method of printing can be devised which requires no type at all, the method embodied in our invention will be the one used in the future; not alone because it is cheaper, but mainly because it is destined to secure superior quality.”

Ottmar “Ott” Mergenthaler

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