Cover image for Ottmar Mergenthaler : the man and his machine : a biographical appreciation of the inventor on his centennial
Ottmar Mergenthaler : the man and his machine : a biographical appreciation of the inventor on his centennial
Kahan, Basil Charles.
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New Castle, Del. : Oak Knoll Press, 1999.
Physical Description:
xv, 244 pages : illustrations ; 26 cm
Format :


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Z253.M483 K34 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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After a wide ranging career, Kahan took early retirement to pursue his lifelong interest in the printing trade. He found many conflicting reports about the German immigrant to the US Mergenthaler (1845-99) and his invention of an automatic typesetting machine that later became the Linotype, and deci

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Introduced in 1886, the linotype ("Mergenthaler") machine enabled a single keyboard operator to cast an entire line of type for newspapers, magazines, or books. It replaced scores of hand compositors, revolutionized print production, and dominated publishing technology for a century. The inventor, a German immigrant watchmaker, designed special tools and solved metallurgical problems to construct and improve his machine. A stubbornly honest, often irritable workaholic, he fought with patrician syndicate partners who capitalized and marketed his invention. Kahan, a knowledgeable writer, tempers his appreciation for Mergenthaler's achievement by scrutinizing archival, public, and personal records to provide a complete account free from previous myths and distortions. Biography alternates with detailed chronicles of technical and business developments, including the linotype's introduction to Britain. Kahan omits footnotes to make the text more accessible, but he adds a technical summary, a chronology, a glossary of terms, biographical notes on key characters, and a detailed list of sources. Illustrations include linotype models, cartoons, correspondence, and personal photographs. Antiquarian details and technical discussions may deter casual readers, but the work is sure to be definitive. General readers; undergraduates through faculty; two-year technical program students. D. H. Porter; Western Michigan University

Table of Contents

List of illustrations, diagrams, etcp. ix
Introductionp. xi
Comments and acknowledgementsp. xiii
Prologuep. 1
1 A watchmaker turns inventorp. 5
1 Bucking the trendp. 5
2 Honing his skillsp. 10
3 The land of opportunityp. 11
4 Opening the door to inventionp. 12
5 Mergenthaler as the driving forcep. 18
6 Portrait of an inventorp. 23
2 The beginning of hot metal composition in newspapersp. 26
1 Refining and redesigningp. 26
2 The syndicate moves inp. 27
3 In-fighting in the syndicatep. 31
4 Breakthrough - the prototype of the single matrix machinep. 33
5 The Mergenthaler Printing Companyp. 33
6 The first Linotype is producedp. 36
7 The first machine goes to workp. 40
3 Large scale production and ensuing contentionp. 44
1 Slipping schedules and teething troublesp. 44
2 Pressure to produce large numbers of Linotypesp. 47
3 Concerns about production and managementp. 49
4 Reid's 1888 report and the start of strifep. 51
5 Mergenthaler's resignationp. 53
6 Production at Company factories after Mergenthaler resignedp. 58
7 Mergenthaler on his own againp. 61
8 Financing the new machinep. 66
9 Stilson Hutchins and selling the manufacturing rights abroadp. 68
10 Reid's 1889 report and resignationp. 70
11 Opinionp. 73
4 Hine takes over and Mergenthaler returnsp. 74
1 Mergenthaler reinstatedp. 74
2 The British Linotype Company and the American connectionp. 77
3 General progress and production at Baltimore and Brooklynp. 80
4 The Typograph and the start of litigationp. 87
5 Financial considerations during Hine's term of officep. 92
6 Commentp. 96
5 Dodge's rule and contention from other linecastersp. 97
1 Developments in the Typograph casep. 97
2 A short digression about justificationp. 101
3 The Monolinep. 105
4 Confrontation with Dodgep. 109
5 Mergenthaler and Clephanep. 114
6 Mergenthalerp. 119
1 The domestic picturep. 119
2 Relations with his menp. 121
3 Comments about his creativityp. 123
4 About his illnessp. 125
5 Recognition during his lifetimep. 132
6 His death, his will and estatep. 136
7 Posthumous recognitionp. 138
8 Mergenthaler - the manp. 145
7 An overview of the British Linotype Companyp. 151
1 Background to the British launchp. 151
2 Preparing to launch the Linotype Companyp. 153
3 Advertising the Linotype Company in the British Pressp. 156
4 Legal considerations in setting up the Linotype Companyp. 163
5 Public response to the launch of the Linotype Companyp. 165
6 Early British reactions to the Blower Linotypep. 169
7 Progress of The Linotype Companyp. 172
8 The Blower Linotype in the United Kingdomp. 175
8 The Linotype - a technical summaryp. 177
1 Single operator linecasting machinesp. 177
2 The individual matrix Blower Linotypep. 179
3 The Square Base Linotypep. 183
4 The Simplex Linotypep. 185
5 Significant enhancements to the Linotypep. 186
6 Constraints on materialsp. 188
7 Maintenance and operation of the Linotypep. 190
9 Facts and fanciesp. 193
1 Contemporary comments about the Blower Linotypep. 193
2 Contemporary reports of the impact of the Linotypep. 195
3 Reminiscences of experience with early Linotypesp. 202
4 Nailing the mythsp. 205
5 The last wordp. 212
10 The Whittakers and the last Blower Linotypep. 213
A Selected Chronologyp. 219
B Glossaryp. 224
C Biographical notesp. 227
Bibliographyp. 232
Indexp. 239