Saturday, December 1, 2012

Film Review | Linotype: The Film

Linotype type casting machine

Linotype: The Film
by Douglas Wilson, Director and Producer
Onpaperwings Productions
Springfield, MO, 2012
 DVD, 1 hours 17 mins.
Distributor's website:


I have had “printing” in my blood since I was ten or eleven. One summer at about that age, having read The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin, I sped downtown on my 20-inch Hiawatha bicycle, strolled into the local “job printing” firm, and inquired of the aging (and greatly amused) owner if he might be willing to take me on as a “printer’s devil.” Kindly, he responded “no” (I was far too young) but he did talk to me for awhile and gave me a tour of the “tools of the trade.” This was about fifty-five years ago, yet, even now, I still remember the moment that day when I saw a linotype type casting machine for the first time. 

I myself don’t know a way to describe how it feels to stand next to a functioning linotype (much less to actually operate one, which can be hazardous at times because of the hot molten metal it spurts). In general, one could simply say that it is a huge complex mechanism for casting metal type that was invented in 1884 by Ottmar Mergenthaler (1854-1899), a U.S. German immigrant. Amazingly, it revolutionized printing to such an extent that its inventor is sometimes said to have been “the second Gutenberg.” But that is at best an inadequate way to convey the feeling of standing in the presence of this clackety, stinky, hot, intimidating, almost room-sized monster that casts lines of hot lead type—one line at a time, hence its quaint historic name “line-o’-type.” more>>>