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A history of type

pre-1450 A.D.
Books produced by scribes. Libraries often contained a mere dozen volumes.

Johannes Gutenberg perfected the printing press. His company was repossessed and The Gutenberg Bible printed by Fust and Schoeffer, in Mainz, Germany. A punch made of steel, with a mirror image of the letter was struck into a piece of softer metal. Molten metal was poured into the softer metal, and type blocks are created. The type were put into a matrix to form the page of text, inked, then pressed into paper.

Over a thousand printer shops in over two hundred European cities. Typical print runs ranged from two hundred to a thousand books. Some were artisans, others were entrepreneurs. In some European countries, books could only be printed by government authorized printers, and nothing could be printed without the approval of the Church. Printers were held responsible for the spread of unwanted ideas, and some were even executed.

Steam Press

Rotary Steam Press

Linn Boyd Benton of Milwaukee invented a mechanical punch-cutting device. The machine was later modified and improved upon by Frank H. Pierpont of the Monotype Corporation Ltd.

Ottmar Mergenthaler invented the Linotype machine

American Type Founders (ATF) formed in the United States, to escape bankruptcy.

First typeface issued by the Lanston Monotype Machine Company in the USA as Modern Condensed (Series 1).

The first photocomposition devices (the French “Photon” and Intertype’s “Fotosetter”) debuted, but didn’t catch on until the early 1950s. Typeface masters for photocomposition were on film; the characters projected onto photo-sensitive paper. Lenses were used to adjust the size of the image, scaling the type to the desired size.

The earliest computer-based typesetters were a hybrid between photocomposition machines and later pure digital output. Each with their own command language for communicating with output devices. None of the early command languages handled graphics well, and all had their own font formats. Some of these devices remained in service through the 1990s, for use in production environments which required more speed and less flexibility (phone books, newspapers, flight schedules, etc.).

First laser printer from Xerox (cost US$500,000)

Apple released the first Macintosh computer

Fontographer font design software program released by AltSys (Two years before Adobe Illustrator, three years before Macromedia FreeHand) Apple Computer released the first LaserWriter printer (cost US$7,000).

Apple released TrueType font format

Microsoft introduced TrueType fonts into Windows operating system

PostScript emerged as the de facto standard for digital typesetting. When combined with the Macintosh (the first widely used computer with a what-you-see-is-what-you-get display) and PageMaker (the first desktop publishing program).

Digital typesetting was commonplace, and photocomposition was almost unpracticed. Most high-end typesetting still involved printing to film, and then making printing plates from the film. However, the increasing use of high-resolution printers (600–1,200 dots per inch) made actual printing presses unnecessary for short run jobs. Copier/printer manufacturers had produced cost-effective direct-to-film or direct-to-plate machines, popular with many small print shops. Increased use of Fontographer software by individuals and small companies, combined with the introduction of CD-ROM typeface collections, moved digital type away from being an expensive, specialized tool, towards becoming a commodity. American Type Founders went bankrupt. Major digital type foundries became the norm.

PostScript predominated as a page description language, in professional desktop publishing (Adobe’s PageMaker as the student’s and small business’ runner-up), and Postscript Type One fonts used by most printers. (Multiple Master fonts were used occasionally, Truetype fonts were regarded as inferior for reliable printing — but were the majority of non-commercial fonts, and OpenType was considered an experimental negotation between Adobe and Microsoft.)

OpenType gained popularity as a digital font format.

”A Brief History of Type” by Thomas W. Phinney (Fonts Program Manager, Adobe Systems)