the beginning of the eighteenth century, a certain Van der Meyer, of
Antwerp, made the next step towards a definite improvement in
typography, the first that had been attempted since the invention of
printing from movable, cast-metal type.Van der Meyer prepared the
composed pages of the Bible by soldering together the bottom of the
type in the form. This was the first "stereotype," a term derived from
two Greek words meaning literally "solidtype."
met one requirement. It prevented the "pi-ing" of the type, but it had
the disadvantage of holding in comparative idleness a large and costly
mass of type useless for any other purpose, and it was not generally
This was followed in 1730, by William Ged, a
goldsmith of Edinburgh, who is credited with casting printing plates in
plaster-of-paris molds for the University of Cambridge Bible. These
plates, however, were destroyed by jealous printers and thrown aside,
resulting in the process being abandoned for many years.
the meantime, several other improvements along this line were
undergoing experiment. Firmin Didot, (1764-1836), a printer of Paris,
cast type of a hard [p.18] alloy, and when his book-pages were composed, made
an impression of them on a sheet of soft lead, thus forming a mold.
Molten metal was then poured into a shallow tray, and just as this was
on the point of solidifying, but still plastic, the lead-mold of the
book-page was pressed on the soft metal in the tray. This process
called Polytypage, was but partly successful; it could be used only for
small pages, and the plates were too often defective. A process similar
to this is what Lambinet thought the printers of the latter half of the
fifteenth century might have used as one of the probable methods to
cast their metal types.
These and other experiments,
however, were leading to the real stereotyping process which developed
later. Early in the nineteenth century, Earl Stanhope, of England,
re-introduced Ged's stereotyping process with many improvements.
One or more pages of type were locked in a chase, the surface of the
type being oiled to prevent the subsequent mold from sticking. The mold
was made by pouring a semi-fluid composition of plaster-of-paris mixed
with a little fine salt to make the plaster settle solidly. While the
plaster was still soft, it was carefully pressed down and rolled smooth
on top to give a uniform thickness to the mold and to expel any air
there might be in the plaster. When the plaster became solid, it formed
a perfect matrix of the type pages.
The moisture in those
early plaster molds was expelled by baking them in an oven for three
or four hours. A later method for drying was practiced by suspending
the mold directly over the metal-pots or to float them on the surface
of the molten metal. By this [p.19] means the drying could be
accomplished in a half-hour or so.
In the process of
casting, several of these plaster molds were placed side by side face
downward in a special casting-pan. The pan was one and three-quarters
or two inches deep, and a lid on the pan screwed down on the back of
the molds. By means of a crane the casting pan with its molds was then
lowered into the pot of molten metal which ran into the pan at the
corners and sides. The mold was allowed to remain ten minutes or so in
the metal-pot, or until the face of the inverted mold was entirely
filled with the metal.
A later method of casting from a
plaster mold was to place it in a frame with a smooth, flat plate
opposite the face of the mold and to enclose the open space at one end
and on the two sides. The casting space thus formed was then turned
with the open end up and metal was poured in with a ladle, in a manner
similar to the method still employed for casting job-work stereotypes.
The distance between the flat plate and the mold was adjusted to make a
stereotype plate of the required thickness.
removal and cooling of the casting pan, the plates were freed from the
plaster and the surplus metal cut off. Only one cast could be made, as
the mold was usually destroyed in removing the cast. The stereotype was
then sent to the finishing department, where the [p.20] face was
cleaned and examined for defective letters, then trimmed on the sides
and planed off uniformly on the back to the desired thickness, in the
same manner as a stereotype is treated today. A defective letter could
be mortised out of the plate and a good type inserted in its place. In
cases where a whole line or other part was imperfect, another mold was
made of as much of the form as was necessary and the new cast inserted
and soldered to the plate.
There were many and varied
experiments made in the earlier development of this idea of producing a
duplicate printing form in a single piece. That such a process was
highly desirable was universally recognized, and the conviction that
some practicable and economical method was feasible was a continual
incentive which gradually led to better results.
credit is given to John Watts, an Englishman then working in America,
for making the first stereotype plates here, the real introduction of
the process to the United States was by David Bruce. This was in 1813.
Bruce had learned the printer's trade in Edinburgh and later came to
America, where after a few years he was joined by his brother George in
establishing the firm of D. & G. Bruce, printers. Hearing of the
new process of stereotyping in England, he went over there to learn
about it. He could get very little information about the process
there, but came back with some practical ideas which he proceeded to
carry out. Bruce and his brother also began type-founding about this
time, and abandoned the business of printing. Later they gave up the
work of stereotyping.
The first book stereotyped in the
United States was the New Testament, in 1814. Bibles and school books
were the first works to be stereotyped; then came other books which
were demanded in many editions, such as the works of popular authors.
papier-mache (literally, mashed paper matrix was
first successfully used casting stereotypes for book pages France in
1848. Charles Craske, an engraver of New York, introduced the method
into the stereotype trade of the United States in 1850, and in 1854 he
stereotyped a page of the "New York Herald" and later made stereotypes
for other New York newspapers.
modern wet stereotype
"flong," in common use today, consists of several layers of special
paper pasted together to form a thick sheet. The base is a sheet of
special soft stock similar to firm blotting-paper, such as is used
between leaves of small blank books. Three or four sheets of strong,
white tissue are next added, each sheet except the last being uniformly
covered with the paste. The pasting must be done with great care so as
to cover the entire surface of each sheet and at the same time to press
out all air bubbles. The sheets must then be pressed smoothly but not
squeezed so hard as to force the paste out and must be kept moist until
used. In newspaper syndicate plants, the "flong" is made automatically
by a specially devised machine into which the various kinds of paper
used are fed from rolls, the pasting and cutting into sheets being
molding a papier-mache matrix, the moist "flong"
is laid on the original molding form to be duplicated, the molding form
being in place on the table of the molding press. The "flong" is
covered with several blankets of thick felt and the table of the
molding press [p.24] is then automatically moved under a powerful
roller which squeezes the moist flong down into the form. At the end of
its travel the table is automatically brought back again under the
rollers to the to the position from which it started. The speed of the
roller and the table is synchronized to obviate any possibility of the
mat becoming wrinkled by sliding.
molded matrix and the
pattern with the blanket still on it is then transferred to the drying
press, in which under a hot platten it is again squeezed and allowed to
remain for a few minutes until the moisture is completely expelled from
the molded flong. The drying press is kept at a high temperature,
usually by steam heat.
matrix thus dried out to a thick,
flexible cardboard is then ready for the casting of the stereotype,
which is done by pouring molten stereotype metal against the face of
the matrix placed in a casting-box designed for this purpose. A
successive number of stereotypes can be cast for the same mat before it
is injured by the hot metal. For job-work stereotyping the casting-box
is flat, and the molten metal is either poured by hand or automatically
pumped in the casting-box.
the stereotype is cast it is
flattened, rough shaved, smooth shaved, bevelled or blocked on wood;
the wood base trimmed and then planed type-high for printing press use.
large daily papers cast the full-page stereotype from which the paper
is printed in an automatic casting machine which forms a curved plate,
trimmed and bevelled, to fit the cylinder of the press.
was for many years the chief means of making plates for books and also
for commercial printing. [p.25] It has several advantages.
obviously, is the advantage which it shares with several other methods
of providing a solid printing plate made by molding from an original
form of type or engraving. Its peculiar advantage, however, is that it
is the quickest method of producing a duplicate plate from an original.
comparison with electrotyping, however, it has two distinct
disadvantages. One is that it is not adapted for reproducing the fine
lines of engravings and type faces. In addition it is comparatively
shallow and does not possess a sharp, clean printing face. The other
dis-advantage is that a stereotype is relatively soft and quickly worn.
have been made more durable, to withstand the wear of printing, by the
deposition of a film of harder metal – copper or nickel
– on the face of
the plate after it has been cast. This, however, is not satisfactory,
as it involves not only another operation, but also makes an already
shallow printing plate that much shallower and increases the
probability of it printing "dirty," which is one of the chief
objections to the stereotype in itself. This practice is not
From: From Xylographs To Lead Molds AD 1440, AD 192, by H. C. Forster, publ. The Rapid Electrotype Company (1921) pages 17-25.
OCR then hand editted from book Digitized by Google. (source)
Today in Science History, event description
for first press-run of the New York Tribune with curved stereotype plates on 31 Aug 1861.