Type foundry

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A type foundry is the production of the fonts or types ( letters ) used in the art of printing . Foundry is also used as a term for a font manufacturer.

The typeface metal from which the types are cut is called written material , or ornamentation for the types that do not have any characters.

History and Development

The script caster in Jost Amman's book of estates , 1568

The first type caster was Johannes Gutenberg , because the 36-line and 42-line Bibles are already printed from cast types. When the type foundry developed into an independent business cannot be proven historically; but this is unlikely to have happened suddenly, and for a long time the majority of book printers may have cut their fonts themselves with hand casting instruments when there were die cutters who dealt with the production of the male molds (stamps) (which in turn are those used for casting Matrices are generated) and type casting began to develop its own craft .

Nuremberg was the first stacking location for stamp cutting and provided book printing and type foundries with matrices; in Italy Nicolas Jenson was famous for this , in France Robert Estienne ; England only received important die cutters in John Baskerville and William Caslon ; until then it had mostly been supplied with types from Holland.

At the end of the 19th century , after Johann Gottlob Immanuel Breitkopf had reformed the type foundry, Germany had a considerable number of such businesses, some of which were very efficient.


Complete casting machine around 1883

The technology of the type foundry has changed significantly in the last decades of the 19th century through the invention and improvement of the type casting machine . As early as 1805 , William Wing and Elihu White took out a patent on one; the first really practical casting machine, however, was not completed until 1838 by David Bruce in Brooklyn.

Until then, only the hand-pouring instrument had been used . This, as well as the instrument required for casting on the machine, the mold, consist of two equally sized, precisely fitting halves made of iron, steel or brass, which, depending on the thickness of the type, are narrower or wider and can be easily and quickly taken apart can be; The hand-cast instrument is clad with wood on the outside, so that it can be handled continuously even when the metal parts are heated.

When both parts of the mold are put together, a hollow, which widens conically towards the outside, always remains free, into which the metal is poured to produce the letter, the relief image of which, the type, is formed on an inlaid copper die, which contains the same deepened.

The matrices are produced by hammering steel punches (patrices) into copper or using a galvanoplastic method, which is used in particular for the larger font sizes, for which the patrices are not cut in steel but mostly in font metal and therefore cannot be hammered in comes; Their preparation for casting, the adjustment, must be done with the utmost care, as the good appearance of the font in the print depends largely on this.

The stamps consist of finely hardened steel rods, on one end of which the letter is raised, before the steel is given its hardness, partly by means of engraving, partly by hammering in contrasting stamps ( buns ) to create the inner depressions. The writing metal (writing, writing, stuff) is an alloy that melts easily, has to fill the shape well and yet be sufficiently hard to withstand wear and tear in the manual or high-speed press and to leave a sharp impression on the paper.

In Germany, around 75 percent lead (good Harz or Saxon soft lead), 23 percent purified antimony (Antimonium regulus) and 2 percent tin were used to cast so-called bread or factory scripts .

If the types are to be given a special hardness, the addition of antimony and tin is increased, and a small amount of copper is probably also added; However, since the invention of electroplating, the finished type has been given a copper, iron or nickel coating to make it more resistant.

In addition to a uniform thickness (the cone), all types also require a height that is quite uniform among themselves; the same is about 24 mm. Up until a few years ago, however, there was no consensus among the type foundries in Germany; Only an agreement on the introduction of the French or Parisian height, which amounts to 10 1/2 lines of the Pied du roi or 62 1/2 typographical points, a unit of measurement created by the French foundry Pierre Simon Fournier , created improvement in this; but Hermann Berthold in Berlin deserves the credit of having created a uniform typometer now accepted by all German foundries .

The lettering metal melted in the casting furnace is poured or injected into the mold by carefully removing the oxide (dross) that forms on its surface when hand casting with a spoon, when casting with the machine itself. The daily output of a worker is 4,000 to 7,000 letters, considerably less for large fonts; Approx. 20,000 to 25,000 types (Werkschrift) can be cast on one machine in one day, but we have now also invented and built those of considerably greater efficiency. The casting machine is operated either by hand or with steam; in the latter case, one worker usually has to manage two machines.

Hand casting has been almost entirely displaced by machine casting and is now almost only used for deliveries of small quantities. When the letters come out of the mold, an attached long metal pin (sprue) must be broken off and the fine cast seams, i.e. H. The roughness caused by the penetration of the liquid metal into the joints of the mold can be removed by rubbing on a sandstone (grinding), for which purpose machines (letter grinding machines) are also used, in which the grinding is carried out between steel plates with a file cut.

Then the letters, placed in long wooden angle hooks, reach the hands of the finisher, who clamps the whole row firmly between two iron strips on the chipping table and planes out the remainder of the sprue from the feet of the types with a specially designed foot plane At the same time, the height is checked again using the height planer and corrected if necessary. You then put the whole series of types back into a wooden angle hook, scrape their front and back with a scraper until they are completely smooth, and finally examine them with a metal sheet for uniformity in height; the examination of the image of the type with regard to the completion of the casting is the last stage in its manufacture.

Only when this has also been recognized as completed will they be packaged. Undercut types, d. H. Letters whose image is wider than their body on one side or the other, and therefore has to hang over the same, cannot be ground towards the relevant sides, but must be individually scraped and leveled with a knife. For the production of large types one uses specially constructed, very powerful casting machines or the cliché machine (see cliché ).

Likewise, for the casting of the filling material (squares, bullet holes, lead or hollow bars) own instruments and machines, as well as for the long lines that are used in tables etc.; these are first given the correct thickness and height on a draw bench while the image of the same is carved into the cutting table with suitable planes (fine, fat-fine, azure, i.e. consisting of very fine parallel lines, wavy, etc.).

In the meantime, instead of the lead lines, rolled brass lines are mostly used; they often surpass the former in terms of their durability and give a finer image in print. The material used for casting the types, especially lead, must not contain either arsenic or zinc, because otherwise the image of the types will soon be corroded and defaced by oxide. Lead containing antimony (hard lead) must also only be used with great caution; Dross but, d. H. the metal obtained from remelting the overburden that forms on the pan during pouring is only suitable for pouring filler material.

A casting and finishing machine, which mechanically casts the types, breaks off the sprue, grinds the letters, cuts their feet, gives them the correct height and finally places them in rows, was first invented in 1853 by JR Johnson in England and built with Atkinson; After it had proven itself through years of use in one of the first foundries in London, it was significantly simplified by Hepburn and was also transferred to the continent, where it found its way into almost all well-known foundries under the name of the complete casting machine, after Foucher in Paris and Küstermann in Berlin were based on similar principles and built machines that were significantly simplified and improved several times. It is preferably used in large quantities to cast used scripts or breadcrumbs, and it delivers up to 50,000 finished types every day, which can be used for typesetting as soon as they come out of the machine.

Well-known type foundries in the German-speaking area

Type foundries still active today in the German-speaking area

  • Offizin Parnassia , Vättis Switzerland, founded in 2001, offers over 3500 alphabets
  • Type foundry Rainer Gerstenberg , Darmstadt, founded in 1986, offers over 200 typefaces from the foundries Stempel AG, Haas, Deberny & Peignot, Nebiolo and B + S



  • Fournier le Jeune: Manuel typographique (2 volumes). Paris 1764
  • Henze: Handbook of the type foundry . Weimar 1844
  • Smalian: Handbook for book printers in dealings with type foundries (2nd edition), Leipzig 1877
  • Christian Büning "Type foundries in Germany" learning poster, Münster 2006

See also

Web links

Commons : Type Foundry  - Collection of images, videos and audio files
Wiktionary: Type foundry  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations
  • Chronicle of the type foundries in Germany and the German-speaking neighboring countries [1]