Stan Nelson of Atelier Press whose videos of punchcutting (in the previous post) showed how the type punch was cut and the matrix made, now demonstrates hand casting of type.

In the third video he assembles a hand mould, making clear if you missed it, exactly how the mould worked. The molten type metal that’s getting squirted into the mould is an alloy of lead, antimony and tin. The recipe would vary from place to place, but the overall intention was to reduce the coefficient of expansion between matrix and type. Obviously you want the type metal to be soft enough to enable easy casting, but hard enough to stand up to the pressure of the press so you could print enough copies.

The intense physicality of everything just 50 years ago is something which I suspect young people today are just not aware of. We touched everything: the manuscript and the letter from the author which accompanied it in the brown-paper parcel tied with string which we had to unwrap. Type was type, an object — those little bits of metal, not this series of dots on the screen you are looking at while you read this. The book, which traditionalists today laud as such a satisfying physical object, was just the end of the process. All along the way there were things which had had to have been touched: proofs, rough sketches for the jacket, the stamping die (well that’s still a physical object: it’s just not as likely to go through your hands in the publishing office as it used to). The need to touch things is perhaps infantile, but like so much from that age it was deeply satisfying. Maybe we are now fully adult in our digital domain: or are we working towards tactile-deficit-syndrome?

See also Casting type

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