Typesetting in the days of hand-set hot-metal type tended to be an all-or-nothing job. Either you had nothing to do, or the deadline was bearing down on you and you were racing against the clock. To pass the slack time, beer and gaming were not unknown. Dicing with an em quad, also known as a ‘mollie’, a ‘mutton’ or a ‘mut’, was called jeffing. A quad space would be found in every typecase. It was square, with a notch on one side. The American Dictionary of Printing and Bookmaking, 1894, describes jeffing this way:

“Below the edge of their imposing stone, or table, players shook five quads, perhaps seven, and threw them onto to surface in the manner of dice. Each quad had a nick, a marking for type alignment on a single side, all others blank, smooth. Contestants counted the number of nicks the cast caused to face upward. The winner after three rounds (or more) stood aside, while the rest tossed to determine the reverse, the player with the fewest nicks upward. This contestant lost the entire bet, freeing the other players, and the loser paid the winner. An average winning throw (three rounds and nine throws) was a seven. They called it ‘the witch’. Nine was excellent. Nomenclature and conditions varied. Contestants repeated a ‘false throw’, one resulting in stacked quads, which was known as a ‘cock’. A ‘Molly’ (or a ‘Miss’ or a ‘Mary’ or a ‘Susan’) was a blank toss, no slot showing.”

According to Walker Rumble in his The Swifts: Printers in the Age of Typesetting Races, 2003, jeffing might also be resorted to in deciding which journeyman would get the tough project and which the easy one.

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