Quotes from Composing Room Stores
Quotes from Com­pos­ing Room Stores

Lead­ing is a term that has made it’s way to the graph­ic design­er’s com­put­er.  It defines the gap between lines and in let­ter­press print­ing it is done by insert­ing a thin strip of lead.

Leads are around the same height as spac­ing and so don’t print.  They vary in length and also width.  On width, leads are sup­plied in point sizes and are most com­mon­ly avail­able in 1, 1½, 2 and 3 points.  It can be con­fus­ing to deter­mine the dif­fer­ence between dif­fer­ent sizes when com­pos­ing, so in some cas­es it might be wise to stan­dard­ise on one or two sizes.  It’s dif­fi­cult to detect the 0.007″ between 1 and 1½pt leads.  On length, they should be accu­rate­ly cut and your sup­pli­er will nor­mal­ly do this.  If you are cut­ting then you need to be as pre­cise as pos­si­ble.  It is also worth­while to cut leads ½pt short­er than the page mea­sure used to help over­come the prob­lems of squeeze.

Be care­ful in your use of leads: Per­pet­ua is the best exam­ple of a small x‑height face and Plan­tin has a large x‑height mean­ing they look small­er and larg­er than each even when on the same body (of, say, 12pt).  Adding lead­ing to Per­pet­ua will light­en the page; and hav­ing no lead­ing in Plan­tin will make for a very dark page.  There are no stan­dards to say what lead­ing will work for each page, that is a mat­ter for you as the typographer.

Leads are nor­mal­ly stored in racks with dif­fer­ent com­part­ments for each length and sizes so that they can be eas­i­ly found.  Remem­ber that leads can also be com­bined: there is no need to keep a 40em lead when two 20em leads can sit next to each oth­er.  If you are short of space you could stan­dard­ise here on 6em mul­ti­ples so that you can cov­er 6, 12, 18, 24 and 30 ems which should account for most prac­ti­cal uses.


Clumps can be thought of as extra wide spaces: they are usu­al­ly made in mul­ti­ples of an em and so 12pt clumps will nor­mal­ly be 12, 24, 36 or 48pt wide.  They are made of the same mate­r­i­al as spaces and are the same height.  A sec­ondary use here is in word spac­ing for larg­er type sizes: a 12 x 36 pt clump makes a use­ful space for 36pt type.


Reglet is line spac­ing that is larg­er than leads.  Almost always made of wood and the same height as leads, it is used to give more space between lines and is most often employed on title pages or notices to cre­ate white space between lines.  Again, this is often sup­plied pre-cut but can be sup­plied in long lengths to be cut by the print­er.  Adana sold a small saw and mitre block for this purpose.


Next in terms of size are quo­ta­tions, orig­i­nal­ly designed to cor­rect­ly space side-notes and quo­ta­tions in book work.  They are met­al and full spaces that are mul­ti­ples of clumps.  Typ­i­cal­ly 48pt and larg­er they are an accu­rate way of fill­ing space.


Fur­ni­ture is the largest of the spac­ing mate­r­i­al.  Orig­i­nal­ly wood, it is sup­plied in ems rather than points.  Find­ing wood to suf­fer from warp­ing and eas­i­ly dam­aged, print­ers began to use met­al fur­ni­ture (from the same mate­r­i­al as spaces), and then alu­mini­um gird­er pat­tern fur­ni­ture which was lighter.  One devel­op­ment was the use of a Formi­ca-derived mate­r­i­al called Resalite.  Stephen­son, Blake claimed this was bet­ter than met­al fur­ni­ture because dam­age on one dimen­sion would not cause prob­lems with accuracy.

Again, you might have the oppor­tu­ni­ty to stan­dard­ise on one or two widths and 6em mul­ti­ples of length to save space and time.

Curvilinear Quadrats

This rather grand sound­ing mate­r­i­al is used to set curved lines of type.  It’s not used too often now, but the was a fad for firm names to be set in an arc or cir­cle.  These are always sup­plied in pairs and have two sur­faces that match each oth­er.  Type is set between them and then locked up.  There are a num­ber of meth­ods used to get this to work cor­rect­ly: set­ting type against sticky tape to hold them in place; or spac­ing them with wet paper to form a sold mass once dry.