The Monotype System

Monotype Booklet
Monotype Booklet

The Monotype system was a major break through: a system that could use a set of components to produce individual types, in the right order, using high-quality printing metals from a keyboard input.  This approach meant an end to extensive hand composition.  While friends with line casting machines (like the Linotype or Intertype) were first to avoid hand-composition, they could not handle individual types like the Monotype chaps could.  The advantages were manifold: once the type was cast individual characters could be exchanged, for a correction or simply to improve spacing.  Smaller jobs could be done by hand-setting but using the individual types cast by the machine.  None of this could be done with line-casting.  Monotype also had an aggressive policy of promoting great typography.  The firm revived and re-cut many faces to offer a staggering array of different styles for use in all uses of the printed word.  Competitors in line-casting did make some advances in this area but their focus was on smaller sizes and very quick turnaround as they relied on the newspaper industry for custom.

The Monotype system relied on some different components.  The separation of work meant that individual machines could be kept busy.  For example, two keyboards could be producing paper tapes that would drive a single casting machine: so the casting machine was busy all day while the two keyboards were busy.  If a line-casting machine was used then the machine is only casting when the operator is keying.  I’ll summarise the key parts of the system in this sections and why you might use them.

Sidenote: The Monotype Corporation was very very keen to protect their trademark.  They insisted that the mark was a not to be used to describe anything; and that the word ‘Monotype’ should always be shown either in quotes or in capitals.  They also asked that wherever possible that word should be described as a Trade Mark of the Corporation.  For ease of use, I’ll refer here to simply Monotype.  Should the Corporation wish to correct me on this, I will be happy to oblige provided that they allow me to take them up on their offer of free day training at their Monotype school.


Monotype Caster (from ECP)
Monotype Caster (from ECP)

The Monotype Composition caster produces composed lines of individual pieces of type, from 4 to 14pt bodies, and to a maximum line length of 60 picas. It is controlled by a punched paper tape, and runs from 45 to 180 rpm, depending upon body size. With appropriate attachments, it will produce composed type up to 24pt, and display type (sorts) to 36pt, and go down to a speed of 9 rpm. It can also produce mathematics, Arabic, Hebrew, etc., and lead and rule from 1pt to 12pt. Its overall weight is 1522lbs and working floor area is 9 ft sq.

The Monotype Type and Rule caster is similar to the Composition caster, but does not have the paper tape control mechanism, and so only casts individual sorts. Sizes from 4pt to 36pt, and speed from 45 to 180 rpm (down to 9 rpm with low speed and Varigear). It can cast lead and rule from 1pt to 12pt. It weighs 1326 lbs and its working floor area is 9 x 10 ft.

The Monotype Super caster produces individual type sorts from 4pt to 72pt, at speeds from 4 to 144 rpm (or 2 to 160 rpm with Varigear). With appropriate attachments, it can cast Palace Script, quotations, continuous border, swelled rule, lead and rule from 1pt to 18pt, and strip furniture from 24pt to 72pt. It weighs 1484 lbs and its working floor area is 8 ft sq.


This description taken from the ‘Monotype Book of Information’ by David Bolton of the Alembic Press.