Case Rack at Speedspools (from ECP)
Case Rack at Speed­spools (from ECP)

This arti­cle is from the British Print­er mag­a­zine of 1961.  The research was con­duct­ed for PATRA: The Print­ing and Allied Trades’ Research Asso­ci­a­tion.

The pro­por­tions of char­ac­ters mak­ing up a fount of type should be such that by the time one char­ac­ter is exhaust­ed as lit­tle as pos­si­ble of the oth­ers remains in the case. A fur­ther require­ment is that any char­ac­ter in the fount has the same chance of being exhaust­ed first and still leave a near­ly emp­ty case. If this is achieved then the print­er will effect sav­ings in the amount of type stocked in the cas­es and also in the expen­sive reorder­ing of indi­vid­ual char­ac­ters to make up his defi­cien­cies. This arti­cle presents the results of the first sys­tem­at­ic study of type fount pro­por­tions and a new scheme is pro­posed which it is believed will ful­fil the above require­ments, as far as it is prac­ti­ca­ble.

Such a study may seem a lit­tle belat­ed, but hand-set work still remains an impor­tant part of print­ing. It is esti­mat­ed, for exam­ple, that the fount schemes pro­posed in this arti­cle will effect at least a 10 per cent sav­ing of dead met­al in the case which to the indus­try rep­re­sents many thou­sands of tons of type met­al. Fur­ther­more, as the kind of work which is now hand-set has become some­what sta­bilised the fount pro­por­tions pro­posed should remain effec­tive for many years to come.

The ori­gin of type fount pro­por­tions, even in recent times, is rather obscure and this seems large­ly because the respon­si­bil­i­ty for sup­ply is con­fined to rel­a­tive­ly few peo­ple. It is cer­tain, how­ev­er, that as ear­ly as the begin­ning of the six­teenth cen­tu­ry some account was being tak­en of the vari­a­tion in usage of the var­i­ous char­ac­ters since the most fre­quent­ly used char­ac­ters were placed at the front of the case. A more pos­i­tive exam­ple is giv­en by Moxon’s low­er­case, which appeared in 1683, and which has remained vir­tu­al­ly unchanged to this day. The lay of this case is such that the vol­ume of the type com­part­ments is rough­ly pro­por­tion­al to the fre­quen­cy of usage.

Some of the books on print­ing which were pro­duced in the nine­teenth cen­tu­ry con­tain tables of bills of founts, but unfor­tu­nate­ly they rarely men­tion how these pro­por­tions were deter­mined. It is true that the only sat­is­fac­to­ry way in which to arrive at suit­able pro­por­tions is to count the fre­quen­cy of occur­rence of char­ac­ters in a piece of work that has been hand-set. Pre­sum­ably most of them were deter­mined in this way but with­out a knowl­edge of the nature of the work cho­sen, the valid­i­ty of the results can­not be judged. One of the few records that do exist of a count illus­trates this point. The count, which is attrib­uted to the Caslon Foundry, was made by enu­mer­at­ing the num­ber of let­ters used in set­ting a lengthy debate in the House of Com­mons where it was assumed that ‘the best and most com­pre­hen­sive Eng­lish would be spo­ken’. The valid­i­ty of this count can be ques­tioned on two points, first­ly that the fre­quen­cies of the spo­ken word vary from the writ­ten word and, sec­ond­ly, the sam­ple was not typ­i­cal of the Eng­lish being set at that time.

It is record­ed that ‘the pro­por­tions of almost every type­founder failed lam­en­ta­bly to give sat­is­fac­tion’. Such fail­ures seem part­ly due to the use of biased sam­ples on which to base the pro­por­tions and part­ly to the fact that, at a time when all the work was hand-set, small vari­a­tions in the style of the work would have a large effect on the char­ac­ters required. The work of Dick­ens, for exam­ple, would quick­ly emp­ty the case of vow­els, where­as Macaulay’s style had a sim­i­lar effect on con­so­nants. No fount pro­por­tion scheme could rea­son­ably be expect­ed to cope with that type of vari­a­tion.

At the present time the copy that is hand-set from roman and ital­ic types may be broad­ly classed as job­bing work, and it gives rise to rather dif­fer­ent prob­lems than those fac­ing the old type­founder. This change in the char­ac­ter of the work, which was brought about by the wide­spread use of type­set­ting machines, has led type­founders to mod­i­fy the old pro­por­tions by ‘expe­ri­ence’ in order ‘to meet the needs of the cus­tomer’. It might be expect­ed that since most type­founders are cater­ing for the same type of work their expe­ri­ence would have led them to the same pro­por­tions. In fact, for some char­ac­ters there are wide vari­a­tions between the var­i­ous pro­por­tion schemes in use today.

It should be not­ed at this stage that the present work was not under­tak­en as an aca­d­e­m­ic exer­cise but the need for it was sug­gest­ed by a type­founder. Sub­se­quent enquiries amongst print­ers con­firmed this and their main com­plaint was that cur­rent­ly used pro­por­tions gave rise to short­ages of the most com­mon­ly used char­ac­ters (in par­tic­u­lar, e, r, s and t) while the least used char­ac­ters built-up in the case. The rea­son for this hap­pen­ing will become appar­ent lat­er.

Before the main results are dis­cussed it is essen­tial to realise the main types of vari­a­tion that will affect the type pro­por­tions required to set a piece of job­bing work. There are three of these:

  1. Work-type Vari­a­tion
    Hol­i­day brochures pro­vide a good exam­ple of work-type vari­a­tion since in these a con­sis­tent part of the hand-set work are the names of hotels. Con­se­quent­ly, the fre­quent occur­rence of the word ‘HOTEL’ means that a high­er pro­por­tion of the char­ac­ters H, O, T, E, and L will be required than is nor­mal­ly found. This type of vari­a­tion is inher­ent in the work.
  2. Job Vari­a­tion
    A parish mag­a­zine, for exam­ple, nor­mal­ly con­tains a large num­ber of dis­played adver­tise­ments for the par­tic­u­lar town it serves. The fre­quent occur­rence of the town’s name will again upset the nor­mal pro­por­tions of char­ac­ters. This vari­a­tion is inher­ent in the job, rather than the type of work, as the char­ac­ters most seri­ous­ly affect­ed will vary from town to town, ie from job to job. Fur­ther­more, with this type of vari­a­tion if a num­ber of such jobs are under­tak­en for dif­fer­ent towns then the like­li­hood of upset­ting the nor­mal pro­por­tions is reduced. On the oth­er hand, with work-type vari­a­tion the pro­por­tions become more seri­ous­ly affect­ed as more jobs of the same type are under­tak­en.
  3. Sam­pling Vari­a­tion
    The two types of vari­a­tion denned above will upset any fount pro­por­tion scheme and this fact must be recog­nised by print­ers and catered for by sep­a­rate­ly order­ing more of the char­ac­ters affect­ed. There is, how­ev­er, a third type of vari­a­tion which is always present and must be tak­en into account to the fount pro­por­tion scheme itself, This is called ‘sam­pling’ vari­a­tion and because of its impor­tance it is dis­cussed in detail.

The foun­da­tion of any type fount scheme is that char­ac­ters occur in fixed pro­por­tions, but the essen­tial point is that the pro­por­tions can only be con­sid­ered as fixed for a large num­ber of char­ac­ters.

To illus­trate this state­ment, sup­pose that a piece of set­ting con­sists of 100 lines and each line has 50 low­er­case let­ters. If there is no work-type or job vari­a­tion present then about 200 d’s would be used in the set­ting. This is 4 per cent of the low­er­case alpha­bet which is the nor­mal pro­por­tion for d, that is, what is expect­ed to occur in a large sam­ple of char­ac­ters such as the 5000 used in this sup­posed set­ting. If each of the 100 lines is now tak­en sep­a­rate­ly as small sam­ples of 50 char­ac­ters then there will not be 4 per cent, or two d’s in each line. There will be a num­ber of lines that do not con­tain any d’s and it is quite pos­si­ble that one line will con­tain as many as sev­en or eight. This illus­trates sam­pling vari­a­tion and shows that if only small amounts are set then a wide vari­a­tion in usage is expect­ed.

Refer­ring still to the above exam­ple, if the occur­rence of a d-and the same can be argued for any char­ac­ter — is a pure­ly ran­dom process then the prob­a­bil­i­ty of obtain­ing 0, 1, 2 etc of them in any of the lines is giv­en by the 1st, 2nd, 3rd … terms of the bino­mi­al expan­sion (0.04+0.96)50. The results of this cal­cu­la­tion are shown graph­i­cal­ly by the full line in Fig­ure 1, where it can be seen that with 100 lines some 13 would be expect­ed to have no d’s, 27 have one d, 27 have two d’s and so on. The dot­ted line in Fig­ure 1 shows the prob­a­bil­i­ties for sam­ples of 25 char­ac­ters, and the curve becomes more dis­tort­ed and shows that the chance of get­ting a wider vari­a­tion from the expect­ed one d increas­es. Con­verse­ly, as the size of the sam­ple is increased, so the curve becomes more sym­met­ri­cal with its peak over the true pro­por­tion and the spread of the curve (the vari­a­tion) get­ting small­er. A fur­ther fact, which is not Illus­trat­ed here, is that a char­ac­ter such as e, which has a high­er pro­por­tion­al occur­rence (13.4 per cent) will have a tow­er per­cent­age vari­a­tion for the same sam­ple size. The val­ue of these cal­cu­la­tions to this study is that for a fount of a giv­en size the num­ber that is like­ly to occur for each be found.

The cal­cu­la­tions are based, how­ev­er, on the assump­tion that the occur­rence of a char­ac­ter is a ran­dom process that is, its occur­rence is inde­pen­dent of the char­ac­ters pre­vi­ous­ly set. This is clear­ly not the case when it is known that for 58 per cent of the times that d occurs r does so after n or e and that it does not nor­mal­ly fol­low let­ters such as c, h and j. In order to deter­mine how this depen­den­cy would affect the cal­cu­la­tions, a num­ber of tests were car­ried out and it was found that for the present pur­pose of type fount pro­por­tions, the effect would be neg­li­gi­ble. This means that the sta­tis­ti­cal mod­el out­lined above can be used to pre­dict what vari­a­tion is expect­ed to occur under var­i­ous cir­cum­stances and so place type fount pro­por­tions on a more pre­cise basis than has hith­er­to been pos­si­ble.

As men­tioned ear­li­er, the only way is which it is pos­si­ble to deter­mine the pro­por­tion of char­ac­ters is by count­ing their occur­rence and using this to pre­dict future require­ments. It is impor­tant when mak­ing a count to select sam­ples of work which tru­ly rep­re­sent the type of work being hand-set at the present time and so reduce the num­ber of char­ac­ters to be count­ed to a rea­son­able lev­el.

To devel­op the new scheme sam­ples of hand-set work were obtained from twen­ty-five ran­dom­ly-select­ed print­ing firms, which includ­ed job­bing print­ers, mag­a­zine print­ers and a provin­cial news­pa­per. In all, 92,000 char­ac­ters (exclud­ing spaces) were count­ed from 350 sep­a­rate jobs. In order that job and work-type vari­a­tions could be exam­ined more close­ly these items of work were regrouped into eighty-eight class­es con­tain­ing jobs of a very sim­i­lar nature and fur­ther regrouped into fif­teen broad class­es of work. These fif­teen work-type groups includ­ed forms, enter­tain­ment hand­bills, and a vari­ety of dis­played adver­tise­ments spe­cif­ic to var­i­ous sub­jects such as motor­ing, office equip­ment, chem­i­cal engi­neer­ing and shop ser­vices. The char­ac­ters were also sub­di­vid­ed into com­po­si­tion and dis­play sizes, the lat­ter being char­ac­ters of 14 pt and above.

Clear­ly, if an exam­i­na­tion of the var­i­ous items of work showed great dif­fer­ences from one anoth­er, there would be no val­ue in alter­ing the cur­rent­ly used pro­por­tions. It so hap­pened, how­ev­er, that sam­pling vari­a­tion was the vari­a­tion of great­est impor­tance. Oth­er types of vari­a­tion did occur infre­quent­ly as expect­ed: for exam­ple, with low­er­case a, two jobs that were found to show oth­er vari­a­tions were a danc­ing acad­e­my prospec­tus and a bal­let pro­gramme. Some vari­a­tions were not quite so obvi­ous, such as the work-type vari­a­tion shown by low­er­case b which was not found so fre­quent­ly as expect­ed in dis­played adver­tise­ments for shop ser­vices. The gen­er­al remits of this work do show, how­ev­er, that a type fount scheme which would suit most print­ers is entire­ly prac­ti­ca­ble.

The basis of the new scheme is the sta­tis­ti­cal mod­el pre­vi­ous­ly dis­cussed. Sim­ply inter­pret­ed this means that the less fre­quent­ly used char­ac­ters need to be strength­ened more than the com­mon­ly occult­ing ones and the exact amount of strength­en­ing can be deter­mined math­e­mat­i­cal­ly. The cur­rent­ly used schemes also strength­en the less fre­quent­ly used char­ac­ters but they do so irre­spec­tive of the size of the fount and this pro­duces excess­es of these char­ac­ters. By real­is­ing that when the size of the fount is increased the pro­por­tions should get clos­er to the actu­al pro­por­tions found from the count­ing the scheme pro­posed here will meet require­ments of type fount pro­por­tions out­lined in the intro­duc­tion. An abridged ver­sion of the new founts, togeth­er with the actu­al pro­por­tions found is giv­en in Table I for both low­er­case and cap­i­tals. Table II shows the actu­al pro­por­tions found for fig­ures and points.

LOWERCASE FOUNTS
Sort% FoundSize of Fount
a8.1102030405075100150
b1.3357911162129
c3.4510151924364867
d4.1612172228415680
e13.41530466380119160236
f1.53581012182333
g1.73691113202637
h3.3510151923344667
i6.79182635436286125
j0.124566666
k0.735667101318
l4.9714202632486593
m2.348111417253448
n7.710202938487196141
o8.3102030405075102151
p2.348111417243447
q0.234566668
r7.910202939497298146
s6.99182534436286124
t7.710202939497198142
u3.1510141822324462
v0.935678111522
w135689121724
x0.234566669
y248101316223146
z0.123456666
ff0.123446666
fi0.123446666
fl0.0523345666
ffi0.0523345666
ffl012235666
CAP FOUNTS
Sort% FoundSize of Fount
A7.5102030405075100150
B247101417253346
C57142128355370104
D4.4713192632456590
E1.1132638526598134188
F2.148111417263444
G2.348121619273651
H3.3611152025375070
I5.98162432406081117
J0.53467781116
K0.735788111420
L5.38152230375574109
M3.4611162126385072
N6.99192838476994136
O6.78182736456892132
P3.2510152024364868
Q0.3346666710
R7.310202939497298145
S8102131425379107161
T7.9102131425379107161
U2.448121619283753
V1.1357911162025
W2.148111417253444
X0.234566669
Y1.53681214192638
Z0.134566666
ACTUAL PROPORTIONS OF FIGURES AND POINTS
Fig­ures, etc.%Points, etc.%
18.4.29
24.6,14.5
33.5:3.3
42.7;0.2
53.43.2
63.2-3.9
72.2?0.3
81.8!0.2
93.3&1.4
06.4(3.4
�1.1Total100

Table I is based on com­po­si­tion sizes but com­par­i­son of these pro­por­tions with those obtained for dis­play sizes showed that there was lit­tle jus­ti­fi­ca­tion for sug­gest­ing sep­a­rate pro­por­tions for the two groups. The main dif­fer­ences found were that cap­i­tals I and L occurred rather more fre­quent­ly in the dis­play sizes.

The quan­ti­ty of type ordered from a type­founder varies con­sid­er­ably; it may be a five-pound fount for a spe­cial job or it may be suf­fi­cient to fill a case. So that the print­er will get the max­i­mum ben­e­fit from the new founts two pro­por­tion tables have been pre­pared. For orders less than the equiv­a­lent of 160a or I60A, which con­tain few­er than 2,000 char­ac­ters a ‘pre­lim­i­nary fount’ is used which is the weight­ed sys­tem shown in Table I. For orders exceed­ing this quan­ti­ty, and where the effects of sam­pling vari­a­tion become small, the type is sup­plied from a ‘con­tin­u­a­tion fount’ in which the num­ber of char­ac­ters are in direct pro­por­tion to those found from the count­ing. This refine­ment, which has again been devised to give a more uni­form usage from the case, will not com­pli­cate the order­ing of type from the point of view of the print­er.

Anoth­er aspect stud­ied was the ratio of the num­ber of low­er­case char­ac­ters to the num­ber of cap­i­tals in a com­plete fount. At present a 5lb fount of job­bing type con­tains 2 1/2 lb of low­er­case and 2 1/2 lb of cap­i­tals, fig­ures and points. This weight rela­tion­ship auto­mat­i­cal­ly fix­es the numer­i­cal ratio and those in cur­rent use have about 1.9 low­er­case for every cap­i­tal. It was found, how­ev­er, that a ratio of 1.5 low­er­case to one cap­i­tal would bet­ter suit the major­i­ty of print­ers and to achieve this future founts would have to be made up of 2 1/4 lb of low­er­case and 2 3/4 lb of cap­i­tals, fig­ures and points. Oth­er ratios incor­po­rat­ed into the new scheme are that the most suit­able ratio for cap­i­tals to fig­ures and points is 3.8 to 1 and that of points to fig­ures is 1.5 to 1. The lat­ter two ratios do vary con­sid­er­ably with the size of the type and those sug­gest­ed here are again the ones that would suit most print­ers.

There were many oth­er aspects of this work which had to be dis­cussed and stud­ied but because of their lim­it­ed inter­est they are not men­tioned here. Nev­er­the­less they were impor­tant in order to make the new scheme eas­i­ly work­able for the type­founder and also accept­able to the type user.

As quite a few firms car­ry out hand-set­ting and cor­rect­ing of machine-set work from the same case it was nec­es­sary to make a fur­ther study in order to deter­mine whether the fount scheme above would be quick­ly upset by such a prac­tice. In oth­er words, are the pro­por­tions obtained for hand-set­ting founts suit­able for cor­rec­tions founts? Eleven main rea­sons for cor­rec­tions were list­ed and while some of these (bat­ters, miss­ing words, wrong fount, etc) would require pro­por­tions almost iden­ti­cal to those found for job­bing work, there were oth­ers which depend­ed on the human ele­ment and machine capa­bil­i­ties. Because of the lat­ter, no pre­cise pro­por­tions are pos­si­ble and the require­ments will vary from firm to firm accord­ing to the abil­i­ty of the oper­a­tors and the type of work being pro­duced. One major require­ment of a cor­rec­tions fount is that it must be of such a size as to with­stand sud­den demands made upon it as are called for by repeat­ed mis-spelling of a word, a dirty matrix, or the replace­ment of one of the alpha­bet in the die-case by a more fre­quent­ly occur­ring sort. If this require­ment is met, then, from counts of the fre­quen­cy of occur­rence of char­ac­ters requir­ing cor­rec­tions the hand-set scheme pro­duced here will prove to be quite sat­is­fac­to­ry under most cir­cum­stances.

For sug­gest­ing the prob­lem and pro­vid­ing ini­tial evi­dence of its exis­tence, I am grate­ful to Messrs San­type Lim­it­ed. I wish espe­cial­ly to thank their for­mer Man­ag­ing Direc­tor, H. F. W. Cory, for his valu­able help on the prac­ti­cal prob­lems asso­ci­at­ed with the work.

This arti­cle from the British Print­er mag­a­zine dur­ing 1961