Monotype Keyboard

The first step in Mono­type pro­duc­tion: encod­ing the words

Enter­ing the text is the first step in the pro­cess and the com­pressed air-driv­en key­board punched holes in a paper tape.  While the out­put was on a par with mod­ern com­puter type­set­ting, the key­board relied on mech­an­ic­al help to help with spa­cing, jus­ti­fic­a­tion and line length.

Each key­board needed some essen­tial parts to work –

  • Key­but­ton Banks: these are the rows and columns of but­tons which could be changed to accom­mod­ate non-Lat­in char­ac­ters (if set­ting Greek, for example)
  • Key­bar Frames: these trans­late the spe­cif­ic key depres­sion to a punched hole in the tape.  The punched holes select a par­tic­u­lar mould (or mat­rix) and their pos­i­tion is determ­ined by width of the char­ac­ter.  If an espe­cially wide ‘W’ was used then that would have to be in a dif­fer­ent pos­i­tion in the mat­rix to a nar­row­er or con­densed ‘W’ and so a dif­fer­ent pat­tern of holes was needed in the tape.  Rather than have each W in a dif­fer­ent pos­i­tion on the key­board, the key­bar frames did this trans­la­tion work
  • Stop­bars: this defines the width of each char­ac­ter so that the jus­ti­fy­ing scale can be driven
  • Jus­ti­fy­ing Scale: this Heath-Robin­son-esque device was designed to assist the key­board oper­at­or in decid­ing when to end each line.  As each key was pressed, the stop­bar helped move a small needle up or down a cyl­in­der vis­ible to the oper­at­or depend­ing on the width of that char­ac­ter.  At the same time, each key­s­toke moved the drum around by one pos­i­tion.  The mark­ings on the drum would indic­ate how much space was left in that line and allowed the oper­at­or to either con­tin­ue (and have very tightly-spaced words), or break to anoth­er line (per­haps leav­ing very wide spa­cing between words)

Standard Keyboard

A single, stand­ard key­board to pro­duce the punched paper tape.


Weight 324lb
Work­ing Area 6′3″ x 6′
Air Pres­sure 15 lbs/sq. in
Air Con­sump­tion 1.15 cu. ft/min
Stand­ard Meas­ure (the width to which text could be set, line length) 4¼pt. to 14pt up to 60ems pica

Duplex Keyboard

Two side-by-side key­boards with two per­for­at­ors.  They could be switched togeth­er or worked sep­ar­ately.  Used where either a duplic­ate per­for­ated tape was needed of a single text; or where two texts had to be cre­ated sep­ar­ately (if, for example, work was in two colours)


Weight 486lb
Work­ing Area 8′ x 6′
Air Pres­sure 15 lbs/sq. in
Air Con­sump­tion 1.15 cu. ft/min for each paper tower


Mono­type sup­plied all man­ner of oth­er kit to help with some of the spe­cial­ised branches of com­pos­i­tion.  They included –

  • Com­bined Spa­cing: an attach­ment to cast spaces dif­fer­ently.  This might include cast­ing the space with the type itself, which allowed very tight spa­cing and a sav­ing of paper tape and cast­ing time
  • Copy Light: to illu­min­ate the copy with either a bulb or a strip light
  • Dummy Key­board: for train­ees to ‘feel’ the key­board and lay­out without hav­ing to use the real thing
  • Copy­hold­ers: four dif­fer­ent types of attach­ment to hold the copy to be keyboarded
  • Tab­u­lat­ing: to help with set­ting tab­u­lated mat­ter (like tables or timetables)


The key­board should be cleaned each week, but the daily routine recom­men­ded that –

  • Open the pet cock at the back of the air cham­ber for a few minutes
  • Blow off any loose punch­ings with a blast of air
  • Wipe dust from the keyboard
  • Check screws and nuts for tightness
  • Test the align­ment of perforations