Page:De Vinne, Invention of Printing (1876).djvu/310

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300
THE WORKS OF AN UNKNOWN PRINTER.

was sometimes thin and gray and sometimes thick and strong black, was applied by an imperfect method which has filled the counters of some letters until they are almost illegible, while it has not fairly covered the faces of other letters. The singular irregularities of a collection of types, apparently new on one page and worn-out on another, which have provoked the astonishment of many critics, are chargeable, not to the condition of the types, but to faulty methods of inking and impression. Few persons have a proper notion of the changes that can be given to the appearance of the best modern types by substituting wet for dry paper, hard for light impression, and thin for thick ink.[1]

How the types of these and of other early books were founded cannot be learned from the vague descriptions of the early chroniclers of typography. We have to conjecture the process from the workmanship of the books. The discrepancies in the bodies and the imperfections of the faces indicate that the process was rude and unscientific, and that the mould was not of metal. It is possible that the maker of these types followed the example of other founders in metals, and made types in moulds of sand.[2] There are some peculiarities in his types which almost confirm this conjecture. The difficulty encountered in fitting matrices to these moulds, or in adjusting the mould of the face of the letter in proper position on the body, a difficulty that calls for no explanation, may be the reason why the types are so often out of line, crookedly set on body and of irregular height to paper. The feebleness of the sand mould, its liability to damage, and the necessity for its frequent renewal are, possibly, the reasons why we find in the

  1. Blades, in his Life and Typography of William Caxton, has given a practical illustration of these changes in Plate ix b, which also illustrates the feasibility of types of pure lead, for a notice of which see next page.
  2. The most approved process in the modern art of stereotyping is that in which the mould is made of calcined gypsum or plaster. The same material is used by type-founders in the manufacture of the largest types of metal. The cheapness of sand, and the ease with which it can be worked, make it the most serviceable of materials for all founders who wish to produce cheap castings.