Old Films on Printing

There are all sorts of peculiar things on YouTube, and recently my daughter directed me to the first in what turned out to be a treasure-trove of old educational films about printing and related retro technology. The three short films which I picked out to share here are from the 1940s and early 1950s.

The first provides an informative overview of the process of printing books with details of the process of setting hot type with a linotype machine and making copper plates from the soft metal type, a technology which was still widely used when I was a kid and which has virtually vanished today.

The second is a vocational education film on the printing business which shows the various jobs in a printing company and includes a good look at compositors setting cold type, as well as more hot type setting with both linotype and monotype machines. It also shows a variety of different types of presses and explains terminology fairly well.

The third film is a typesetting training film with good step by step instructions for setting cold metal type by hand. It’s quite detailed and took me back to my days apprenticing in typesetting on an old letterpress set-up at Applewood Books when they were just starting out doing old school reprints of classic works.

Modern typesetting and printing have become so sterile and high-tech that I think it’s rather instructive to look back at the techniques and technology of earlier eras. Pick up an old book printed with these methods and you’ll see how different the look and feel of it is from the modern equivalent. We can’t duplicate all of that unique character, but one of the things we try to do with many of our fonts is to preserve as much of that character as we can.

Overview of Book Printing

Vocational Film on Printing Business

Typesetting Training Film

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