Mounting Lino at Type Height

I have recently bought myself some 12pt Bembo type. I’m paying for it by pulling my own business cards. I already have an old proofing press, that my father swapped something for from a local newspaper.

I’m experimenting now with cutting a little logo from lino for the business card. But I find that the correct type height of 0.918 inches a bit perplexing. Is this an archaic measurement? It certainly isn’t a nice an easy measurement to get.

How does everyone else mount lino etc at type height?

With thanks,


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“Type-high” is indeed an odd, archaic measurement. It has become the standard for most European and American letterpress… but is not a truly universal measure since there are a few places and styles of printing that use other heights. Why is it .918? Honestly, I have no idea. I do have a few books that explain why it is this height, but they all disagree…. so my assumption is that they don’t know either. We just live with it.

Now, about Lino Cuts…. typical Lino blocks are .125” linoleum mounted on a .75” thick base, so they are .875” tall which is a bit too short. However, it’s quite easy to build them up with a piece of chipboard on the bottom. The only critical thing is to make sure that the block is the same height as your type, and also your rails. Beyond that, there’s nothing to it.

Maybe .918 became the standard when American Type Founders was formed. Before that, I suppose founders “locked you in” to their product by using a distinct, proprietary height. De Vinne remarks on the “recent change” from .9166 to .918 on p. 46 of _Plain Printing Types_, 1902. Eleven-twelths of an inch, more or less.

Winking Cat is right about building up the lino. Much harder to get something over typehigh lower.


Before the American point system was standardized, type height was .916”. When the pica was standardized at 83 picas to 35 centimeters, type height was adjusted slightly to .918” which makes 15 type heights equal 35 centimeters.
I’m not sure when height was changed, but the standardized point system was first introduced in 1878 and modified in 1886.

McClain’s ( sells a chipboard shim to get resingrave blocks to type-high. I am fairly sure they will work with mounted lino as well. A quick call might be worth it. I use the chipboard and plain paper to shim to the right height.

Type height is an odd thing…Even .918 doesn’t mean .918 all the time. ATF drove some mats deeper in large cuts and fonts to compensate for minor shrinkage, and possibly to add a few ten-thou so the larger surface area would print completely. So, .918 really seems to mean .918 (-.0000, +.0005)…But I’m rambling about half-forgotten info from Theo Rehak’s book.

Well, I got curious and read a little more in De Vinne. Summarizing p. 131 and pp. 149 - 155: “English and American founders came to a practical agreement [about 1800] that the standard … should be eleven-twelths of an English inch. George Bruce of New York made the only exception; his standard was a little higher.” “… a mass of types much shorter than those now in use could not be made secure in the chase.”

A fire destroyed the materials of Marder, Luse & Co. In rebuilding, they adopted the pica of MacKellar, Smiths & Jordan Co., and in 1878 put on sale a graded series of types called the “American System of Interchangeable Type Bodies.” In 1886, the U.S. Type Founders’ Assn. appointed a committee to examine this new system. The dimensions relating the pica and type height to the metric system, given by parallel_imp above, were widely adopted.

A long footnote on p. 155 remarks that the American pica probably derived from the French equipment purchased by Benjamin Franklin from Fournier, and that differences between Fournier’s points and American points are probably due to wear and tear on this equipment as it passed through the hands of various founders.

Best wishes, Brian

I’ve been playing with this myself- and found that a piece of pressboard (which I’ve been using for packing) works perfectly to push the linoleum block up to type-high.

I just cut the pressboard down the the size of the block, use a little spray-mount on it, and stick it to the block.

(For pressboard I bought SmeadĀ® Recycled Pressboard Classification Folders from Office Depot, and cut them down for parts. I use the blue/green cover part for the linoleum shimming.)

Lino is usually mounted to be about .875” (7/8”)
Adding .040 to this, will bring it to .915.
I use a couple sheets of .020 bristol and a .005 photopolymer liner to bring it up to .920 which, if there’s no other type next to it, works pretty darned well. If necessary, other combinations are used.
The micrometer/caliper is a good friend here ;-)

BTW, I’ve just started a Facebook Group to promote September 18 (9/18) as an Annual Letterpress Appreciation Day!

Come join the group!

Print exchanges, letterpress pilgrimages, wayzgeese, etc!