California Job Case Test!

Hello Briar Press-ites, my name is Tony and I’d like to share something with the community here.

I’ve recently come into an operational press (type, press, etc.) and wanted a way to learn the case layout for the California Job Case. So instead of waiting for (or commissioning) someone to create it, I learned how to code HTML, CSS, and JS.

This website ( is the first published result of my efforts, and I feel that it would be helpful for others to utilize when learning the California Job Case layout.

If you have any suggestions for edits, feel free to touch base.

Take care.

image: CAjobcase2.png


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The proportions on your case layout need to be corrected. For online typecase layouts please follow this link:

When I learned the lay of the case it was very similar to the modern lay of the California case except that the commas and lowercase w are inverted. The shop I worked in was started in 1879, and followed an older lay as was shown in Thomas MacKeller’s ‘The American Printer’ in 1868 (before the California case was invented). I still follow this lay as it is comfortable to me.

I am currently re-organizing a stand of type laid by someone who really had no idea how a case was properly laid, and it tends to vary a bit from case to case. I’m having to look at every piece of type to make sure it gets where it belongs.


Hi there Paul, thanks for the thoughts. I did realize that the proportions of the ‘7’ and ‘8’ column are not exactly correct. And I will look into how to fix this - but the main reason it is this way is because of the ‘EnQuad’ and ‘EmQuad’ input fields. Since they are wider than a single input field, the whole column resized to match the wider field. It will take a little more learning on my part.

Sorry to hear about the wayward cases you’re working on. Best of luck with the process, and thanks so much for taking a look!

Well the proportions have been fixed! Thanks for the keen eye. If you see any other issues, be sure to give a hollar.

Take care.



This is great. I’d like to use this as an aid to students.

I came into letterpress during grad studies. The fellow I learned from, Walter Hamady, would just dump a case of type on butcher paper and make you put the type back in the case. I got 6-pt Arrighi. Nice. The next week you had two cases because half the students had dropped out. They were actually the smart ones. Fortunately, I had it easier than others as I had taken printing in a high school shop class, and it all sort of came back to me. In actuality, it was far less stressful than my non-elective studies, and it turned out to be a life-changer.

I think your system is far more humane.


The class I taught a UC Santa Cruz had so much standing type that I would have new students distribute it to learn the case. It worked like a charm. One of my favorites was a young woman who had obsessive compulsive tendencies. When there was time during the class she would sort a small mountain of mixed spacing material into newly acquired plastic cases. She said she enjoyed doing it, and I said that I enjoyed her doing it too.


Oh yeah.

Last semester, one of the new students, before she left for the night, arranged all the stools around the tables. Right there you can tell. And she proved her worth. She listened and applied. Her work was unbelievably good. Her press tools were always arranged in line, when I came over to look at her work, she always gave it to me with the addition of a pencil for correction, she even volunteered to come in and help re-arrange the spacing material. My god. They are out there. Yet.


One of my students directed The Horn Press at UCLA, and is now Project manager for the California Rare Book School, it’s a good feeling to know that you gave someone a step-up into a career in the book arts.


Thanks for the kind words Gerald! I was hoping that this could be used for educational purposes, as it has been a real help for me to learn the layout.

And Paul, the site is pretty fascinating, I recently stumbled across their site. I am mulling the idea of creating tests for the more modern cases, especially since the alembic press site already has the wire-frames of each of the cases.

Thanks to you both for your entertaining stories about sorting type. I’m glad I’m not the only one to dump a case on it’s face and start over!! :)) Take care,


I would never, unless absolutely necessary, dump a case to sort it later. I did that once to acquire type from cases that were already sold to antique dealers. I still have boxes of type to sort after 25 years!


Ditto in bags of about 3kilo each x too many ….

Having over 2,000 fonts of handset type in my shop, I think I am qualified to join this discussion. There are 30 some odd cabinets of type in my basement, and ten or so galley cabinets,chock full of type. I find it easier to put the larger-sized fonts onto galleys (the majority of them containing more than one font) because that creates a much more effective use of floorspace. I also have type cabinets and galley cabinets stacked on top of each other.

Anyway, needless to say I have cleaned out LOTS of type cases over the decades. The basic layout of the California Job Case is almost always the same, but partcular characters can be found in different places. This usually applies to ligatures, ampersands, etc.

Back in the day, there used to be three phrases to help students learn the order of the basic compartments in the lowercase sections. I do remember that the phrase for the upper row was “Be careful driving elephants in small foriegn garages.” that was your bcdeisfg. I can only guess now at the other two. I also memorized the order of planets going out from the Sun as “Mary’s violet eyes made Jack stay up nights pleading.” Lot of good that did since I guess Jack can no longer plead!!!!!!

Opps - just remembered the other two: “Let me now help out your punctuation with commas.” and “Villians usually take a ride.”

And yes Paul, back in the day I have literally brought home buckets of pied type to spend winter evenings sorting out and fonting-up on the dining room table. Same story - they wanted the cases but could care less about the type. I can’t even the imagine the countless hours I have spent doing that, but it was the excitement of getting more great type that was the driving factor.


3,000 fonts, can i have one of your specimen books? if not can you post the names?

Hi Dick,

That’s 2,000 fonts! I can remember wondering if I would ever be lucky enough to obtain enough type to fill one cabinet. Started a specimen book in the 70’s but soon abandoned that idea. I have all my fonts listed on 3”x5” index cards as well as on an Excel spreadsheet on the computer. Each of my galley and type cabinets is numbered (Now to remember which room they are in.)

The real trick is to remember the name of a face. If I know the name I simply look it up in the alphabetical card file or on the computer. Along with all of the sizes and other data, a location is listed for each font. A designation such as 23/15 tells me that the font is in cabinet 23, case 15. If the location is G7/81 that tells me the font is in galley cabinet 7, on galley 81. I also have some letterboards stuffed with type as well as other locations, but I also have a code system to tell me where the type in them is located.

Just remember Dick, he who dies with the most type is the winner! I have that and several other phrases posted around the shop. Some of my favorites are “There are but two classes of type - the type you have and the type you don’t have. The type you don’t have is always better.” “There a lot of money in old printing equipment. I know… I put most of it there.” “Proofread carefully to see you left any words out.”


In junior high school print shop the first task was to learn the lay of the California job case. A diagram of the case had been printed with one letter, figure or mark in each box. We studied the diagram and were later tested. The test was a blank copy of the diagram and we were to fill it in.
We could go no farther until we had perfectly filled in the diagram. My hard disk mind was not as full of stuff as it is today so now 60+ years later I remember the lay of the case.
The student font was 10pt Bookman Oldstyle. Each student worked at a slant top case. Each piece of type was standing up. It took a bit more time distributing the type, but made composing faster.

Inky, junior high, 8th grade was where i too first learned to set type, 10 point century schoolbook, we learned the case and set and justified a paragraph of type. I had a rubber type cub press for a couple of years but when i started the 8th grade i fell in love with typesetting, by November i was turning 13, my grandfather bought me a 3x5 kelsey, a kit they sold with 3 fonts of type and that was my start back in 1961. My last job before going full time on my own was setting hand type for about 8 years.

Thanks so much for the stories everyone! It’s interesting to learn about the various ways we’ve all needed to learn (and completed learning) the lay of the case.

I hope that this site will spark more conversation such as this. And My ultimate hope is that a student would be able to learn the lay of the CA Job Case before attending a workshop, WITH the knowledge of the case already there! If you hear of anything like this, or know someone who could use it, please pass along the information!!

I’ve just updated the design of the site, making it simpler and with better instructions. Please visit my ‘shop-page’ on Facebook at the bottom of the test.

Keep the stories coming! :)) Take care!

Hi Tony, That’s so cool! Thanks for posting! I didn’t do all that well, since my case layout is slightly different and I filled in what I’m used to :)
For instance, I switch ? and ! to avoid confusion of ? with j. Also, your case lay doesn’t seem to account for apostrophes (next to lc k).
But job well done, and I think I’ll revisit it frequently to learn the correct lay of the lesser used things like ligatures, which many of my fonts simply do not have.
I, too have different storage solutions: “cigar” boxes from Michael’s store many of the antique fonts and borders I have collected; and lots of the cuts & specialty things too, like @ and fraction fonts.
Your job case test page is really neat and I congratulate you for making it available!


I am amazed that there would be any confusion between the ? and j. The ? is purposely placed between the j and ! for the obvious reason they THEY are the two characters that are easily confused if either is upside-down when picked from the case. In fact, in a pinch, with some san serif faces, the j can serve as a ! if set upside down.


Hey thanks Marjorie! I’m so glad that you found it useful, and that you will brush up from time to time!! Thanks for the kind words!

I used the standard layout based on what I found online and in my own experience. The apostrophe was difficult to include due to the limitations of current HTML : HTML code uses apostrophes (attribute: ’ code ’ ) in order to make sense of instructions. There is a rule that you always have to have them paired - so I couldn’t include a single apostrophe ( ’ ) in my values. I’m certain that there is a way to do this in HTML, as I’ve seen it done on other sites. I’m not THAT web savvy, and tried to come as close to a full layout as I could *easily*.

Thanks again for all the kind stories and words!! Take care! PRESS ON.

to ihbtony

I’m not sure what is meant.

On some word-processing systems, the computer thinks it knows what is wanted, and changes an apostrophe at the beginning of a word to an opening quote (where they are distinct shapes). Sometimes i can overcome this; if I want to type the word ‘flu (short for influenza), I type


and go on typing for a few characters and then come back and rub-out (erase) the capital X. Sometimes it works.

But I am not sure if this helps.


PS: As expected, it did not work here.


Thanks for the comment Alan. I haven’t heard of that loophole before. I am planning on doing a little site re-design soon, and I will certainly give that a shot.

Take Care!