Monotype caster identification

As a museum curator I feel at home with letterpress equipment but readily admit to having minimal knowledge of casters.

Please can folk help identify the models and extent of any distinctive add-ons of these two British Monotype casters? This is the first one: maker’s number 22,164 which I think dates it to around the late 1940s - can anyone confirm or fine-tune its date?

Many thanks in anticipation of assistance.

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Log in to reply   15 replies so far

Well - what did I do wrong? Only one corner of each photo seems to have uploaded.

Ah! I see what I’ve done - when resizing each c.4mb image, I deleted about three-fourths of each one rather than compressing them. Apologies - will try again.

I’ll try again…

As a museum curator I feel at home with letterpress equipment but readily admit to having minimal knowledge of casters.

Please can folk help identify the models and extent of any distinctive add-ons of these two British Monotype casters? This is the first one: maker’s number 22,164 which I think dates it to around the late 1940s - can anyone confirm or fine-tune its date?

Many thanks in anticipation of assistance.

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Hmmm, three images wouldn’t load; I’ll keep trying…

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Last one for the first caster:

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Onto the second caster, maker’s number 21,254.

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More images of second caster

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Last images of second caster.

Thank you for any assistance with identification of models and add-on features, and with dating that you may be able to give with these two British Monotype casters which I believe to date from the late 1940s.

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Robert: Since these are from English Monotype, you could contact the Type Museum in London ( who have retained the original order books for Monotype casting machines; they will tell you the date these machines were sold and to whom. Do you have any intentions to get one operational?


Dan Jones

Dan: That’s a very useful suggestion - thank you; I will certainly follow it up for both the casters and for their accompanying keyboards which also have maker’s numbers. Realistically, there are no prospects of getting either caster operational.



Your dating is quite close, but probably the best people to verify exactly are David & Claire Bolton @The Alembic press.
I have Number 21,324 in use as of 6 months since, U.K. have been involved with and used, (and sadly scrapped many since) to my eternal shame.!!!
Many many pointers re yours, from the top, the Melting pot was probably Gas operated originally, at the rear will probably be the blanking plug for the Chimney (gas) obviously now electric…
That far back they were still fitting 70Lb. capacity pots as opposed to 90Lb. but can be uprated. . I still have spare elements.! You have probably taken the serial number from the Brass plate pictured, have a close look at the Base where the air pipe goes through base and see if the genuine serial number checks out with the brass plate.
It was quite common to swap over the Air Tower, (with the wrong Number) to save changing the Leather Air Bar seal.
On hands and knees, take a close look at the base, under the bottom run of the drive belt, there is a letterbox size slot, where the service pipes enter, just above, there is/was usually a Plate fitted by Monotype stating “supplied to XXXX, firm for use by them and their servants”, for the hiring period whilst on H.P. etc) old fashioned hiring contract, quite normal way back.

Have a close look at the rear, close to the base adjacent to the long vertical pump spring, you may see a small Brass auxilliary block which, is the uprating from 15 x15 Diecase arrangement to 15 x17, most were uprated
The pump Springs (plural) are almost certainly uprated, original was one long thin spindly spring, Pictured are Duplex, if you screw the big knurled nut and lock nut down a little you will see, on the thread increments marked in 1/2” divisions to give a guide to Duplex spring pressure,

From your last but one shot, centre top, can be seen the Cross Beam, on the Bridge, that carries the Matrix Case, pictured are 2 vertical springs for adjustments to the descent of the matrix case, very difficult to adjust, later Modification was enclosed, easier, up to a point,
BUT one ill advised trick was to fit the complete bridge from another machine, but as the bridge (with 2 big legs and one small one) was lapped and scraped for every individual machine this caused more problems than it solved.

The 2 what look like Gun Barrels, facing backwards, under the Air tower, are over-run compression springs, with Lignum Vitae blocks, in original form only lubricated by tiny oil holes, later modifications incorporated hollow rods with grease nipples.

If is just possible to turn either machine over by hand, No electrics, No coolant, No compressed air, and observe the action and movement of the 4 sets of Tongs/Scissors, … it can be seen that when they reach the limit of their travel in either direction, on early machines, as above there is/was no “buffers” as such, consequently the tiny double ended adjuster bolts, situate at the inner ends of the tongs, snapped, always in the middle of a run, of course

Although firms generally carried spares, it was a long tricky job to repair.
Later modifications incorporated Over-run, Buffer,s but generally can not be retro fitted, without sourcing parts from later machines.
In your original shot 3 with yellow item in the background, pictured is the original style hand wheel, open spoke, but frowned on by H.& S. in correct orientation.

Just in shot vertically is the Key for the 2 Bridge bolts, square headed, not the Official parking space, we just found it useful.

From the remains of the switch gear, seen under the Cam Shaft/oil bath, it would have been equipped with 3 phase motor with ancient bank of resistors for starting, the base under the melting pot would, probably is drilled and tapped for original motor mount, later models had the lug, cast in the base.
Originally with fixed speed motor, equipped with slave pulley and 4 interchangeable pulley,s to give basically speeds for 6/8/10 & 12 point, crude and slow.

Eventually Mid 60,s ish we got Vari-gear drive units, infinitely variable but better, in that on initial start up, just to warm up to proper operating speed, at a quick crank of the adjuster wheel, slightly faster for a few revs, and then back to normal operating speed for the size.

I have much more info on tap, if requested.

If you care to key in on Google W W W …The Counter Press re Pilcrows, read My credentials, up to a point, Not my words, I was told several weeks later that it was posted.

I spent 60/70 hours rebuilding That M/c. more rebuilding upgrading mine, 21,324 No., out of respect will not expect more than 160 R.P.M.s out of it.

Re-commisioning either or both, NOT out of the question, (whilst I am still vertical) arrange escort from the Severn Crossing, Pay the Fee, to enter, bribe the Border Guards, etc etc, **Definately do not Scrap them, they only weigh in at around 12 Cwt. each, currently less than £100 per Ton

Good luck. Mick.

Many thanks Mick for such a detailed reply. I will definately check for a hire purchase plate.

I had found David & Claire Bolton’s websute and found it useful. I estimated their dates from a US website which gave the maker’s numbers and dates for three casters.

To brutally expose the extent of my ignorance with regard to casters: are these two composition casters or supercasters?

Composition casters. For a reprint of a sales booklet on the Super Caster (illustrated), see:

David M.

T.F.P. Thank You for the nod appreciated. Yes David & Claire Bolton are incredible archivists, and they run Composition Casters and Supercaster,s.
Mr Avery at the Type Museum in London has also excellent Archive Records for Hot Metal, but tends to be very Busy and tied up, including training up new technicians, for the production of composition Matrices, as we understand it.
Now it gets more complicated,? your machines are Composition Machines, and that far back, would only have run Matrix cases in the 15 x 15 row format… . Most were modified to run Extended layout 15 x 17 via the brass auxiliary block at the rear, as above, with modification(s) to several of the air pipes, it enabled the Diecases to travel a further 2 rows to the rear, > 225 + 30 = 255 < … ***Footnote.

Meaning that a Mat case could carry, 7 full alphabets, i.e. Roman Upper and Lower case, Italic Upper and Lower case, Bold Upper and Lower case, 2 sets of figures and Small Caps where applicable,

If you look at the rear as I imply, (adjacent to the long pump springs) and on the rear Pin Block, if the Brass block is on sight, they, the M/c,s, have been modified upwards, close look, will be seen a little serrated knob, which in its locked up position will run 15 x 17, extended M/case, in its down position will allow 15 x 15 standard original M/case format to run, without adjustments, other than the appropriate spools from the Keyboard M/c.

Now it gets (even more) complicated, Machines were produced by Monotype that could not compose type at all, We called them “Skeleton Machines” or *Christmas trees* Monotype prefered TYPE & RULE casters.

Orphan “Annies” in America, from the, O A, Prefix to the serial number.

They had virtually no justification equipment on top, no air tower, no pin blocks etc etc.
But with the addition of a very sophisticated Gear Box, under the rear, and a Lead & Rule cutter, bolted to the Melting Pot, including an adaptor base, could cast from 14 point to 36 point Display type, with mats hired from the Monotype lending library, in limited form still available now.!

The next step in the order of progression was to equip a normal Composition Caster with, Gearbox, L.&.R. cutter etc,. etc,. so that it could be employed around the clock if need be,

Eventually, and where it was justified and affordable, or circumstances dictated, Super casters took over.
They could not compose, but could cast any thing up to 72 point display, (bigger even in the case of 72 point full face where the cap “M” cap “W” ascenders/descenders were involved,)
Strip material, leads and rules, from 1pt. (one Point) up to lead “Girder” furniture any length up to 9 ems wide,???

*** There was one more modification, I.E. Composition machines above a certain Serial number could be modified to run 16 x 17 row format Die-cases, but generally not too well loved, because the modification involved lots of extra pipework, second valve block etc. etc. and caused lots of problems, with paper dust from the spools blocking the extra pipes. Mick.

The Monotype records at the Type Archive are comprehensive and include not only machine sales, but also matrices which are recorded on each customer record card. The cards are bound into very large Twinlock files and were meticulously updated. I recently saw the records for Adana and they show every machine and matrix purchase, acquisition of a timer unit to switch on the pot in advance of staff arriving each morning and every other add-on they purchased, together with upgrade/installation dates. The detail is quite staggering at times - Monotype logged everything. Engineering mainenance visits are recorded, together with comments on caster condition (often “Bad” in the case of Adana). Duncan Avery is generally very busy, but with his permission I would be happy to check the records for enquirers.