No Clue What These Are!

I know very little about letterpress but recently I have been very interested in it (mostly because I’m a graphic design student). I have bought a few auctions of random lead and wood type and These were thrown in one of the auctions. Most of them have different fractions on them and the rest have brackets and parenthesis. Could someone educate this rookie haha?

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Those are Linotype (or Intertype) “matrices” - think of them as letterform molds for casting lines of printing type. For a booklet by Linotype on the operation of the machine, see “The Big Scheme of Simple Operation,” online at:

If you’re inclined toward video, see two parts of an Italian (dubbed) training film at:

Or for something with more visual excitement, see the trailer for the new film (currently in the works), “Linotype: The Film” at:

David M. MacMillan

Wow. That 1960 film was really neat! I new that the old linotype machines were complex but I had no idea how they worked. Thank you very much for these links. Linotype the movie looks pretty neat as well. I loved the movie Helvetica so I’m sure I’ll like it. Thanks again!

On the side of each one of these should be a number with a dash or triangle, and then another number. The first number indicates point size (X height) of the cast face and the second number is a code for which face it is. Not sure if anybody needs fractions and the other sorts, but they might be of use to somebody if they know what they are and if you’re interested in them going to a working home (vs being on display).

There are a few people that would love to have these matrices for their linotype or intertype. Contract these people classified section on this website.

As an old Intertype operator, these matrices or mats as some call them, are needed in cook books. and other books needing fractions.

These guys are pretty small. It says its a 6pt and the code is 418.

Yes and some typesetter with a Linotype or Intertype could use them.

jdoz wrote: “It says it is a 6pt and the code is 418”

Linotype and its competitor Intertype used different conventions for matrix identification. Linotype used a “delta” or “triangle” in the code (as mikefrommontana said), while Intertype used “Pt” (for point, of course).

If the mats have a delta/triangle, “6 [triangle] 418” then (consulting Linotype’s “Useful Matrix Information” book) this is Bell Gothic Light with Bold. Most Linotype/Intertype mats in the small-to-regular sizes actually have two characters on them - often the roman and italic of the same face, or (in this case) the lightface roman and bold.

I’ve attached a one-line specimen of 6delta418 and a specimen of Bell Gothic (from the 1958 one-line specimen book). (BriarPress has shrunk them down a bit; I hope they’re still legible.) Bell Gothic was, I believe, developed for telephone directory work (hence the “Bell” of the Bell System). Not flashy, but extremely well adapted to its intended work.

Of course, if the mats say literally “6 Pt” and then 418 (no triangle) then they’re Intertype mats and none of the above applies (but I can’t find a 6Pt 418 in my Interetype books).

Hope this helps,
David M. MacMillan

image: bell-gothic-specimen-small.jpg


image: bell-gothic-6delta418-small.jpg


Yes it has a triangle next to the 6. Thank you very much for all your help. I find all of this really interesting and I really appreciate it!