Mono type vs foundry type

Could anyone clarify the difference between foundry type and Mono type. Thanks, Larry

Log in to reply   75 replies so far

Foundry type is defined as type that is cast from harder metals,at a higher heat, and using more pressure to cast the type than is possible with a Monotype caster. Foundry type printed with care can yield over 100,000 impressions before it is too worn down to print well.

Monotype is the trademark name for types cast using equipment manufactured by Lanston Monotype Company. It was designed to be cast quickly using soft metal, but to have the flexibility of hand-composition, rather than the line-cast method of Linotype, Intertype, and Ludlow casters. Depending on the metal composition Monotype is good for about 10,000 impressions. The name denotes the way it is usually used, mono - printed once, then remelted for future use.


Hi Paul

Good explanation. While I have always thought that Monotype really should only be printed once (though you can get away printing three times with Plantin—that is one tuff typeface design), I have never heard that the name actually meant that (always thought Monotype was actually made for stereotype purposes, not even intended for printing). Thanks.


Respectfully, I must differ on both counts.

I can find no indication that the “Mono” in Monotype indicates an intended single use of its product. Rather, the original Monotype would seem to have been named to distinguish it from the machine which dominated the composing machine market when it was introduced: the Linotype. Monotype advertising from the beginning and consistently throughout its history emphasizes its claims for advantages of its system of casting “single types” as opposed to the slugs of the Linotype. When the Lanston Monotype company wished to make a point about the economy of remelting type rather than distributing it, they always referred to “the system of non-distribution” (and were rather consistent with that awkward phrase over many years).

The distinction between “monotype” and “foundry type” is the product of a lengthy (and remarkably successful) marketing attitude, primarily on the part of ATF. It has no basis in the underlying technologies of the casting machinery, and can only serve now to mislead. Investigating why this is so would take far more verbiage than appropriate in a BriarPress posting, so I’ve written it up here:

It’s a bit heavy on the typecasting technology and its history (of course it is, since I’m a typecasting enthusiast), but in order to see past yesterday’s advertising slogans you really need to understand in some detail how the product was made.

David M.

Monotype was designed as a machine for composition casting, but having the flexibility of movable type, and having the ability for quick correction which is simpler than correcting full lines cast in type. In its earliest marketing it was used primarily for book and magazine work; the goal of the company was to install their machinery in large plants where it would get the most use. Initially it was an expensive set-up, far beyond the reach of most small shops. In those days the large type foundries were at the peak of their existence, and any shop that was setting type by hand would have known that foundry type was a better investment.

I spent quite a bit of time with an elderly Monotype operator who worked for most of his career at the magazine Better Homes & Gardens, and the single use definition is exactly how he described its use. I helped to melt the metal that he used, and he had the skill to make the type as hard as possible, and would add small amounts of old foundry metal to beef up the alloy in the metal he used, but he assured me that there wasn’t any way a Monotype caster could cast metal that was the hardness of good foundry type. He also demonstrated the difference between the casting quality by cutting apart Monotype (which he did for regular checks during runs), and cutting apart foundry to show me the voids in each. As a printer with over thirty years of letterpress experience I can tell you straight out that Monotype cannot hold up to the same usage that foundry type can. As a poster printer I had completely full cases of large foundry type, and completely full cases of Monotype, and the Monotype cases would be easily ten pounds lighter because of metal composition and the casting voids. Anyone who has had the center of a Twentieth Century Ultrabold cap W collapse in mid-run will agree.


David M.Nice One Buddy, re your beg to differ etc, its nice to see a different aspect based on facts rather than ” I new a man that new a man who said blah blah blah etc etc” I am that man? And as I (first person) started casting type Composition and Super Caster during 6 years apprenticeship 54-62 and I still have the scars on my right wrist, from stupidly throwing 72 point with inclusions, back into the metal pot, so when I read the gobbledegook based on “I new a man etc” I have a laugh and then despair at, where do they dream it up from, and how many Bum Steers are going forward??? Just One “fact” as an example, re pressure, if one inadvertantly left the Super Caster pot half out, set up for 72 point with cap “W” in the matrix holder, and accidently turned the machine over, with the pump handle in circuit you could almost blast a stream of molten lead through the floor above, no lack pf pressure there??? FACT and NOT 3rd hand conjecture, the only reason cut in half type involved inclusions, was that the operator, was too busy getting into Grandmas Cheese and Pickle Sarnies or chatting up the girls in the bindery??? David M Thank You, Mick.>>>

I’m with David Macmillan on this one. Well-cast Monotype setting from a composition caster, printed properly, can print a run of 70-100,000. ‘Printed properly’, of course, means kiss impression, on a well-adjusted press, which isn’t the fashion nowadays. If you want to have a heavy impression from your type, then a couple of hundred will show significant deterioration around serifs and fine lines. We did a run of some 14pt Times 327 with a heavy impression recently, and the last sheets were noticeably more worn than the first few.

No type is intended to print with a heavy impression; if you’re trying to do it, though, then obviously a harder metal will last longer. If you’re printing with a proper, kiss impression, then you shouldn’t notice any deterioration; I don’t believe that anyone’s doing runs of 100,000 anymore.

“Monotype” is a broad term. Composition, Sorts, Giant, Supercaster and Thompson are all technically Monotype and each machine casts a very different, and distinguishable, type. The hollow 72-pointers mentioned above cannot be cast on a composition machine (the largest composition mats are perhaps 24 point).
The “Mono” in Monotype is for single type, not single use, a direct response to Linotype’s lines of type (and the possibilty of replacing a single damaged character rather than a whole line is of real practical importance). MacMillan has that absolutely correct. The idea that Monotype was only intended for stereotyping is just bizarre, since most 20th century stereotyping was in the news sector, and a small minority of news composition was done by Monotype composition casters. I would guess more Monotype was electrotyped than was stereotyped.
The real point is that type cast on Monotype composition casters is historically cheaper to buy than type cast on Thompson casters, which is historically cheaper than type cast on true foundry machines like Barths and Kustermanns. You do get what you pay for, but how many of you can you actually afford the best?

I have always been lead to believe that monotype was so named as it would produce the type as individual pieces and linotype as in the play on words produced a line of type .
I do remember the monotype set pages were used to produce a mould with which to vulcanise rubber sheet into a stereo ,it was not its primary function but it took on that role until the onset of the nylo , the terminology may not be best suited but i do know mick can verify this , my knowledge of this process is the use of said rubber stereos on the press and the dreadful stench from the stuff they pressed against type to make the mould before vulcanising the sheets of rubber and pressing them into the mould ,It was not a process i wanted to learn the smell was truly foul.

The gentleman that I knew was one of the best craftsmen I have ever met, Mick, and I’m offended when you dis his ability without ever knowing him. Your comments are ridiculous, but thanks for letting us know how you spent your casting career.

I’ve printed from Monotype for years, and I am one of the lightest impression printers I know (and argue that point consistently). I see deterioration in a couple hundred impressions for Monotype, which is why I’ve never invested in it to any great extent. I never mentioned stereotyping either; I’m really wondering what fumes you guys are sniffing? You keep trying to say that Monotype will wear like foundry, and it’s just not the case. Foundry cost more because it was better type, it wasn’t just hype from a PR office as is implied above.

Here is a metal composition hardness chart that was referenced in a previous discussion (see bottom of attached page):

monotype mick, really, “cheese and pickel sarnies”

We can debate this to death, but at the bottom of it all, the proof is in the printing. I’d love to see a type test where we took a line of type of identical size from each of the typecasting outfits and set them up in a single form and printed a few thousand impressions. I’d be eager to see just when things start to go south.

I can totally appreciate the value and convenience of well-cast Monotype, but for durability I’d put my money on Micah and Gerstenberg.


Not much has been said here regarding the pot temperatures of the various machines, which has just as much to do with the potential hardness of the metal as anything — Barth casters and the other “foundry automatics” run at higher temps than the Monotype family or linecasters. This allows them to run metal with a higher proportion of antimony, which is, in turn, harder. (The chart cited above shows the change in alloy form machine to machine.)

I also wonder a bit about the pressure discussion — in restoring the Type and Rule caster at the foundry, we’ve discovered that nozzle alignment viz. the mould cavity has as much or more effect on porosity as the pump pressure we’re using.

When i started out i could not afford to buy American Type for $12.00 a font, so i found Quaker City type for $4.00 a font. I have to agree that good foundry type will last a long time, but most of the monotype i had lasted quite a while, some of the lighter type didn’t hold up very well but heavier type lasted a very long time. I think it depends on the man running the castor, and the metal they use. I have seen type cast by Ed at Swamp Press, it is monotype but sure looks as good as any foundry type i’ve seen.

Founders versus Monotype, Thanks to P. A.>> H. and E. and David M. for there re-iteration of some of the points I was trying to express Sincere apologies to D. T. P. as you seem to have taken offence at one of my comments, I was in no way knocking your good gentelman, the point I was trying to get across was not, knocking the first person, but pointing out that a lot of the posts are in the third person, like not directly from me, but from an unnamed third party, so if it proves to be inaccurate, dont knock on my door!!! When I state that I did 35 years on the Monotype, including 6 years apprenticeship, with a Course at The Monotype School in London and a short course with Fry,s Metal Foundries, it would seem, that I may have a good idea and can reasonably say “bin there, done that, got the “T” shirt” etc. Once again D.T.A Sincere apologies But it does get a little boring when so many posts state “I think, maybe, a buddy told me, or I have read etc etc” Take this particular set of posts, being read by an up and coming, would be printer/type caster, (mine included) what chance would they stand, of sorting the Wood from the Trees. Once again Apologies and Thanks Respectively. Mick .

Quoted from the the book ‘Elements of Composition’ published by the Department of Education of the International Typographical Union in 1957:

Monotype. The Monotype (from the Greek word “mono,” meaning one; hence, a single type) is a typesetting machine which casts individual characters resembling foundry type. The metal is much softer than foundry type, however, and will not wear as well. As it is intended to be remelted and recast with each job, this is not a vital matter.

And from ‘A Composition Manual’ published in 1953 by the Printing Industry of America:

Forms of Monotype are usually dumped when they have become “dead,” and the metal is melted into ingots and returned to the machine to be used again.

I guess that since I am quoting other sources then this should just be taken as hearsay and ignored by certain people who are much more knowledgeable.

Ok, i’ll ignore you. The only thing i know about monotype is there was a company near me who ran monotypes, they printed a price book for the plumbing fixtures, every galley they had was brass, all the rules in their forms were brass, there were hundreds of forms and when copper prices went up they would hire a bunch of comps to come in and change the prices in all their forms, it was one of the neatest shops i’ve ever seen (not quite as neat as John Falstrom’s) they ran their pages quite a few up on large heidleburg cylinder presses. When they went to offset in the late 1970s they offered me all the lead which i bought for my ludlow, it was not much but a little harder than regular linotype metal. I don’t know what the runs were but i know after a few runs they would reset the pages and start fresh. These were the only monotypes i ever saw running, parts move in every direction and that machine spits letters out faster than i can think, don’t know how anyone can run one of these, i’ll stick to ludlow.

@dickg. Is that all it took? I would have posted this sooner if I had only known. How deep is your snow today?

Paul, last year we only had a couple inches all year, this year looked good til the first weekend in February, it has snowed every weekend since except for last weekend, two weeks ago they predicted a dusting to 2 inches, we got almost 20 inches, you saw my pictures of the tree that just missed my shop, there are so many limbs down i think i’ll be burning brush till next winter. At night it gets down to about 30, by day almost 40. What happened to global warming??

Hope I’m not too late to add my 2 cents; my Super Caster is loaded up with new foundry metal, 12% Tin and 24% Antimony; I ran some 18 pt. Perpetua a while ago and it is standing up well.


to dickg

You mention global warming; in australia, some of us now talk about climate change. You wouldn’t believe the rainfall we have had in this, my home town, when two monsoonal features met and stood over the town for 6 hours. I found it very difficult to believe the places that were flooded, and how extemsively.


to Devil’s Tail Press and following commentators/posters

Where I served my apprenticeship with a daily newspaper, for headlines we used foundry type which was subjected to stereo-moulding — very hard on the foundry type, but it stood up for years.

Years later, we were using a Monotype caster, I do not know the description, but probably a Supercaster; it cast up to 72 point sorts, from time to time with the engineer’s apprentice standing by the machine all day for one day at a time, changing matrices to cast a fount. We were glad to see it (eventually) replaced by a Nebitype machine, like a long-measure Ludlow. Perhaps the alignment of the Monotype machine nozzle was wrong? I have no way of knowing now, but we really cursed those inclusions of air in the Monotype characters, as they were just under the face of the characters.

The foreman of the commercial printing department was quite upset because when the Pacific war came to an end in 1945, the newspaper night foreman “borrowed” the wooden type, fount size about two or three inches, and it was put through the stereotype press.

Mid-1957, I worked for 9 weeks at a commercial printery in Brisbane; I think they were as glad to see me leave as I was to go; only one bright spot for them, I was given the task of tidying up a springy forme (consisting mostly of wood reglets and cardboard strips) which took about 5 minutes to unlock, easing off some quoins and then after removing some furniture, easing off other quoins. After all the brass rules had been put into their intended place, locking up resulted in lines of type and rules moving in relation to each other. I guess they gave the job to me because the foreman knew less productive time would be lost than if the task were given to more skilled compositors.
This shop used 10 point Ronaldson for most of text setting, except for trade-typesetting which was linotype; and maybe some monotype? I was never told how or why, but the sorts of lower-case “r” were much less than they should have been; over the years, the remaining l-c “r” types had become so badly worn that they were nearing being indecipherable; the more experienced comps kept an eye on jobs going through, knew where to go to “pick” an “r”.

Towards the end of my short term there, I helped them out of a difficult spot; a correction line for some trade-typeset linotype, about 24 picas measure, probably 8 or 9 point, had an error, a gratuitous letter on the end of one word in the line; the foreman showed it to me, probably because he knew I preferred lino to any other. I suggested removing the offending (extra) character with a sharp knife, he pointed out that would mean a wide space between words at that place in the line; the remedy was easy, we cut through the slug with a slug-cutter at that point, then removed a little more from the slug at the same point, and made three or so cuts between words in other places in the line, so that the inter-word spaces were nearly uniform, close enough unless one knew of the uneveness. To wait for a corrected slug from the trade-typesetting house would have resulted in another two days’ delay to the job.

Now that I have access to the Briar Press discussion, and some other information, I am reading of solutions to problems which I saw, some nearly 70 years ago, but which we tolerated.


to Dan.J and others

Somewhere there should be tables of the properties of various alloys used for printing, and the Brinell numbers. [Have I the spelling correct of Brinell?] Also the working temperatures. Only recently did I become aware that running a lino at high temperature may result in more accumulation of typemetal on spacebands — yet another reason to set lino without spacebands. And, if I had been aware of this spaceband problem, I could have had another arrow in my quiver to use for discussion about trying to keep the mouldwheel cool when running an Elektron at high speed. [We were trying to work the Elektron at 15 lines per minute, 30 pica 7-point slugs.]


to dickg and others

I found the note on rainfall. February 2008, Mackay had 24.6 inches (just over two feet) of rain in 6 hours. A small suburb of luxury homes had a levee to keep flood waters out, but the rain was from midnight onwards, and something went wrong with the outlet through the levee, there was a real problem which took weeks to clear up.

One of my brothers had a father-in-law who spent most of his life in Canada, then to Australia, so I heard of the problems which snow causes.


There are a number of books that have been produced on metal type, proper mixtures, equipment, how it was done etc., many by established type foundries. I must have a half a dozen of these. I think one could find reliable trust in these historical reference sources rather than in someone’s (anyone’s) offhand personal experience and perceptions in the matter. There are significant differences between foundry type and Monotype®, and for many of the reasons already stated. I put the registration mark symbol there because I once wrote an article on this very subject and Monotype® got back to me about the requirement. But the fellow also gave me some invaluable never before known information about their type design production (into the photo comp years, and beyond), so the slight embarrassment was quite worth it. They had their closely guarded secrets.

The original article and the response from Monotype® were published in AbraCadaBrA.


I also received a complaint from M&H because I had dismissed their claim that because they were a foundry that their Monotype® offerings were foundry. So I paid $50 to have an analysis made of their type alloy, and published it. Never heard back from them.


Ha! Well, that IS the difference between print media and the digital environment. I have dozens of copies of the journal; had this been a digital issue it would be long lost in the ozone by now.


Hi Gerald,

I’d love to read your article. I’ve been disappointed in the quality of the casting at M&H in recent years. I bought a couple of fonts that had characters in which the body of the type was tapered, I suspect due to a faulty mold, but when I requested replacement letters I got the same thing again. Folks want to say that letterpress is alive and well, but I see it barely surviving without the knowledge that people with a lifetime in the business would impart.

In trying to keep up with what is going on, I purchased a copy of ‘Letterpress Now’, the most recent crafty book on the subject. Let me just say that the book is letterpress meets scrapbooking at its best (or worst). It’s a good thing the publisher put a disclaimer against injury at the beginning. I’ve never seen such a poorly written how-to book, and since the author has a certificate from the Book Arts program at University of Iowa I now have doubts about their entire program.


I’m curious about your specific criticisms of the Letterpress Now book. I haven’t read it but read some reviews on Amazon by a few folks I consider pretty knowledgeable in letterpress and they give it high praise. Am just curious about some specifics. Thanks.

Thanks to everyone for taking the time to add to this lively and informative discussion. I would like to offer my perspective as a hobbyist.

Since I print only for my own edification and pleasure, I rarely need to purchase specific typefaces for particular jobs. In fact my usual approach is to buy the type first and then to figure out what to do with it. Therefore I have made a personal commitment to support the single US foundry running Barth casters. I figure that there are many monotype casters and many printers who need faces for marketable items, so I encourage others to support the Dale Guild or Stempel when they can, however they may feel about the relative quality of “foundry” versus “monotype.”

Having only one offspring — who has yet to show much interest in printing — my hope of bequeathing my collection to an heir is now directed toward a generation yet to emerge, which is another reason for acquiring type with the greatest likelihood of producing fine work for decades.


I know a Linotype/Intertype machine can run foundry type too, I saved a sample slug that came from a large re-melt done for me; I had the metal analyzed and it came out as 12%-24%.


to Dan J.

Were you able to use 12% 24% type metal in linotype/intertype without changing the temperature of the pot and the face?


I have heard of hard metal linos but never seen one, i would imagine you would have to crank up the heat.

Yes, you would have to crank the pot up — the fully liquid point for that alloy is about 200 degress higher than Linotype metal.


Send me your shipping address. Letters to the editor are better than the article!!!

Love the Letterpress meets scrapbooking dig. Was thinking that very same idea in a different context the other day.

Anyone consider the importance of the matrix in the valuation between foundry and machine casting?


@mikeoconnor. As per your request I sat down and wrote a review of the book Letterpress Now. My review follows:

Review of Letterpress Now, by Jessica C. White, Lark Books, Asheville, 2013

Letterpress printing is a complicated process, and today, in 2013, trying to explain it to neophytes through the medium of a do-it-yourself instruction book is problematic at best. Letterpress Now, written by Jessica C. White, and published this year by Lark Books, Asheville, North Carolina, attempts to offer a basic background of the craft, plus direction toward the completion of a few simple (and a few not so simple) projects that could be produced on an assortment of printing presses that are commonly found by hobbyists today. I wish that I could say that she was successful in her effort, but the omissions and misinformation that start with the very first paragraph of text is multiplied throughout the book until I cannot imagine how a beginner could possibly benefit from it.

On the first page, which lays out a convoluted history of letterpress printing, it becomes obvious that Ms. White has not done her homework. She assumes that historians have any idea of the methods with which Johannes Gutenberg cast his type, and alludes to knowledge of the make-up of the metal he used for his types. Since these two subjects, along with the configuration of his press have been debated hotly by historians for centuries, I find that opening her book with this misinformation reflects on the lack of detail offered throughout the book. By the fourth paragraph she states that the “first major change to Gutenberg’s model” happened in the 1840s, with the invention of the first platen press, completely ignoring the many developments including the iron screw, the cylinder press, and all of the innovations of machine and materials used to build presses by Adam Ramage, Lord Stanhope, George Clymer, William Rust, Robert Hoe, Richard Cope, William Nicholson, Friedrich Koenig, Daniel Treadwell, Isaac and Seth Adams, and dozens of other inventors and innovators at the beginning of the Industrial Age.

Granted, much credit can be given to Stephen Ruggles for his invention of the first self-inking, treadle-driven jobbing press, but so much more happened in the previous 400 years. Ruggles didn’t actually invent a working vertical platen press until 1851, and when George P. Gordon’s platen jobbing press was introduced in 1857 it soon captured the small press market, eventually morphing into the Chandler & Price manufactured machines that dominated the market until the company closed in the 1960s. Rounding out her page of history is a paragraph that takes up almost a quarter of the printed text, about rotary and web-feed presses, which, at the end of the paragraph she dismisses as not being germane to the rest of the book.

Of the four presses Ms. White offers as examples for machines that beginning printing enthusiasts might encounter only one in considered a production printing press. The first is the much-inflated in price and construction, Kelsey Excelsior tabletop platen press, a press that was sold for decades to a hobby printing market.

The second is the backbone of the job shop, the Chandler & Price platen jobber, which for some bizarre reason sells today for less than most of the tiny Kelsey presses (which should be proof to those who watch the recent resurgence of letterpress printing that preciousness is more important than production). Considering how many people get injured using this kind of machine I am amazed at how little caution is offered in this book.

The third press described is completely miss-labeled as a tabletop cylinder press, when in fact it is classified as a roller and bearing proofing press. Ms. White does not seem to understand that the round, hard rubber roller used to apply pressure to the printed sheet is not in fact a cylinder (but it is round). If this were the case then the metal rolling pins sold by some printmaking suppliers would also be categorized as cylinder presses, which they are not. Sadly, the printers who use these kinds of presses to excess discover that the ancient rubber on the roller can no longer withstand impression (especially the heavy impression that is now in vogue), and deteriorates with no source for replacement.

The last press described is the precision cylinder proofing press, which is represented by the ubiquitous Vandercook (although in the section on cylinder presses it is somehow operated interchangeably with the roller press mentioned above). Although these presses were never designed to be production presses, they have become the most sought-after press in the hobby market, selling for many thousands of dollars, eclipsing the value of production sheet-fed presses that were designed for commercial use.

The book is loaded with technical errors, like inverted quoins, metal-on-metal lock-ups, uninformed placement of gauge pins, and projects that have ridiculous positioning on the press. There are plenty of photos, but they don’t always match the description of the proposed projects. The description of dampening paper must be for the process of etching; is not applicable to anything but the heaviest of papers. There are lots of close-ups of projects, which clearly show the lack of any kind of make-ready, and a definite over-abundance of irregular impression. Most of the projects seem to be printed on some very heavy cover stock, which seems to ameliorate the need for any kind of description of proper make-ready.

The text doesn’t seem to be well planned, and jumps back and forth especially in the sections that deal with setting up and making ready the described presses. Sections on paper and ink seem to be out of place, and do nothing to help the flow of the instruction. The different sections seem to be loosely divided by a short Q & A with printers who I assume are friends of the author, but the questions are very repetitive, and the answers were not terribly informative. The printed works featured on these pages had no descriptors, and I assume that the pictured items were made by the featured printers, but it would have been a nice touch to give proper credits as to title, date created, finished size, and limitation if any.

The preciousness of the projects will have appeal to the Etsy crowd, and I suppose that if the reader knows nothing about letterpress printing it might whet their appetite for more information, but I really hope they might instead take advantage of reading some of the few books listed in the section on recommended reading to find out how letterpress printing should be done.


so your saying you liked the book????

1) the “hard-metal” Linotype system was developed to get a better face for purposes of platemaking, not direct letterpress printing.
2) yes, the mats are the the critical element in typecasting. That is exactly why foundries like M&H, LA and Quaker sold fonts of handset type cast on composition casters (and they did adjust temperature pressure speed and metal composition to a practical extent), because customers wanted affordable fonts of typefaces for which they only had composition mats. When you shift production from the Monotype composition caster to the Thompson, adapters allow you to cast from Linotype and Ludlow mats as well. But hardening the metal and increasing the temperature and pressure have a destructive effect on the mats, and the more you push it the faster they are ruined. The only new replacement mats even theoretically available are English Monotype composition mats. ATF had the facilities to remake all their mats as needed, no surviving foundry has anything like that today.
3) I’ve been printing from Monotype-cast type for over 40 years, as well as from true foundry type and Linotype and photopolymer plates. I prepare a form suited to the needs of the job. And when the customer wants heavy impression and/or dry paper, plate is the best choice. I wouldn’t subject even the hardest foundry type to dry heavy impression, though I might cast multiple slugs on Linotype and Ludlow and swap them as they wear.

To Alan Nankivell and others.

I have read with interest your comments on the Monotype Super Caster v. Nebitype Linecaster.

In 1963 I was employed as a Linotype Engineer by “The Scottish Daily Mail” in Edinburgh after which I joined The Monotype Corporation as the engineer in Scotland until 1977.

The potted history is required as “The Scottish Daily Mail” had both super caster and nebitype machines in use.

To compare the products of these machines is unfair, it would be like comparing Lionel Messi with some amateur footballer with Messi being the Monotype machine. As an engineer with knowledge of both machines, a correctly set up Monotype super caster was king.

Paul, please consider adding your review to those on Amazon.


Alan: To do foundry levels of type metal, the heat is really cranked up, to say 760 F or so. Settings are very critical, moulds need to warm up, due to the heat one has to keep a close eye on type dimensions, water temp, etc. but nothing that a Monotype operator isn’t already used to. The English Monotype manuals provide good detail.

Jim: It sounds like you worked at the Monotype Dunfermline location, I’d be very interested to know more about it.



When I started with the Monotype Corporation as a service engineer, the service department was situated in Hanover Street in central Edinburgh two floors above Milne’s Bar a well known haunt of the Scottish Literati.

It was decided in 1967/8 to move to a separate office in the grounds of the main Scottish Monotype Factory.

This was a modern one level building on the north side of Halbeath Road, Dunfermline. The factory was next to the Electricity Board Building which had at one time been a venue for ice hockey.

The service department housed a manager/sales rep, a technical rep, myself and a secretary. The factory was mainly used to make machine parts for Monotype hot metal machines, there was no major assembly of parts, which was confined to the Salfords factory in Surrey.

The factory was also used for manufacture of wire stitching machines, namely Boston No. 7 and Multiple Stitchers. These machines were assembled at Dunfermline and shipped to Salfords for final testing .

At the start of the film setter era, electronic perforators were built at Dunfermline.

The factory site is now a housing estate.

Jim C.

Jim, I understand they made matrices as well, starting around 1980, for the U.S. market, 0.030” drive.


Just for fun, here is a picture of a fresh pig of 12-24 foundry metal, note the abundance of large tin-antimony crystals. They are large because the pig cools slowly however when casting this metal, crystals are forming inside the type too.


image: FOUNDRY METAL.jpg


Here in the UK, blurring the boundary between foundry type and monotype type were the number of type foundries that sprang up in from the late 1920s onwards 1930s following the introduction of the Monotype Supercaster. These foundries seem all to have had names ending in ‘-type’: Mouldtype, Riscatype, Startype. These were companies that described themselves solely as type founders, operated on a large scale, and supplied the general printing industry with type and sundies. I only have definite details on the type of caster used by one of them - Riscatype. This company used Monotype supercasters with larger and more powerful than usual heating elements in the pots.

I have the impression that all these companies used Monotype supercasters. They seem to have used matrices that were a mixture of owned or, in the case of less often requested faces, rented from Monotype - their catalogues usually identify all the faces by Monotype numbers.

By using casters with either more powerful heating elements in the pots, they used an alloy intermediate in composition and physical characteristics (influenced by both composition and by crystal size - the latter largely influenced by cooling rate) between ordinary Monotype composition and display metals, and traditional foundry type.

All my printing textbooks quote compositions for, and illustrate photomicrogrpahs of Monotype composition and display metals, and typical compositions for foundry type but seem to overlook the middle ground occupied by type foundries using Monotype compositon casters equipped with extra hot pots.

Looking at the 1965 Riscatype catalogue, the company divided allowances for old metal traded-in into four classes:

“(a) 6 to 12 pt. of approved fouinders’ metal includuing Riscatype free from spacing material.
(b) 14 to 49 pt. of approved fouinders’ metal includuing Riscatype free from spacing material.
(c) Monotype all sizes.
(d) Quads, spaces, poster type, foundry-cast type of inferior metal, Linotype, Intertype, Ludlow metlas, stereo, metal furniture, quatations, lead and clumps, etc.”

Whether companies such as Riscatype simply reused traded-in metals (presumably with analysis of batches melted in large pots with adjustment of the composition by addition of specific quantities of rich alloys), or whether they sold them on to lead smelters and alloy manufacturers (such as Fry’s and Capper Pass - two leading UK firms), I have no information, although from reading of books on type metals and on lead alloy manufacture, I assume the former.

Questions: did similar type foundries equipped with Monotype supercasters equipped with extra hot pots exist in the US? Does anyone have any information on compositions of type produced by such foundries?

Supercasters are rare in the US. Our Monotype-based foundries generally used Lanston Monotype equipment, from composition or sorts casters to Thompson casters to Giant casters.

You can see Theo Rehak delivering the keynote talk at the 2010 American Typecasting Fellowship conference in Picqua, Ohio, and his views, amongst other things, on the matter of Monotype versus foundry type.

Patrick Goossens, Antwerp, Belgium.
Antwerp, home town of the Plantin Museum.

Theo wrote this on the subject, circa 1993, published in AbraCacaBrA as a letter to the editor [me].:

Perhaps the greatest misconception among letterpress artisans (especially younger ones who have never used, much less seen genuine foundry-cast hand type) is that “Monotype” is indeed “type.” Whatever one may wish to call it, it is not foundry type, nor was it ever meant to be. No amount of syntax manipulation can alter the fact that if you do not own and operate genuine foundry-casting machines and their attendant equipage, you cannot claim to produce “foundry” type. Such ambiguity is worthy of Barnum… [he goes on to explain his position, even quoting the ever eloquent Victor Hammer].


I repeat: how many of you can afford true foundry type today? I can buy a font of used Linotype or Ludlow mats for less than the few fonts of Barth- or Kustermann-cast type now available, and cast what I want as needed. Personally, I am more interested in the typefaces than in the machine on which they were cast, but then I’m a second generation M&H customer and fully understand the limitations of the broad Monotype system and how to print within those limitations (just as I understand the limitations of Linotype, Ludlow, photoploymer and offset methods, and use them according to the job and the customer’s budget). Some of you will prefer Dale Guild or Skyline, but a majority of their faces there are offered in only one or two sizes, where a broad Monotype foundry will offer a complete family of sizes, sometimes from 6 to 72. You won’t find that breadth in true foundry typemetal today. Or perhaps you believe that all text type should be set digitally and only display type should be in metal or wood; thanks to today’s Book Arts academia, there’s a lot of that going around, contrary to the full weight of printing history.
Theo is retired, and I understand that was afraid to use the 72-point Barth when still active because it was so dangerous. The last time I looked, the Dale Guild wasn’t casting anything bigger than 36 point, still within Thompson range.

parallel_imp wrote “Supercasters are rare in the US. Our Monotype-based foundries generally used Lanston Monotype equipment, from composition or sorts casters to Thompson casters to Giant casters.”

Thanks for that - it was intriguing to learn that the UK and US diverged in this respect, notwithstanding the importance of Monotype in both countries.The enormous size of the North American market compared to the much smaller UK market presumably played a key part in this.

It is interesting, after Theo wrote “Practical Typecasting” in 1993 he was asked why the book didn’t include a mention of the Monotype Super Caster, I understand he said he never heard of the machine prior to writing it. As a comparison, out of the total 2,739 Super Casters built, a total of 780 went to the U.K., only 28 made it to the U.S. originally.


That’s one heck of a skewed distribution, especially when the relative sizes of the US and UK markets are taken into account. A truly fascinating fact - many thanks Dan J!

What - if you have the data - were the major destinations of the other 2,000? Continental European countries, I’m guessing?

It was an English invention after all, however there was always a non-compete agreement with Lanston Monotype (American) and English Monotype; England would not be allowed to sell into North America (this lasted until the early 1960’s). Here are the other major destinations:

Country Quantity
U.K. 780
India 348
Germany 180
South Africa 141
France 140
Australia 106
Belgium 85
Switzerland 82
Sweden 81
Portugal 51
Holland 49
Italy 48
Pakistan 34
U.S.A. 28
New Zealand 26

I find the large Indian market interesting, with 348 machines, second to the U.K. According to English Monotype (Duncan Avery) there were six regional Monotype offices in India to support their business.

I have attached a picture of a couple of cap ‘W’ 18pt. Perpetua pieces of type that I cast in 12-24 metal, cut away, showing the amount of air pockets that is typical of what the Super Caster can do.


image: Super Caster type.jpg

Super Caster type.jpg

Very interesting numbers; is there any data how many per country where saved ? For Belgium i can only locate 4 original imports that are still there. Only two of them are still operational. The other ones are later imports from Germany, Holland and the U.K. The grand total runs up to about 10 i think.
For Holland i only know of two or three still there. They did save their Amsterdam display mat library however, as to the Belgian one in Brussels was almost certainly scrapped.

Patrick, Antwerp, Belgium.

There may be more but I recall four owners of Supercasters now in the US: Rich Hopkins of Hill & Dale and the American Typecasting Fellowship; Pat Reagh, his casters originally from Saul Marks’ Plantin Press; Harold Berliner’s Supercaster is now at the non-profit C.C. Stern foundry; and at M&H, the machine from Woodside Press, not yet fully operating.
I think M&H did have one on order from Monotype UK at one time, but somehow the order was never fulfilled.

Patrick: There is no official record of what is left, many of the companies themselves are gone. I have often though about a web-site for the Super Caster to “connect the dots”. If you have a particular serial number, I can tell you the original owner and date of manufacture. Right now I believe Bill Welliver has the oldest surviving machine, #70268 (May, 1935).

As for M&H, nothing was on record as being delivered directly to them, however a Super Caster did make it to Lanston Monotype in 1953, it was re-sold to the Los Angeles Type Foundry. Possibly they were interested in this one.


Many thanks for the sales data Dan J!

A couple of clarifications — C.C.Stern has Giant Caster, not a Super Caster, which came from Tom Taylor. Harold Beliner’s Super Caster went to Chris Chen — who is on the Board of C.C.Stern, but the caster is Chris’s… I believe it is currently imposing on somebody’s garage and good nature in the Bay Area…

you wrote :
‘I have often though about a web-site for the Super Caster to “connect the dots”.’
That might not be a bad all. Do you think more people-owners-users would want to participate to share data. Mayby including composition casters is even a possibility.

the existing hot metal web site???

Even better, direct me to it. Is it the Handandey blog ?

The focus of Monotype and number of ‘casters on/in India would probably make an interesting study.
Many languages - the only common one being English - high regard for literacy and a very developed civil service, so a casting opportunity par excellence probably.
I have a scrap of Gujarati script (a wedding invitation, I think).
Anyone have a list of what other languages were available?

Patrick-try Dave Hughes as Metaltype who posts here, eg 2nd April

Patrick: I agree a Super Caster / Comp Caster web site could be interesting, maybe focusing on the machinery and preservation of it.

A Monotype Recorder issued in 1963 (v42 #4) claimed India had 179 languages and 544 dialects. Monotype created matrices to support many of these languages. They were quick to recognize this market, possibly learning from the early introduction of non-Latin matrices, such as a Gaelic type face, series 24A, in 1903. Other typesetting companies such as Linotype apparently did not support these small markets, to Monotype’s benefit.


Here’s a page from a 1970 English Monotype specimen listing the faces in various non-Latin scripts that they were promoting at the time. I’m sure it’s only a subset of what they had/did:

Linotype also did more than one might think. If you look at “Big Red” (circa 1939), in addition to the non-Latin scripts more or less standard at the time (various Greek, blackletter, Cyrillic, Hebrew), Mergenthaler also shows Arabic, Armenian, Syriac, Bengali, Gujarati, Tamil, and Devanagari. This is interesting since (as I understand it; I may be wrong) the English firm, Linotype & Machinery Ltd., controlled distribution outside of the Americas.

David M.

… and (I feel a bit foolish for not having remembered it first), David Bolton has a much more complete list of Monotype metal faces (including non-Latin) online at The Alembic Press:

David M.

Hansestadt Letter Foundry had a supercaster. I bought a lot of their type. It was quite good, he had lots of Monotype blackletter faces. I can no longer remember the fellow’s name but he was last in Florida. He had been casting for Thomas Taylor in Austin, Texas, and did leave some equipment behind when he left, as I recall. The printer there, Bradley Hutchinson, now of Digital Letterpress, may actually have the machine.


Oh, I believe the fellow’s name was Norman Fritzberg. When he moved to Florida he took mainly his type with him, basically ending the foundry. He was a great collector of foundry type and began selling it off at that time. Great stuff. I still have some of it; mainly some good runs of pristine Claudius Fraktur and Dominante.


Norman was in the Minneapolis area prior to going to Texas and was casting type then. I bought a bunch of Saschenwald (Sp?) from him back in the day. Great stuff.


Opps, just went down to the shop and checked my type catalog. The name of the face is Sachsenwald and what Norman cast for me was 16D/18. This is a very readable German blackletter face designed by Berthold Wolpe c. 1936. And I believe that norman was in St. Paul, MN when I purchased that from him.


Yeah, I knew Norm when I was in the Twin Cities. He was working for a firm that produced calendars. They had a number of SP-25s for proofing them. When they closed Norm picked one of those up and started the foundry/print shop. Later, one of the major printing companies closed and we both picked up a lot of type and equipment. He was intent on really building up his shop. I bought a Thompson that I later sold to him along with an awful lot of ornamental matrices. I basically had a standing order for the type he was producing. That kind of all stopped when he moved to Texas to begin casting for Taylor’s needs. He held several major sales. Prior to the move to Texas, to the move to Florida, and a couple when he was there. He started a business selling imported tobacco and that failed. Don’t know what happened to him after that though some friends told me they were still able to buy leftovers for some time. I stopped collecting foundry type in the early 1990s and sold about 85 percent of it off during the last decade or so, as well as most of my metal related equipment and materials. Nice to have the room… and I still have a perfectly functional shop.


Occasionally, but mainly photopolymer these days. Did put out a specimen of the foundry Claudius Fraktur a few years ago. That was kind of fun. Wanted it to look like one of those British type specimens circa 1960s.


I was the recipient of Norm’s Supercaster, along with most of his mat collection. Unfortunately for me, Michael Bixler got the Saschenwald. I have recently reactivated my moribund type foundry after printing mainly from photopolymer for the last several decades. Being a commercial letterpress printer made the transition to photopolymer a necessity. Now semi-retirement allows me the time to do some serious typecasting.

Having read the previous posts, I feel compelled to add some personal notes on the problems and realities of type casting in the 21st century. In my shop I have the previously mentioned Supercaster and three English comp casters. Late models from the 60s. All have unit shift, quadding and centering, and unit adding. These were late developments that were intended to increase production and add versatility to book composition. They also consisted of a series of pneumatically controlled valve boxes that made an already complicated machine into a truly Goldbergian device. When not used on a daily basis, these cause all kinds of problems. Nevertheless, with time and patience they can always be revived. When properly functioning, they are a wonderful addition.

The problems and vagaries of the composition casters are almost infinite, especially since all machines and molds being used today have probably been in service for at least four decades. The machine has hundreds of moving parts. To cast good type they all have to be properly adjusted and not too worn out. A never-ending challenge.

At the risk of getting into a long technical diatribe, I’d like to say a few words about type metal which is what this forum was originally about. When I moved from L.A. to Northern California, I dumped 8,000 lbs. of used type and it remelted into pigs (ingots) of 12/16 metal, I.e. 12% tin, 16% antimony, the balance lead. This was what was considered a good all around mix for both composition and case type. As always in type foundries, other sources of metal find their way into the mix. People bring in old type, old cases of Cheltenham are dumped to make room for better faces, etc. So, as part of the revivification of my casting activity, I remelted thousands of pounds of dead forms and had it analyzed. It turns out the metal I’ve been using for the last 15 years has been 13/19, a very high tin and antimony mixture. This is probably why it was so difficult to run the machines at the temperatures recommended by Monotype. It also didn’t help that all four of my casters had electric pots whose thermometers were totally inconsistent. I purchased a digital, high- temp thermometer and discovered that there was a discrepancy of at least 70 degrees between 2 of the casters!

If your eyes haven’t glazed over by now, ill conclude by saying it’s a complicated, highly-technical business casting type. Casting good type, even more so. But the rewards are, well, rewarding.

I just made a run of 28D/30 Uhlen Rundgotisch which was from Norman Fritzberg’s library. A wonderful fraktur designed by Berthold Wolpe. If you would like a showing, email me: patreagh@

Hey, it’s 12/19 metal!

Hey Pat

Welcome to the fray. Hope you are doing well.

But what about 9/19/72 (28.5) or 13/17/70 (29.5) ? :—)

Any new jokes?

I am rereading your book on Saul Marks.


Pat, good luck with the Super Caster. As you mention, the high-alloy metals are difficult to run in the composition machines, and unnecessary if the forms are re-melted. I have an English comp caster waiting in the wings, it will need lots of time & patience to get going.

Pygment Press

Yo, Gerald,

And quite a fray it is. There seem to be some rather thin-skinned neophytes out there.

I guess because of your eminence griese ( or is that grease?), I can’t call you Gerry anymore. All is well up here in wino country. I’m in the process of setting up a website. A shrewd business decision now that I’m more or less retired from job work. But I will have stuff to sell, especially newly-cast foundry, oops, “high-tin-content” type.

Every so often I hear about you from some of your students. Some have even made a pilgrimage up here. They always speak of you in hushed, reverent tones.

Did you see that crazy face I cast (and they bought), Placard Light Extra Condensed. It has to be the most condensed face ever brought out in hot metal.

Anyhow, I’ll try to keep in touch with any discussions about type and typecasting. This “fray” also has some very well-informed contributors.

All the best,