Frank Romano’s History of the Linotype Company (RIT Press) is as exhaustive as setting Linotype was exhausting in the hot metal days. But it is also a splendid chronicle of this lion of the typesetting field.
I was fortunately present for the last couple of Linotype years at the New York Times (see Farewell, Etaoin Shrdlu). It was a glorious contraption invented by by the German immigrant, Ottmar Mergenthaler and developed by James O. Clephane. At its peak the machine for setting lines of metal type was used in 86 countries anad 850 languages, notes Romano, who worked for the Mergenthaler Linotype Company in Brooklyn before joining VGS as advertising manager for the legendary PhotoTypositor.
This book is an essential resource for all students of printing, filled with detailed documentation of the Linotype’s corporate history and ephemeral materials. But you don’t have to be a printing or type nerd to enjoy its profusion of factual and visual offerings. And don’t let the cover fool you, it is not a graphic novel as I originally thought. Romano’s account is a necessary brick in the foundation of design as well as all other visual communication legacies.