Monotype is the company that used to make matrices and casting machines which cast type for letterpress compositors. Fonts.com still exists as a descendant of Monotype, but of course now, digital type is provided. Lanston Monotype machines were first built in the late nineteenth century in North America. Soon, a Monotype concern was set up this side of the pond, near Redhill in Surrey.
The illustration is of a Monotype caster.
Only a few individuals and companies still supply the world with type, still using these machines. Of course, they are all pretty ancient machines now and we are entirely dependent on them and the engineers that service them. You can’t cast type without having the correct matrix, and these were also supplied by Monotype. You needed the exact matrix and they were expensive. If you had the matrix for 12 point Plantin, but needed to cast 14 point, you would need the matrix for 14 point Plantin. Printers generally got their type from a caster to avoid the massive expense of tooling up with a caster plus matrices, though some printing enthusiasts today have found room to house a Monotype caster – like Mr John Randle at the Whittington Press (and publisher / printer of Matrix), and Ed Denovan at Letterpress Works.
So what matrices are there? What choice exists for the small printer today? Here in England we have the following firms still casting type.
- Hand And Eye is a working press, and also have their own Monotype caster, and their choice is shown here.
- Super Type (Mr BM Horsfall) does not have a website, but the choice available is shown here at the ever useful Happy Dragon’s website.
- Letterpress Works (Mr Ed Denovan)) has a caster and the choices for composition fonts are shown here, title choices here. Several Lanston Monotype fonts are available, which are sourced in America.
- Gloucester Typesetting Services (Stan Lane) do not have a website, but can be reached at Unit 23E, Bond’s Mill, Stonehouse, Gloucestershire GL10 3RG. Stan tends to work as a compositor, but can do fonts as well.
Between them, they have a good choice of fonts, and so there is NO EXCUSE to say there’s a restricted choice!
To check out what used to be available in the good old days, see my new page, Monotype Index.