Friday, 11 January 2013

Linotype The Film

"Thomas Edison called it the “Eighth Wonder of the World.” Without it, there would be no daily newspapers and few books. Even the internet owes it a debt. This is the surprisingly emotional tale of one bewildering machine that revolutionized printing and society, and of the people who fight to keep it alive today."

I have just been to watch the excellent "Linotype The Film" by Douglas Wilson at Hebden Bridge Picture House tonight a special event organised by Urban Cottage Industries. Not only was the showing free but we all got a letterpress ticket for the film, we also got to print our name on a postcard. Printers who had worked with linotype machines were on hand to answer questions, help us print our own individual postcard and then we all wanted to know (now we know) who was:


A lovely documentary film that charts the rise and fall of a piece of technology - as someone said; like steam engines for type nerds...The movie is a loving portrait of the machine that revolutionised the typesetting and therefore the publishing and design industries loooong before the computer. Even in my day it was an almost forgotten technology. However the film made in the U.S. shows enthusiasts that collect the machines, renew them and still use them even though they spew molten lead!

The film was part funded by Urban Cottage Industries as a kickstarter project (see their website one of the best uses for the internet I have seen for a long time).

Some information from the filmmakers website:

In 1886 a German watchmaker named Ottmar Mergenthaler changed the world by inventing the Linotype machine.

Suddenly, newspapers could be printed daily, books could be produced faster and cheaper, and one typesetter could do the work of six men composing type by hand. The Linotype sparked an explosion in communication that can only be compared to the invention of the internet today.

Although these machines were revolutionary, new technology began to supersede the Linotype in the 1950s, and over the following decades they were scrapped and melted down by the thousands. Today, very few machines are still in existence.

The highly skilled operators of the Linotype are in a battle against time. If their skills are not passed along to a new generation of operators, the machine will die out completely. This stalwart group of former operators, historians, book printers, graphic designers, and concerned folks are doing everything they can to save the Linotype from the scrap yard.

Some see this as a fool’s errand, or as a hobby for those remembering their glory days. And some say it’s more than that...

"Linotype: The Film" is about the history, lovers of, and future of this incredible machine that was once the lifeblood of printers all around the world.

This film is about a machine from the past, but that does not mean this is a sentimental fact-film lamenting the loss of a technology. We are compelled to dig deeper, and find what the Linotype has to say about the present and future.