A piece of printer's type is a simple device; yet its invention had a great effect on the course of civilization. In the struggle upward from barbarism, mankind learned to turn ideas into speech and, centuries later, into writing. Writing thoughts down by hand was slow and cumbersome; a quicker way was needed to inform great numbers of people. A method for making numerous copies was therefore needed. Movable type proved to be the answer.

A type, or piece of type, is a slim metal block nearly 1 inch (2.5 centimeters) long, having for its face a letter or other character, usually in high relief. It is cast from an alloy of lead, tin, and antimony. For more than 300 years type was set, or assembled, by hand and locked into a frame, or chase. It was inked and imprinted on paper in a press.

Today almost no type is cast and set by machine or set by hand. These processes have been superseded by electronically controlled phototypesetting machines that can set more than 10,000 characters per second. Printing is done by various methods, utilizing complex, high-speed presses.

Sizes of Type - Measuring Width - Fonts Type Casting by Hand and by Machine

Invention and Spread of Type and Printing First Designs for Roman and Italic Types

Old-Style Types by Garamond and Caslon - Bodoni Originates Modern Types

Trends in the 19th and 20th Centuries - Inexpensive Fonts