A font of type is an assortment of all characters of one size and style. Additional characters are called sorts. When manual typesetters had a font that was short of characters, it was said to be "out of sorts," the origin of the slang expression.

When type was set by hand, it was kept in wooden trays called cases. The cases, which are popular among antique collectors, are about an inch deep and divided into compartments, or boxes, of various sizes. A complete font required two such trays, usually placed one above the other on a sloping frame. The upper case held the capitals, the lower case the small letters. This position of the trays led printers to refer to capital letters as uppercase and small letters as lowercase. Today type is set not from wooden trays but from film images or by means of a computer-controlled beam of electrons.

Sizes of Type - Measuring Width 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