Announcing the Linotype Book Project

I thought I was finished with the Linotype, but now I’m writing a book about it

Published: 23 May 2023

Topics: Writing, History, Linotype, Typography

TL;DR: I’m writing a book about the Linotype and you should sign up for the newsletter!

The official LBP announcement video which gives details about the project and why I’m launching it now.

Where Do I Start?

The story of the Linotype Book Project starts in… well, where do I start the story?

  • I could start the story the day I first saw a Linotype at Tim Trower’s shop in Springfield, Missouri sometime in 2004.

  • I could start the story the day I convinced my good friends to make a film about the Linotype in 2010.

  • I could start the story at the world premiere of the film in New York City, in 2012.

  • I could start the story after the screening tour, being surprised by the overwhelmingly positive reaction to documenting this “forgotten” machine in 2014.

  • Or, I could start the story much more recently: Thanksgiving day, 2022. This was the day I finally sat down on my couch and put all of the thoughts that had been swirling in my head for over a year into a note on my phone.

No matter where the story starts, the simple fact is this: I thought I was finished with the Linotype after the film, but I was VERY WRONG. I’m still quite interested in the Linotype and how it impacted journalism, communication, and society as a whole.

Since the film, I have continued to collect books, ephemera, interesting stories, and further details surrounding the Linotype and I’ve finally admitted to myself that the Linotype isn’t done with me yet ;-)

So today, I am officially announcing my new, long-term project: The Linotype Book Project and sharing with the world that I intend to write a new book about the Linotype and its impact on the world.

Who doesn’t love a nice, shallow-focus shot of old books?

Why Now?

Just like when we made the film, I’ve realized we are in a moment of generational shift. Over a half-dozen of the historians, machinists, and operators that we interviewed have sadly passed away, and those who are still alive, are a generation older than myself.

Even though I accidentally became one of the “experts” on the Linotype from my work on the film, people like Frank Romano and Dave Seat have so much more knowledge than I do. When someone asks me a question about the Linotype that I don’t know, I ask them — but that won’t always be an option. Now is the time to document and transfer as much of their knowledge as possible to a new generation.

A selection of my Ottmar Mergenthaler and Linotype books which continues to grow, including the blue Tribune Book of Open Air Sports which was the first book ever printed with Linotype slugs.

Sources of Inspiration

Of course, there have been many books written about the Linotype in the past, but none of them are like what I envision. I want my book to be a beautiful, coffee-table book with amazing images, ephemera, and diagrams while also having a well-researched and interesting story-line that weaves through the book.

In the past couple of years I have been inspired by the work of Bruce Kennett in his book about W.A. Dwiggins, the book about the Rob Roy Kelly American Wood Type Collection researched and written by David Shields, and the upcoming book about keyboards, Shift Happens by Marcin Wichary.

All three of these books show me a path forward (both in their style and business model) to make my book a reality. These books are much more than a collection of facts and images; each of them highlight the people and fascinating objects that their subjects created. Additionally, they are not only books with pretty pictures in them; they give new information and insight into the humans and humanity of what was made.

My slightly-ridiculous supercut of the LBP announcement video which I made on a whim, but I kind of love?

Sign Up for the Newsletter

I won’t be publishing updates on the LBP here on my blog, so please sign up for the LBP Newsletter to get updates from the road and to support the project.

I’ve already created a spreadsheet (of course) of over 20 different ideas for newsletters. I plan to share everything from the nitty-gritty details of writing and researching to the best finds from my ephemera collection and collections from around the world.

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Further Reading & Writing