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Typographers Close Book on Hot-Type Era

April 17, 1998

Typographers Close Book on Hot-Type Era

By LISA NAPOLI <</library/tech/reference/napolibio.html>Bio

If video killed the radio star, then computers killed the typographer. In
the back room of Vincent's restaurant on 10th Avenue in Manhattan, 70
people are having lu

"Steve Jobs came along and destroyed us all," said Marvin Kommel, a
veteran who stood before the crowd at the proud finale of the
Typographers Association of New York, a trade group that shuttered itself
this week after 87 years in business. Even

Credit: Wesley Bocxe for The New York Times

Members of the Typographers Association of New York discuss the demise of
their trade group.


In the 70's, technology made the need for hot metal typesetting not just
an antiquated but inefficient way of laying out words on a page. (The New
York Times switched from this sort of publishing to offset printing in

But by 1985, when Apple introduced the Macintosh and a personal computer
owner could, with PageMaker and a few fonts and access to a laser
printer, be his own publisher, the centuries old skill of typesetting was
headed for a rapid decline.

Jackie Travison remembers being told, "'Get out of type and become an
editor or publisher.'" Gradually, she did that, morphing the typesetting
business she started in 1982 into a graphic arts firm in 1991 and
ultimately, buying a weekly newspaper w

"We all believed there would always be the written word," she said.

Indeed, taking the written word and putting it on a page was as much an
art to these tradespeople as writing the very sentences themselves.
Annette Sullivan talks about her evolving keyboard, from the one she used
on a Linotype machine to the one

"This was just the next step. You got onto it, and you never looked
back," she said. "I'm still in it, I still love it. It's a gradual thing,
growing up. But it is sad about typesetting. The terminology and
techniques are different."

Not entirely, said Dr. James P. De Luca, who recently retired from the
Department of Graphic Arts and Advertising Technology at New York City
Technical College in Brooklyn. When he saw the computer revolution
accelerating in the desktop publishing 80'


Related Article

<</specials/presses/home/>Stop the Presses,

a Web Special that documents the history of The New York Times presses,
looking at the changes that have taken place over the last century.


Many in the crowd who came to bid farewell to the organization that
connected them have managed to move into other aspects of the printing
business. John Werner grew up in Idaho with a father who owned a
newspaper, and though he too studied journalis

"Typesetting is no longer a viable business," he said. "It's sad. This is
a milestone."

Mark Darlow, a print shop owner who said he saw the digital revolution
early on, said the obsolescence of his trade is ironic, since it's now
something anyone can do from his or her home. "More and more people do
it, but there's less and less experien

Credit: Wesley Bocxe for The New York Times

Leandros Papathansiou still uses five Linotype machines to produce art
books, journals on Greek culture and Greek dictionaries.


Nowhere on the three floors of the Athens Printing Company/Pella Press on
West 36th Street is there a computer. Leandros Papathansiou, another
member of the Typographers Association, has never seen a compelling
reason to invest the $50,000 or so he

In his shop are five Linotype machines, circa 1948, which, in their day,
revolutionized the printing business by allowing typographers to string
together letters into words and paragraphs on a steam-powered machine,
rather than painstakingly by hand

For Papathansiou, it's a matter of preference and economy that he sticks
with his old Heidleberg printer and the other equipment that allows him
to produce beautiful, short-run art books, journals on Greek culture,
Greek dictionaries, and more. He

Like a good waiter who serves guests but isn't intrusive, a typesetter
was supposed to make his mark, quietly, said Steve Kennedy, using nuance
to compose a pleasing page. He quoted <<#1>Beatrice Warde, a fabled
typographer and critic,

"She said type should be invisible," he said.


Related Sites

Following are links to the external Web sites mentioned in this article.
These sites are not part of The New York Times on the Web, and The Times
has no control over their content or ava

* <<http://www.strixory.se/nenne/typography.html>Beatrice Warde

Also of interest

* <<http://www.electric-pages.com/>The Graphics Research Laboratory

* <<http://www.pyrus.com/plnkfrm.htm>Typographic Resources on the Web

* <<http://www.typeindex.com/>The Internet Type Foundry Index


Lisa Napoli at <<mailto:napoli@xxxxxxxxxxx>napoli@xxxxxxxxxxx welcomes
your comments and suggestions.


Copyright 1998 The New York Times Company

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