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View Full Version : How Books Were Printed in 1947 / 10-minute film



Ken
06-16-2012, 03:13 AM
... starts off with an author completing their manuscript and goes through the steps involved in printing the book. Much different than today.

Copper plates were made of each page and traveled under huge rolls of paper after being inked. The first step in making the plates was the production of metal molds of each individual letter in the entire book. A worker typed out the book on a typewriter-like apparatus and that caused molten metal to create a single letter. One line at a time was done. Primitive, but effective.

And I'm willing to bet that the quality of the finished product wasn't much different than today. Maybe, even better!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hBztGX-2i1M

( "Making books is fun! (to watch)" -- YouTube )

kaitie
06-16-2012, 06:18 AM
I think what amazes me most about that is that they were able to keep things in order. How incredibly confusing does that look?

Xelebes
06-16-2012, 08:50 AM
Neat. I only ever got to use the 1950s-era lithograph and a 60s-era paper-knife in school.

Ken
06-16-2012, 06:46 PM
Neat. I only ever got to use the 1950s-era lithograph and a 60s-era paper-knife in school.

... I knew an artist who used a lithograph to create prints. It was basically composed of two sheets of metal you could press together and create prints with. I used one briefly back in college in an art class. (I think it was a lithograph?) Cool machine. Never really got the hang of it.



I think what amazes me most about that is that they were able to keep things in order. How incredibly confusing does that look?

... now that you mention it, that was rather amazing. And there didn't seem to be any overseers or foremen about, either, though I suppose there probably were. So many things could have gone wrong along the way. The workers really had to be very diligent I suppose and dedicated to their job. I'm not sure that such a scenario would be possible these days ;-) One thing that was missing was a view of the entire operation or of the building that the printing company was located in. Without that it's kinda hard to get an idea of the overall layout and how it might have all been coordinated.

flapperphilosopher
06-16-2012, 07:50 PM
Cool! It is surprisingly fun to watch. Thanks for sharing!

dangerousbill
06-16-2012, 09:08 PM
And I'm willing to bet that the quality of the finished product wasn't much different than today. Maybe, even better!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hBztGX-2i1M


When I delivered papers as a kid, I used to wander in the back at the newspaper office to watch the next edition being prepared. The LinoType machines fascinated the hell out of me, with their tightly coordinated movements and big pots of molten lead. After a line of type was cast, the letter molds were magically sorted again into the proper bins by a little conveyor apparatus. I could watch it for hours.

In this way, the daily paper of 20-40 pages was made up, letter by letter. Once the type was locked up in the frame, they made a paper-mache cast of the flat page of type, and used that to make a one-piece lead cast of the entire page, but curved in a semicircle to fit on the drums of the big presses.

Because of the repeated back-and-forth casting processes, the quality deterioriated somewhat. Photographs had to be a coarse halftone, or they wouldn't make faithful printing plates. The paper mache step couldn't properly mold a very fine-screen half-tone, so images were blurry in any case.

Offset printing took over quickly when the technology was developed. It gave better quality print and required far less labor, and the linotype machines went into the junkpile.

dangerousbill
06-16-2012, 09:13 PM
I think what amazes me most about that is that they were able to keep things in order. How incredibly confusing does that look?

Printers had long apprenticeships.

Even in with modern offset machines, 16-32 pages might be printed on a sheet of paper, some upside-down and all out of numerical order. When folded, everything comes out right. But that's all automatic these days.

Jamesaritchie
06-16-2012, 11:21 PM
I was born after 1947, but I USED this technology when I wasn't much more than a kid. I know a couple of people who still do.

I still have a wonderful book called Words Into Type that was first printed in 1948, and it was the best guide for many things in those days.

Ken
06-17-2012, 04:45 PM
Cool! It is surprisingly fun to watch. Thanks for sharing!

... my pleasure :-)
Your avatar fits right in with the era, nearly. Neat btw.


After a line of type was cast, the letter molds were magically sorted again into the proper bins by a little conveyor apparatus. I could watch it for hours.

... thanks for the added insight into the process. Technology had advanced at the time you describe. In the film they had to sort the lines of type by hand. The plates were also flat, rather than curved. Making them curved was probably an advance, too. Maybe the plates lasted longer and made better prints when they spun around on rolls instead of passing back and forth under them? I delivered papers as a kid too. At one point I had two routes, which got a bit out of hand.




I still have a wonderful book called Words Into Type that was first printed in 1948, and it was the best guide for many things in those days.

... sounds interesting. Many editions have since been published. I looked for it on Amazon. 4 1/2 star rating. Will try to get it through my local library. Thanks for the tip.

Here's one for you, in case you're interested. "Story: The Fiction of the Forties," edited by Whit Burnett & Hallie Burnett. (You mentioned the magazine in another thread as I recall. Just picked up the book from the library. Lots of good stories from the pub. I think this is the only edition like this that was put out.)

folkchick
06-17-2012, 05:32 PM
Holy shnarkey, I'll never hold a clothbound book again with getting a headache. That is some seriously detailed work.

Scribhneoir
06-17-2012, 10:17 PM
Fun stuff! And not just the book printing ... after watching that video I ended up spending 20 minutes being taught how to dial a rotary phone and another 10 minutes learning about the wonders of the TV remote. What great old films!

Susan Littlefield
06-17-2012, 10:46 PM
Holy shnarkey, I'll never hold a clothbound book again with getting a headache. That is some seriously detailed work.

I have a cloth bound book of Longfellow's poems and I love it. Years ago, a neighbor was going to throw it away and I went into shock and told her she couldn't do that. She was moving and said, "Why don't you hold onto it for me until I ask for it back?" I never heard from her again.

folkchick
06-18-2012, 06:44 AM
That was a very thoughtful parting gift. I do love clothbound books--they don't really give me a headache:). I have an old Washington Irving that belonged to my grandfather, and a whole bunch of others found at thrift stores and book sales. My favorites are Emily of New Moon with full color cover, Young Pioneers by Rose Wilder Lane, a huge journal by a young woman named Maude (late 1800's), and a copy of Tennyson.