Back at it.

Well, I’m not proving to be much of a blogger. My only excuse is that I have been off writing away for pay, an article on antique iron for the next issue of The Upper Canadian, due out next month.

But all the while I’ve been thinking about printing. When I last blogged on the vampire fable project, I had the type set and lino blocks settled. Since then, I have justified the text, meaning that I spaced the words on each line so that the text block is even on the right side, as opposed to ‘jagged right’. Like everything in letterpress, justification is a bit of a chore. For me, it was like learning to set type all over again. Here’s an illustration of how it works:

set-up.jpgHere is the set up I used for justification. Since the work of compositing type had already been done, I didn’t need the type trays out. On the left are larger spacers: quads or em spaces, 2 em, 3 em and large spacers, 2 to em and 3 to em.  In the crappy little plastic cabinet are the smaller spacers: 4 to em, 5 to em, 6 to em, brasses and coppers. The brasses and coppers are micro thin, and a great aid to tightening up a line of metal type. Nevertheless, even slight difference in the distance between words can be perceived easily by the eye, so the challenge in justifying type is to make the word spacing equal right across the line.

The first job is to transfer the line of type from the tray to the compositing stick and pull out spacing material at the end of the line. If there is a fair gap of space at the end of the line, I ‘knock down’ the standard 3 to ems that I use for word spacing, as shown:


 Now, an experienced compositor will measure the remaining gap of space, subtract the 3 to em width multiplied by the number of spacers required in the line, divide the whole by that number and then slot in the correct combination of spacers to arrive at perfect justification. Oh, and she’ll do this in a microsecond, in her head.

Naturally, this is not the way I did my justification. Instead, I spent hours and hours frigging around with spacer until it worked out. It probably took as long as it did to set the type originally. But by the end, I began to see how the combination of spacers worked together to create every size imaginable, and the light shone through a little bit. But I’ve yet to have that epiphany moment. Justification is a trick I’ll have to master eventually, but I’m pleased with this first effort. Hopefully it will look right on the final product.

This afternoon, I will break the columns of text into pages with gaps to accommodate images (to be printed separately) and cut paper. Tomorrow, press work.

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