Sorting Donated Linotype Matrices

The Mackenzie Printery & Newspaper Museum recently received a donation of type, spacing, and Linotype/Intertype matrices from Steve Ecker, I believe of Smithville, Ontario.

While other volunteers at the museum started sorting the type and spacing into appropriate cases, I had 6 jugs of loose matrices to sort through. At the time I took these photos I had sorted two jugs to some degree, but here are the remaining ones hiding under the rear step of our Linotype:

The matrices aren’t completely mixed, but they are not completely sorted (one font per container) either. At this point I had sorted one of the clear round jugs and one of the large square jugs (only about half full).

The job starts by just stacking the matrices into a tray so they are all on edge. I follow this with a pass reorienting them so the top (with the notches identifying the magazine position) is facing the back of the tray. A second pass turns them all with the casting face down. Finally, I go through them separating them out by font, generally identified by the pattern of grooves and notches on the bottom edge, which is facing me for easy visibility.

The first jug I sorted turned out to be mostly an Intertype face called “Ideal” in 6½ point (IIRC the identification stamped on the side was “6½Pt 1553”). I ran these through the Linotype caster into a empty magazine, and had to pull three mats that did not run properly and instead jammed in the magazine channel.

After sorting the second jug my trays looked like this:

The four and a half rows in the front tray are 10-point Linotype Baskerville. The dozen or so mats in the front row are more 6½-point Ideal, and the rest of the mats have yet to be sorted. Many of these seem to be fonts of all pi mats, too wide to run in a magazine.

Since the photos were taken I’ve also sorted the small white jug from the first photo, which included a whole other tray row of 6½-point Ideal. It is nice to find these because the mats already run into the magazine seem incomplete, with few or no mats in some of the channels. I’ll be leaving that magazine on the caster until I’ve sorted all the mats and found everything that belongs in the magazine. Then (because we’re short on magazines) I’ll move those back to a tray, and run the Baskerville into the magazine to find problem mats and missing/short letters. And again the same for whatever fonts I find in the last three jugs. Though perhaps before unloading the magazine I should cast each font in its entirety to look for problems like hairlines due to worn cheeks.

Altogether it looks like I have about three more Saturday mornings of mat sorting ahead of me.

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