A notebook manufacturer is turning back the clock and hiring hot metal typesetters for the first time in more than 50 YEARS.
The printing process – which had dated back to 1890 – was virtually wiped-out as new technology in the 1980s brought cheaper, more efficient industrial printers.
Former Sun editor Kevin MacKenzie, who shifted the newspaper’s operations to Wapping amidst a bitter dispute with print unions, famously told one typesetter in 1985: ‘You lot haven’t got much f***ing longer… You’re history.’
But one company has found a niche for the system by embossing personalised designs on Leuchtturm and Moleskine notebooks.
Urban Cottage Industries is now hiring hot metal typesetters to carry out its growing workload – as it adds a portable printing machine to take the process to fairs around the UK.
James Wilson, from the company, said: ‘The job of hot metal compositor disappeared in a wave of technological change.
‘Now, thanks to the popularity of our Prelogram notebooks, we’re hiring again. We use type set from hot metal to emboss notebooks. Only metal type is hard enough to create a deep and lasting impression on a notebook.’
Between 1900 and 1970 books and newspapers were printed using type set from hot metal by a compositor on a mechanical typesetting machine.
The process has been almost wiped out by the invention of laser and inkjet printers.
But Urban Cottage Industries’ online sales of Prelogram notebooks, which use the hot metal process, have doubled every year for the last four years and they sold 8,000 notebooks in the last 12 months.
Their existing compositors are struggling to cope with the demand – set to grow even more as they introduce the ‘Prelogram Juggernaut’ – the world’s first portable hot metal mechanical typesetting machine.
The machine, which moves around the country at various trade fairs, means people can order a notebook in person and watch the type cast and the notebook being embossed within a few minutes.
James said the hot metal typesetting is suitable as it allows for quick changes to be made.
He added: ‘The Juggernaut is being installed at the Ideal Home Show at Christmas. But we urgently need to recruit compositors to run the mechanical typesetting machines.
‘As recently as 1982, there were many thousands of skilled hot metal compositors working in print shops and newspaper offices. We need to find some of these people to help us run the Juggernaut at live typography events around the UK.’