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« Dictionary Index « Definitions under C


in which the letters are laid to compose with. — M.

Cases are always spoken of as pairs; viz. upper case and lower case; when placed upon a frame to compose out of, the front of the upper case rests against the back of the lower case, lying in different inclinations, the back of the upper case being raised to bring the top boxes nearer the hand.

They are generally made of beech; the outer rim and the middle bar stout, to give strength, and to nail the bottoms to, which are lined with paper, to prevent letters falling through cracks, or joints that might open this lining used to be cartridge paper, which strengthened the bottom, but the joiner now lines them with cheap and thin demy paper; the bottom is made of thin fir deal. The dimensions are — two feet eight inches and a half, sometimes two feet nine inches long; one foot two inches and a half wide, and one inch and a quarter deep; the front being about half an inch broader than the depth, which forms a ledge for galleys to rest against, and also serves as a guard to stop letters, &c. falling over.

It is interesting to trace the changes that take place in any art; hence I have given the arrangement of the letters in cases at different periods, commencing with the first English writer, Moxon, who published his work in the year 1683; then Smith, who published in 1755; the cases before the long ſ was discarded, in my own time; the arrangement now generally used; and a variation, subdividing the boxes in the upper case, and changing the arrangement, both in that and the lowercase, to afford room for a greater number of sorts, and to make the access to them more convenient; I have also added the late Earl Stanhope's plan.

In Moxon's cases it will be perceived there are no ç, ſb ligature1), ſk ligature, Œ, ‡ , ||, ¶ , [, (, !, nor any small capitals.

Smith, in his Printer's Grammar, gives “Schemes for three Pair of Cases, shewing the Difference in the Disposition of their Sorts. I have given his No. I. and No. III.; No. II. is the same as the one before the long ſ was discarded, with the exception of the q being in the comma box, and the comma in the q box.

This arrangement of the letters before the long ſ was discarded, continued down to our own time, except the transposition of the q and the comma; and the “schemes” Smith gives as No. I. and No. III. became obsolete.

When the long ſ was discarded, and we confined ourselves to one shape of the same letter, the ligature CT ligature was also disused; we thus lost the CT ligature, ſb ligature, ſh ligature, , ſk ligature, fl, ff, ffi ligature, ffl ligature, and , which gave ten additional boxes for other sorts; these have afforded convenience for metal rules and braces, which before were wanted, and also for the £ and New character that are now frequently sent with a fount, particularly the £.

The discarding of the long ſ originated with the late John Bell, who printed and published an edition of Shakspeare, the British Theatre, and the Poets: the change was not generally adopted for some years, and many retained one ſ when two came together, as 'Eſsay;' but the s prevailed, and no other is now used.

In the present arrangement, the figures are brought lower down to be nearer the hand, and the vowels with the diaeresis moved higher up; for the same reason the acute accented vowels have changed places with those of the grave accent.

Mr. Johnson, in his Typographia, has given a variation in the arrangement that he has adopted. I do not see any improvement in the lower case to induce master printers to change the general mode, which would only tend to create confusion and put the boxes into pie. A subdivision of the boxes in the upper case, would be useful in two or three pairs in large founts, that had superiors and fractious cast to them; but as few founts have them, these subdivisions would not only be useless, but inconvenient, if applied to all the cases, as they would not leave sufficient room for metal rules, braces, &c., neither do they afford convenience for all the fractions that are cast in a piece; besides, vowels with the long and short accents are so rarely used in the general routine of business, that it is not necessary to cramp the boxes to make provision for them; and there is always room in the back boxes of the Italic eases in which to put sorts that are seldom wanted; to this we may add the additional expense of making these cases, which in an extensive business would be considerable.

Among the various arrangements of the types in cases at different periods and by different persons, I am gratified at being enabled to give that of the late Earl Stanhope, from a stereotype plate of his Lordship's casting; this plan of the cases, the logotypes, the alteration of the letter f, and the shape of the boxes, were never adopted in the trade.

Moxon's Cases: 1683


Moxon's 1663 Upper Case Moxon's 1663 Upper Case Enlarge


Moxon's 1663 Lower Case Moxon's 1663 Lower Case Enlarge

Smith's Cases: No. I. 1755


Smith's Upper Case #1 Smith's Upper Case No. I. Enlarge


Smith's Lower Case #1 Smith's Lower Case No. I. Enlarge

Smith's Cases: No. III. 1755


Smith's Upper Case #3 Smith's Upper Case No. III. Enlarge


Smith's Lower Case #3 Smith's Lower Case No. III. Enlarge

Cases Before The Long S Was Discarded


Upper Case before the long ſ was discarded Upper case before the long ſ was discarded Enlarge


Lower Case  with long ſ Lower case before the long ſ was discarded Enlarge

Arrangement Of The Types in the Days this Dictionary was Written


Upper Case around 1841 Upper Case around 1841 Enlarge


Lower Case around 1841 Lower Case around 1841 Enlarge

Stanhope Composing Cases

Upper Case

Stanhope Composing Upper Case Stanhope Composing Upper Case Enlarge

Lower Case

Stanhope Composing Lower Case Stanhope Composing Upper Case Enlarge

Peculiarities And Advantages Of These Cases

First 2). The nine logotypes now in use are omitted. They are proposed to be printed with separate types, thus: ff, fi, fl, ffi, ffl, &c. instead of , fi, fl, ffi ligature, ffl ligature, &c. And the Italic thus: ff, fi, fl, &c. instead of ff ligature italic, fi ligature italic, fl ligature italic, &c. In 20 pages of Enfield's Speaker, (namely, from page 71 to 90, both inclusive,) those logotypes occur only 95 times, viz.

Present Logotypes
ffi ligature ffl ligature Æ Œ æ œ Total
28 51 10 4 2 0 0 0 0 95

Secondly. Eight new logotypes are introduced. Their regular and frequent occurrence expedite the process of composition in a very considerable degree; for, in those same 20 pages, the new logotypes would save to the compositor no less than 3073 lifts, viz.

Stanhope Logotypes
th in an re se to of on Total
771 441 413 385 291 279 264 229 3073

Thirdly. The introduction of the new logotypes, and the great imperfection of the various existing arrangements of composing cases, have caused the above new and very superior arrangement to be adopted.

Fourthly. The front side of each box of the lower case is made sloping, instead of upright; which shape is convenient both to the view and to the hand of the compositor, and it enables him to lift the types with the same rapidity and ease when the boxes are nearly empty as when they are full. The types are much better preserved from wear, by means of this shape; It also allows the lower case to be made deeper than usual; so that, two of them contain as much as three lower cases on the old construction. At the bottom of each box of the upper case, the internal front arras is filled up.

The saving of time is of immense importance, especially in all cases where dispatch is particularly required. The new cases are, by experience, found to save full one day out of six to the compositor.

Fifteen boxes on the left-hand side of the upper case are represented empty. They are intended for the sorts which are sometimes used for particular works; such as, accented letters, mathematical marks, &c.

As the asterisk, or star, [*] is very liable to be filled with ink at press, it is intentionally excluded from among the reference-marks.

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Due to technical limitations, some characters used in this entry couldn't be entered in text mode, and have been replaced by images. Such is the case for the ligature rendering of the following letter combinations: ct, ſb, ffi, ffl, ſh, ſk, and italic ff, fi, fl.
For better visual accuracy, an image version of this paragraph, taken from the scanned page, can be found at this link