To replace the types in their respective boxes in the cases after printing therewith, in order to their being used again. This is done in a very expeditious manner by the compositor, who, placing his composing rule against the head of a page, with his thumbs against it, pressing the sides of both his third fingers against the sides of the matter, and his forefingers against the bottom line of the quantity which he means to lift, takes up what is termed a handful, and keeping the face of the letter towards him, rests one end of the composing rule against the ball of the thumb of his left hand, and pressing the other end of the rule with the third finger, steadies the matter with his forefinger, and thus has his right hand at liberty, with which he takes a word or part of a word from the uppermost line as he holds it in his hand, and drops the several letters into their particular boxes.
Matter is always wetted when distributed, to render it slightly cohesive, as the operation is thus performed with more facility than when dry. When the form has not been well rinsed in laying-up, and the types have been much used, the ends of the fingers are apt to get smooth, so as to lose the command, in some measure, of dropping the types into their places with quickness and certainty; in this case compositors frequently keep a piece of alum in some part of the case, and occasionally touch it with their thumb and two fingers, which gives them a little roughness, and restores their command of the types.
If a compositor is desirous of producing his first proofs free from literal errors, he should be particular in distributing clean, that is, depositing each letter in its proper box.