Typesetters of yore had to hand pack their letters into a composing stick
upside down and backward so that, when placed in the negative galley, they would print a positive page onto the paper.
The composer was the one who put in place every letter of a word in every sentence on a composing stick
, a strip of wood that was placed inside a square or a rectangular mold, also made of wood, which, in turn, set the desired size of the paper the texts were to be printed on.
Our class sessions met at the Windhover Press and it was there in that loud (Kim had an excellent record collection) and smoke-filled room that I learned to set type: the mind-numbing process of selecting letters from the distribution case, arranging each letter of a poem into its place in the composing stick
, checking the spacing, adding the next letter, removing the letter, setting it again, ad nauseam.
The Dale Guild suggested setting the composing stick
to 21 picas, but because they found that the line lengths varied from 20.
We are taken step-by-step through the process of preparing a manuscript for print, typesetting the music and text using a composing stick
, sliding it into a galley, maldng the pages into a forme on a marble imposing stone, and placing it into a wooden or metal chase.