The Typographic Hub

Emptying a composing stick

11th September 2012

Emptying a composing stick was a particularly difficult operation for the novice compositor

Emptying a composing stick was a particularly difficult operation for the novice compositor and few succeeded in their first attempt without upsetting or ‘pieing’ at least a few lines. When compositors were learning their art they would set and distribute just a few lines of type at a time until they became more competent. Standing at his case, the compositor first secured a galley and placed it on the left-hand side of the lower case. A setting rule was placed in front of the last line of composed matter, with a lead of the same measure behind the first line. The composing stick was then placed in a diagonal fashion on the lower case. With his thumbs at each end at the head of the type-matter, and his index fingers at each end of the last line, the compositor would press the second and third fingers of each hand against the right and left side of the type-matter and grip firmly, bringing the whole forward on to the setting rule, releasing the type matter without hesitation. The type-matter was placed on the galley as close to the head as possible and a piece of metal furniture was put at the foot of the type-matter to prevent the lines falling over. With a little practice the operation of emptying a composing stick soon became easy.