The Printer’s Side

Book collectors make a big deal about first editions. Often, their interest is not just the first time a work appears in print, but rather the first printing of that work, too — a so-called first-first. It would be more accurate to call it the earliest edition, perhaps.

I’m not sure why there’s something so fetishized about it. …


Update (April 30, 2021): PCC announced its member dividend for 2020, a new approach it took, in which it divided a chunk of profit among all members who shopped during 2020, and have released a credit relative to spending. So it’s like a retroactive discount of about 1.7%, which is significant.

I did a lot more shopping at PCC in 2020 than in recent years, in part because they opened a new store not far from my house (previously, other stores were a much longer drive), and because the new store was one of the few places I felt comfortable…


Listening to the wonderful No Such Thing as a Fish podcast this morning, made by the researchers (“elves”) of UK panel show QI, they brought up a problem with a joke included with Christmas crackers. Crackers are a British tradition — nothing to do with biscuits, cookies, or the like, but more like a three-segmented Thanksgiving turkey wishbone. Wrapped in paper, two people each pull one end, and it pops open with a slight bang, and the person with the middle segment gets the usually minor prize inside. There are also jokes. (Or “jokes.” …


The public domain gained an entire year of material in 2019 and more is slated to come.

“Whose woods these are, I think I” — whoa! Until January 1, 2019, I couldn’t quote any more of this famous poem’s introduction, because of the dogged defense of copyright that the Robert Frost estate has engaged in for decades. But since that date, me, you, and everyone have been able to quote it at length in any form, set it to music, mash it up with hiphop, or produce inspirational posters.

When the ball touched down in Times Square on New Year’s Eve, so, too, did the copyright expire on nearly all work published in the United States in…


The 1919 Printing Strike That Wasn’t

In 1919, typesetters in New York wanted better working hours and better pay at job shops that handled much of the work for magazines. Their powerful union, the International Typographic Union (ITU), refused to authorize a general strike. Members of union locals took matters in their own hands, even though they risked the ire of publishers, being fired by employers, and getting labeled as socialists or worse.

The absurd wage and hours they wanted? Instead of $36 a week for 48 hours of work, they wanted $50 for 44 hours — about $17 an hour or $742 a week in…


Sci-fi and fantasy novels thrive on the end of all things, but there are some in which the Earth and humanity aren’t particularly in danger.

Warning! There will be minor spoilers for various books and movies below to explain where they fit into the “Earth/humanity goes boom” scenario.

I cracked open Mary Robinette Kowal’s The Calculating Stars, and in the first pages, a comet hits D.C., dooming the planet—maybe. Read on! I wasn’t prepared for it, but I should be. (The book is brisk and interesting! I’m about to start book 2 in the series.)

But it reminded me how…


Magic will renew itself and everything will be okay, probably.

Image by Iván Tamás from Pixabay

You’re a human, humanoid, dwarf, elf, demigod, semidemigod, talking non-human animal, sentient mobile plant, or object imbued with consciousness via magical spell, and your fantasy realm appears to be about to come to an end.

First: Breathe gently in and out. (If you don’t breathe because you’re the living dead or a golem: Clench and unclench.)

The source of magic ceasing, the center of your world collapsing, a special word being forgotten, a resonance stone crumbling, the belief system changing of ordinary beings in the non-magical world, a terrible wizard trying to defeat death, or a host of other changing…


How a paper mold transformed the growth of newspapers

Flong transformed printing as one component of many 19th century advancements.

You’ve heard of letterpress printing. You know about individual pieces of metal type stacked side by side by typesetters to make a line of type. Maybe you’ve even seen a film on YouTube of hot-metal composition, using Linotype or Monotype machines, where reusable molds cast fresh type from boiling lead for magazines and books.

You’ve probably also seen a lot of stock footage of newspaper presses in which paper moves at absurdly high speeds and ink is slammed onto sheets, which are cut, folded, stacked, and thrown into delivery vans.

But you’ve likely never heard of flongs. The flong…


The history of baselines

A friend writing about the nature of vertical type alignment and interline spacing with digital-only typesetting put me on the path to research something I’d long wondered about in the era of metal type (~1450–1980s): How could you set a line of type that mixed typefaces from the same or different foundries and keep a consistent baseline?

The baseline is the invisible horizontal line on which the bottom of the body of characters sit in the Latin alphabet and many other scripts, whether the bottom of an uppercase letter or the main body of a lowercase one. This is true…


Everything first published in the U.S. in 1923 is now out of copyright. But what resources can lead you to those works?

In two articles this year, I painted the picture of the legal structure and cultural implications of the entry of everything first published in the U.S. in 1923 entering the public domain—that’s all published books, magazines, newspapers, poems, artwork, compositions in sheet music form, plays (the scripts, not the performance), movies and more.

But the public domain is a conceptual space: It defines a lack of copyright protection, and has to be examined to determine what properly falls into that category. There’s no definitive list produced by the U.S. …

Glenn Fleishman

Technology journalist, editor, letterpress printer, and two-time Jeopardy! champion. I seem to know everyone #glenning

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