“The Manual of Linotype Typography”

Written by Joshua Lurie-Terrell on August 26, 2004

While not nearly as rare or pricey as Big Red, this book is – in my opinion at least – one of the best-designed and most-complete specimen books ever produced. Copies in decent shape routinely go for as little as $35, and the excellent quality of printing and paper – far superior to the ATF books I own – and the tremendous quality/quantity of sample settings throughout is more than worth a much higher price. In fact, I can – without hesitation – promise that anyone interested in type will be more than happy with this book. My two copies of the Manual ($75 near-fine copy, $15 battered reading copy) are some of the best book purchases I’ve made in the past 5 years.

Copies in a wide range of condition can be found through various Alibris vendors, and, hopefully, your local fine press dealer(s).


  1. Thanks for posting those, Joshua. I’m with you — the book is terrific.

    But I disagree about the paper; do we have different editions of this book? The 1923 ATF book is printed on hard, supercalendered stock, but my copy of The Manual of Linotype Typography is printed on something soft and acidic, which has become brittle and yellow like newsprint. Are your copies different?

  2. jlt says:

    By Big Red I was referring to the 1912, which I have (in horrible condition). Is the 1923 the more common reference? Mine is on a thin slick coated stock that is foxed and worn throughout. My Linotype Manual, however (1923) is on a nice thick, probably high-cotton content stock that, while slightly shelf worn and with a (very) few broken corners, seems remarkably resilient.

  3. jlt says:

    (i.e., yes, the 1912 is on a very similar supercalendered stock – and my Lino manual is on soft, but not especially acidic paper – I will test the ph tonight, I think I have some archival test strips around somehwere, if I can remember how to use them.)

  4. Looks like the Linotype catalog I have is contemporaneous to this book. The one I have is called “Linotype Faces” and is dated 1923 (“Supplementing Book of 1920”). It shares the same look as the pages of Manual, but it has a soft cover and post binding. Its about 300 pages printed in black and red. It appears to be a set of individual specimen booklets bound together (which would explain the binding). In fact, now that I look at it more closely, some of the individual specimens are dated 1924, so I think this must have been issued as something that could be added to as new booklets were issued.

  5. Thomas Phinney says:

    “Big Red” is usually the 1912 ATF specimen book, which is about half an inch bigger than the 1923 book in height and width, and ~150 pages longer at 1301 pp. The 1912 book has a red cover page edges. The 1923 book is no slouch, mind you, and it has an index which is very handy. But it’s not quite as big, and not nearly as red. :)

    I was thinking there’s a 1915 Lino book which is also very big and red (the cover, but not the page edges) but I can’t seem to find my copy at the moment. I’ve just been rearranging my shelves as part of unpacking, and it seems to have been lost in a stack.



  6. Alexis Godefroy says:

    So what is the ‘best’ version to get, finally ?

  7. Hrant says:

    It still seems that the most representative of early 20th century stlye has to be the 1923 ATF book. I don’t know about reproduction quality, but the hotmetal outfits (like Linotype) weren’t so display-centric, and it was after the 1910s that ATF kicked things up.


  8. Dan Reynolds says:

    Thomas, you are right about the big red Linotype book’s existence there are a few copies of it in Bad Homburg I’ll take a look at it on Tuesday and post a brief description and date of issue

  9. Hrant says:

    Do you guys know the resolutions for these things? And the bit depths?


  10. Dystopos says:

    The multipage TIFF image at MillionBooks appears to be a 400dpi B&W scan which looks fine in OS X Preview (with smoothing).

  11. Dan Reynolds says:

    I found two Linotype specimen books in our collection.

    The first is big, and red, but is not “Big Red,” since it is from Linotype and not from ATF.

    The title page calls it Specimen Book Linotype Faces Brooklyn, New York. The book is from 1939. It is hard-bound. The cover reads:


    The spine reads: LINOTYPE

    The book has 1215 pages, and is from 1939.

    There is a similar book, titled on the spine Linotype Faces, which is bolt bound, so that the individual sample pages can be removed.

    The second book is also called Linotype Faces. This book is from 1914! The cover is green, and the title on the cover reads
    Linotype Faces
    From Linotype Machinery Limited
    188 and 189 Fleet Street, London
    (These cover texts are printed in a Lombard-ish face)

    The book is from November 1914, and is long the format is like 11″ x 17″ laid on its side (that’s A3 landscape format, for Euros)

    The original spine on our copy has been destroyed.

    There is a text typeface in the book called Minion! This typeface was designed decades before Adobe came into existence, but Linotype must never have trademarked this name. ;-)

  12. Fredrik Andersson says:

    The connection between Minion and type is probably older than that specimen book; Minion, Mignon or Mignonne are all the same word for type size 7 pt.
    Other more or less obscure typographic units have had names as Corpus, Agate, Borgis and Galliard.

    Does anyone know if someone still use these names anymore?

  13. Hrant says:

    Only for mignon (which means
    “cute” in French) font names. :-)


  14. Fredrik Andersson says:

    Sharing my life with a vegetarian made me forget the utterly rare Filet Minion.

  15. Hrant says:

    That’s not fair.


  16. Chris Rugen says:

    Thomas, if you’re looking for another 1915 edition, I know where you can get one.


  17. Joe Brown says:

    Have a copy of a finely-printed edition issued by Linotype in 1931, illustrating the use of the typeface Linotype Granjon. It is printed direct from Linotype slugs on undamped hand-made paper, size 13.5 x 8.5 ins, and is cased. It also shows the ‘Device of Robert Granjon’ printed in red. It is an excellent example of fine typography.

  18. Joe Brown says:

    In addition to minion (7pt) and pica (12pt), when I was an apprentice compositor at the case in 1936 we used a typesize referred to as ‘nonpareil’ (slightly smaller than 6pt). It was a very old composing room mainly equipped in the early 1920s but also had typefaces from 1845 when the newspaper was founded!

  19. will powers says:

    Joe: I wonder was that ‘nonpariel’ you speak of cast on a 6-point body? By the time I was an apprentice comp 30 years after you, names such as ‘pica’ and ‘minion’ were no longer in use to denote type sizes, but ‘nonpariel’ was used to denote slugs and reglets that were 6 points thick.


  20. Vitorio says:

    Just to follow up on this vintage 2004 post, I recently donated my 1923 copy of the Manual of Linotype Typography to the Internet Archive, and they’ve made high-resolution, full-color scans available to the public.

    Also on that page is a similar, 1910 book by Edmund Gress, The Art and Practice of Typography, which collected many examples of American printing of the early 1900s.


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