This typecase consists of 89 compartments, most of which are assigned to specific 'sorts' (individual letterpress letters). Variations on the layout will add additional symbols to unassigned compartments toward the top.
Numerals and symbols are at the top, lower case, punctuation and variable width spaces on the left, and capitals are on the right. Lower case compartment position and size varies according to the frequency of occurrence of the letter contained. Uppercase compartments are uniform size, ordered A to Z. (J & U were not used by early English printers, so they are assigned compartments following Z.)
This organization keeps larger quantities of more the frequently used slugs in convenient reach of the typesetter. Ligatures and several widths of space improve efficiency.
A typecase (don't say drawer) with every character and space in its proper place is called 'clean', while a ‘dirty’ case has characters mixed up, generally by careless distribution as they were returned. A spilled case is called 'pied'.
Each size and style of font is kept in its own tray, and trays are kept in a cabinet with slots making each tray appear as a removable drawer. The cabinet may offer the type setter a work surface at a convenient height, often a composer's work stand.
Regardless of who actually invented the case, in order to make his typesetting more efficient, the inventor arranged the compartments according to the letters' frequency of use. The more frequent letters (t, n, e, i, o, r) are arranged in a rough circle directly in front of the typesetter, while the less-frequently used letters and characters are farther away. The arrangement of the letters in the California Job Case became so popular and commonly adopted that a skilled typesetter could "read" the text set by another typesetter, just by watching the positions of the compartments where the typesetter reached for his letters.
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|The California Job Case|
The California Job Case has three sections, with the rightmost sections containing capital letters in alphabetic order except for the "J" and "U", moved to the lowest line to help avoid confusing them with "I" and "V" respectively. The lower case letters and punctuation marks are in the left and center sections, with the numbers 1 to 8 at the top of the center section, while the ligatures (combined letters, such as "ff", "fi", "æ" etc.) are in various locations about the exterior.
In addition to placing the most commonly used letters in setting text in a given language in the easiest positions for the typesetter to get to, the characters' boxes varied in size depending upon the frequency of usage of the character. Thus for English the "e" box is the largest while the "j", "k", "q", "x", and "z" boxes are the smallest.
Other large compartments in the California Job Case held spacers, which are blocks of blank type used to separate words and fill out a line of type, such as em and en quads (quadrats, or spaces. A quadrat is a block of type whose face is lower than the printing letters so that it does not itself print.). An em space was the width of a capital letter "M" – as wide as it was high – while an en space referred to a space half the width of its height (usually the dimensions for a capital "N").
Read more about this topic: California Job Case
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