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"The Compositor's Chronicle" Critiques Binns' "Anatomy of Sleep"


In their July 1, 1842 issue The Compositor's Chronicle critiqued recently the published Binns' Anatomy of Sleep in an article entitled "The Composing Machine" from which I quote:

"MACHINERY.—BAD NEWS FOR PRINTERS !!! — We have been favoured with a printed article extending to about a quarter of a column of a newspaper, 'set up and justified in forty-five minutes by the new patent composing machine,' and it appears that a non-medical treatise, 'The Antomy of Sleep,' is about to be issued to the world, by the same means. The machine, which is the invention of Messrs. Young and Delcambre, and now at work in Chancery-lane, is described as presenting, when viewed in front, the appearance of the interior of a cottage piano; it is 'played' by 72 keys, and the process, of which it is impossible to convey an adequate idea by description, mainly consists in forcing the letters through a tube or spout to their proper position. The cost of the machine is one hundred pounds, and it is at present worked by eight persons, three young women and five boys. These have now been three months learning their duties, and the rate at which they can work and supply the machine is 6000 letters per hour, while the average at which the compositor sets up is 1500 or 1600 per hour; but for the delay in the justifying part of the business, it is probably the attendants upon the machine would arrange 8000 letters in an hour. As regards wages, too, there is a material difference; the present lowest price of bookwork is 5d per thousand; by this mode it is only 2d. Supposing the machine to come into general use; there will be only be wanting an invention to write and select for the journals, and then the greater portion of those now connected with the press may take to some other occupation (if they can find it, or starve.— Hereford Journal.

"The writer of the above paragraph has happily described the only thing now required to complete the felicity of the members of the printing profession, namely, an 'invention to write and select' copy. To supply this desideratum, Messrs. Rosenberg, Young, and Delcambre will doubtless turn their attention, and when by their success they ultimately place an extinguisher upon authors, editors, reporters, and compsitors, they may thenceforth congratulate themelves upon being ranked amongst the benefactors of mankind.

"Having before taken occasion to expose the ignorant, absurd and exaggerated statements of the patentees of the London machine, we shall not now waste our time, or tire the patience of our readers, by noticing the puffs mendacious, preliminary, collateral, or direct, which have marked this second exhibition; but we are informed, upon unquestionable authority, that this mechanical monster, taking the whole day through, has never produced in any one day, anything like 2500 letters per hour, and this be it remembered with eight hands engaged in the work, who, if paid at the rate of 2d. per 1000, would receive less than three farthings per hourfor their labour; a sum much lower than is received by the generality of factory girls, and which the elderly ladies in Messrs. Young and Delcambre's factory would, we are persuaded, by no means be satisfied with, especially after devoting three months to learn the mysteries of the noble art.

"The good folks at Hull assure us that the promised distributing machine of Captain Rosenberg, after the most strict inquiry, has not been visible to mortal eyes, and probably has no existence but in his own fertile imagation; and in regard to the machine of Young and Delcambre we can only repeat what we said some months ago— namely, that types may pass through a groove into a receptacle quicker than a compositor can lift them into a stick, but that no saving in the price of composition can be effected. Very nearly half the composition, nay we believe we might say that more than half the composition in Great Britian is already done by boys, who are not paid upon an average anything like 2d per 1000 for their labour. These boys, who are far more servicable as type-lifters than the machine of Young and Delcambre, often give employers 100 guineas to learn the art, and is it likely that such would ever again be the case, if once a machine for composing were introduced into an office? We have only to add that a notice that the 'Exhibition is closed' has been posted on the doors in Chancery-lane, and we presume that the ladies and their satellites have retired to their respective dormitories to furnish a new chapter for the non-medical treatise, 'Anatomy of Sleep.' " 

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