Photo of a 1946 prototype of the Lumitype.

Photo of a 1946 prototype of the Lumitype.

"The Photon typesetting discs contained eight rows with two fonts each, making sixteen fonts altogether. With twelve possible point sizes, that meant one disc had over 17000 characters available at any time. For the Lumitype we put special characters and flying accents on the innermost row, so a disc consisted of fourteen alphabets plus one of of special characters /01/. One had a proper little composing room with fantastic possibilities for setting complicated textsetting and mixing type of any kind. Photosetting brought about far-reaching changes to the printing presses and composing rooms. One typesetting disc replaced many cases full of lead type, which weighed tons, film exposure replaced metal setting" (Osterer & Stamm, Adrian Frutiger - Typefaces: The Complete works, 74).

"The Photon typesetting discs contained eight rows with two fonts each, making sixteen fonts altogether. With twelve possible point sizes, that meant one disc had over 17000 characters available at any time. For the Lumitype we put special characters and flying accents on the innermost row, so a disc consisted of fourteen alphabets plus one of of special characters /01/. One had a proper little composing room with fantastic possibilities for setting complicated textsetting and mixing type of any kind. Photosetting brought about far-reaching changes to the printing presses and composing rooms. One typesetting disc replaced many cases full of lead type, which weighed tons, film exposure replaced metal setting" (Osterer & Stamm, Adrian Frutiger - Typefaces: The Complete works, 74).

Photon "Wonderful world of insects" cover
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The first book typeset by the Lumitype did not appear until 1953.

Gaul insects colophon
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The publishers were well aware of the historic nature of this first book typeset by Lumitype and emphasized it in this unusually long colophon.

Photon Le mariage de figaro cover
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Dust jacket of the regular trade edition of the first book published in France that was typeset by Lumitype. The regular edition was printed on cheap woodpulp paper.

Photon deluxe Figaro cover and box
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For collectors the publishers issued 1000 numbered copies printed on high quality paper in two colors. These copies were issued in the traditional French style of deluxe books, unsewn in signatures in a printed wrapper and boxed.

Photon Figaro colophon
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Colophon of the deluxe edition.

Photon Figaro brochures
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Brochures included with the deluxe edition, one of which illustrated the Photon Lumitype machine.

Photon Lumitype 2nd book typeset
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Cadenced Bible colophon
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The publisher credits many people for the unusual aspects of this work. His claim that this was "the first book printed in cadenced form" appears to ignore many books of poetry that had been published in cadenced form before this. More accurately it might be characterized as the first edition of the New Testament published in cadenced form. 

Photon Lumitype cadenced bible page opening
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An example of the New Testament as it appeared in this cadenced form edition.

Cadenced Bible dust jacket credit detail
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The publisher claimed that the rather eccentrically designed dust jacket was designed by someone named Kahlil Gibran. Presumably this was not the famous poet, since he died in 1931.

Detail map of Lyon, Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes, France,Brooklyn, New York, United States

A: Lyon, Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes, France, B: Brooklyn, New York, United States

From Lead to Light: Lumitype, the First Successful Phototypesetting Machine, and the First Books it Typeset

1946 to 1953
<p class=" meta-field photo-title ">The Lumitype-Photon phototypesetting machine in the&nbsp;Mus&eacute;e de l'imprimerie et de la communication graphique, 13 rue de la Poulaillerie,&nbsp;69002 Lyon, France. This system was invented in&nbsp;Lyon by Ren&eacute; Higonnet and Louis Moyroud.</p>

The Lumitype-Photon phototypesetting machine in the Musée de l'imprimerie et de la communication graphique, 13 rue de la Poulaillerie, 69002 Lyon, France. This system was invented in Lyon by René Higonnet and Louis Moyroud.

Though offset lithography from photographic printing plates gained wide acceptance as a printing technology in the first half of the 20th century, until well into the second half of the century typesetting continued in hot metal primarily by Linotype or Monotype. The first true alternative to those hot metal technologies was the phototypesetting or photo-composing machine invented in 1946 by René Higonnet and Louis Moyroud, electrical engineers at a subsidiary of ITT (formerly International Telephone & Telegraph) in Lyon, France, and called the Lumitype.

Initially finding little interest in the development of their invention in France, Higgonet and Moyroud turned to the American corporation Lithomat which decided to back development, and both Higonnet and Moyroud moved to the United States to develop their product, presenting the prototype of their first commercial machine, the Lumitype Photon, in New York in 1949. 

Development of the Lumitype moved slowly, and it was not until 1953 that the first book typeset entirely by a phototype imagesetter from Photon, Inc. rather than from hot metal was published: Albro T. Gaul's The Wonderful World of Insects , issued in New York by Rinehart & Company.  It contained 290,[2] pp. and 46 black and white half-tones. The book was typeset on a prototype machine.

On its final leaf Gaul's book contained an unusual colophon which read:

"The Wonderful World of Insects derives added significance from the manner it which it was composed. It is the first volume composed with the revolutionary Higonnet-Moyroud photographic type-composing machine. Absolutely no type, in the conventional [hot metal] sense, was used in the preparation of this book.

"For over five hundred years movable type has been the tradition and the basis of printing, and its invention, credited to Gutenberg, has been hailed as one of man's greatest inventions. The first book printed from movable type, the famouse Gutenberg Bible, has become a rare collector's item.

"Until late in the nineteenth century all metal type was set by hand. The Linotype, in 1885, and the Monotype, in 1887, provided equipment for the casting of type by keyboard operation. Today these three methods remain the accepted ways for composing type.

"In 1949, the Graphic Arts Research Foundation, Inc. of Cambridge, Massachusetts was formed to provide high-level research in the printing industry. It has as its objective the creation of new, better and less costly printing methods. In the Higgonet-Moyroud, or Photon, photographic type composing machine—its first project—the Foundation has perfected an entirely new, faster and far more versatile means of composition which does not employ metal type.

"If, as we believe, time proves the Photon to be the replacement for past typesetting methods, then the printing and publishing industry is on the threshold of a new era. Rinehart & Company is proud that its book was chosen to be the first work composed with this revolutionary machine. . . ."

A year later, The Patriot Ledger of Quincy, Massachusetts became the first newspaper to convert its typesetting from hot metal to the Lumitype. 

Also in 1954, the second book typeset by the Lumitype was The New Testament in Cadenced Form.  The colophon for this book was unusually discursive, emphasizing the innovative aspects of its type layout and method of typesetting:

"This book has novel elements in both design and production. It is the first book printed in cadenced form. It is the second book composed on a Higonnet-Moyroud or Photon photographic type-composing machine, the first printed letterpress from Photon composition. The photon machine gives the unform perfection of characters and the precise control of spacing that the form requires. The Dow process of etching magnesium plates faithfully reproduces the Photon composition...."

The first book published in Europe with typesetting from phototype done on a Lumitype machine was Beaumarchais's La Folle journée ou Le Mariage de Figaro issued in Paris by Berger-Levrault in 1957.

 

La Lumitype-Photon: René Higonnet, Louis Moyroud et l'invention de la photocomposition moderne. Edited by Alan Marshall. Lyon: Musée de l'imprimerie et de la banque, 1995.

Marshall, Alan. Du plomb à la lumière. La Lumitype-Photon et la naissances des industries graphiques modernes. Preface Henri-Jean Martin. Paris: Éditions de la Maison des sciences de l'homme, 2003.

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