The Mergenthaler Linotype Company is a corporation founded in the United States in 1886 to market the linecaster invented by Ottmar Mergenthaler. With the company's primary product, the Linotype machine (pronounced /ˈlaɪnətaɪp/), it became the world's leading manufacturer of book and newspaper typesetting equipment; outside North America, its only serious challenger for book production was the United States-/England-based Monotype Corporation.
The invention of a machine to replace the labor-intensive task of setting type by hand was one that many inventors had tackled during the 19th Century. The difficulty was not in creating the text, but in returning the characters to a proper position for future use. Mergenthaler solved this problem by placing type molds on the sides of specially keyed matrices. The matrices would be lined up and hot lead alloy forced to fill the matrices, creating the line of type. Then the matrices would progress through the machine, where a special keying system on one end of the matrix, unique for each character, would allow the matrix to drop only into the correct storage slot, ready for future use.
Another problem Mergenthaler solved was in justifying the type, giving flush margins on the left and right. Hand compositors did this by using spaces of different widths in a line, to ensure that the lines all ended at the same point. Mergenthaler adapted the "space band" (patented by J. W. Schuckers), a device consisting of two wedges of metal connected loosely. When a line of type was being justified, all the space band wedges would be pushed up in two passes to spread the line out to the full measure being cast. The space bands were stored for reuse in a different location from the matrices.
The company, as so many in the printing industry, endured a complex post-war history, during which printing technology went through two revolutions — first moving to phototypesetting, then to digital.
Through a series of mergers and reorganizations, the business of Mergenthaler Linotype Company ultimately vested in Linotype-Hell AG, a German Company. In April 1997, Linotype-Hell AG was acquired by Heidelberger Druckmaschinen AG. The following month certain divisions of Linotype-Hell AG were spun off into new companies, one of which was Linotype Library GmbH. This new company was responsible solely for the acquisition, creation and distribution of digital fonts and related software. This spin-off effectively divorced the company's font software business from the older typesetting business which was retained by Heidelberg. In 2005, Linotype Library GmbH shortened its name to Linotype GmbH, and in 2007, Linotype GmbH was acquired by the parent of Monotype Imaging, Inc.
The typefaces in the Linotype type library are the artwork of some of the most famous typeface designers of the 20th Century. The library contains such famous trademarked typefaces as Palatino and Optima by Hermann Zapf; Frutiger, Avenir and Univers by Adrian Frutiger; and Helvetica by Max Miedinger and Eduard Hoffman. Linotype GmbH frequently brings out new designs from both established and new type designers. Linotype has also introduced FontExplorer X for Mac OS X. It is a well reviewed font manager that allows users to browse and purchase new fonts within the program — a business model similar to that used by iTunes and the iTunes Store.
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