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Letterpress Type: Technology

The Elementary Constituents of Type Metal as They Appear in the Chemical Periodic Table


Here is letterpress card that I printed and submitted to the Amalgamated Printers’ Association in April 2002 on which the three elements that are alloyed to make type metal are arranged graphically to show the positions they occupy on the periodic table of the elements. The text explains the origination of each chemical symbol.

The elements are described:


Atomic weight: 118.710
Melting point: 449.5 deg. F
Density: 7.30 g/ccm

The symbol Sn derives from the Latin for Tin, ‘stannum,’ which comes from ‘stagnum,’ meaning ‘dripping’ — a reference to how easily Tin melts. Add Antimony to prevent malleable white Tin from becoming powdery gray Tin.


Atomic weight: 121.757
Melting point: 1167 deg. F
Density: 6.618 g/ccm

The symbol Sb comes from teh Antimony ore stibnite, which derives from Latin ‘stibium,’ meaning ‘mark’ — recalling its use as mascara in ancient times. Alloying with Lead yeilds a metal both hard and dense.


Atomic weight: 207.2
Melting point: 621.5 deg. F
Density: 11.34 g/ccm

The symbol Pb comes from the Latin for Lead, ‘plumbum,’ meaning ‘liquid silver’ and connotes both the ease of melting the metal and its lustrous look. Lead flows more readily into a mold when some Tin is added.

The Private Press of Ian Schaefer
APA 745—April 2002

—Ian Schaefer


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