MR. SAMUEL WELLER, of facetious memory, has told us of the girl who, having learned the alphabet, concluded that it was not worth going through so much to get so little. This, to say the least of it, was disrespectful to Cadmus, and should be condemned accordingly. Authors have feelings, which even scholastic young maidens cannot be permitted to lacerate. I therefore warn the reader of this article against any inclination toward sympathy with the critical mood of that obnoxious female. My theme is not as lively as “ Punch ” used to be; but, on the other hand, it is not as dull as a religious novel. Patient investigation may find it really agreeable : goodnature will not find it a bore.

I propose, then, a half-hour’s gossip concerning Types, Type - Setting, and the machinery connected with Printing, at the present time. It would, perhaps, be interesting to review in detail the printing-devices of the past; but that would be to extend unwarrantably the limits of this article. Enough that any sketch of the invention, manufacture, and use of types would illustrate the triumph of the labor-saving instinct in man, and thus confirm the scientific lesson of to-day, — that machinery must entirely supersede the necessarily slow processes of labor by hand. That it will at no distant day supersede those processes in the art of printing is, as you will presently see, a fixed fact.

Machinery now does nearly every sort of labor, — economizing health, strength, time, and money, in all that it does. We tread upon beautifully figured carpets that are woven by machinery from single threads. We wear clothes that are made by machinery at the rate of two thousand stitches a minute. We hear in every direction the whistle of the locomotive, which saves us almost incalculable time, in the safe and convenient transportation of our persons and our property. We read in our newspapers messages that are brought instantaneously, from points far as well as near, by a simple electric current,governed by machinery, which prints its thought in plain Roman characters, at a rate of speed defying the emulation of the most expert penman. These, among many illustrations of scientific progress, occur in our daily experience. Manufacture, agriculture, and commerce would yield us others quite as impressive. In all this we see that man is finding out and applying the economy of Nature, and thus that the world is advancing, by well-directed effort, toward a more natural, and therefore a happier civilization.

The labor-saving processes of mechanism as applied to Printing are in the highest degree advantageous and admirable. Once types were cast in moulds, such as boys use for casting bullets. Now they are turned out, with inconceivable rapidity, from a casting-machine worked by steam. Ink and paper, too, are made by machinery; and when the types are set, we invoke the aid of the Steam-Press, and so print off at least fifty impressions to each one produced under the old process of press-work by hand. Machinery, moreover, folds the printed sheets, — trims the rough edges of books, — directs the newspaper, — and does, in short, the bulk of the drudgery that used to be done by operatives, at great expense of time and trouble, and with anything but commensurate profit.

These are facts of familiar knowledge. They indicate remarkable scientific progress. But the great fact—by no means so well known—remains to be stated. It is only of late that machinery has been successfully employed in the most laborious and expensive process connected with the art of printing, — that, namely, of Composition. In this process, however, iron fingers have proved so much better than fingers of flesh, that it is perfectly safe to predict the speedy discontinuance, by all sensible printers, of composition by hand.

Composition — as probably the reader knows—is the method of arranging types in the proper form for use. This, ever since the invention of movable types,— made by Laurentius Coster, in 1430, — has been done by hand. A movement toward economy in this respect was, indeed, made some sixty years ago, by Charles, the third Earl Stanhope, inventor of the Stanhope Press, and of the proeess of stereotyping which is still in use. His plan was to make the typeshank thicker than usual, and cast two or more letters upon its face instead of one This, his Lordship rightly considered, would save labor, if only available combinations could be determined; since, using such types, it would frequently happen that the compositor would need to make but one movement for two or three or even four letters. The desired economy, however, was not secured. Subsequent attempts at combinations were made in England, but all proved abortive. In the office of the London “ Times,” castings of entire words — devised, I think, by Sterling — were used, to a limited extent. It remained, however, for a New-York mechanic to make the idea of combination-type a practical success. Mr. John H. Tobitt, being a stenographer as well as a compositor, was enabled to make a systematic selection of the syllables most frequently occurring in our language; and thus it happens that his combinations have stood a practical test. His improved cases, with combination-type, were shown at the London Exhibition, in 1851, when a medal was awarded to the inventor. These cases have now been in use upwards of ten years, and have demonstrated a gain of twenty per cent over the ordinary method of composition. It should be mentioned that Mr. Tobitt’s invention was entirely original with himself. When he made it, he had never heard of Earl Stanhope, nor of any previous attempt at this improvement.

It is evident, when we reflect upon the intricate construction of language, that this method of saving labor, though it may be made still more useful than at present, must always be restricted within a limited circle of operations. Nor would any number of combination - letters obviate the necessity of composition by hand. The printer would still be obliged to stand at the case, picking up type after type, turning each one around and over, and so arranging the words in his stick.” Every one knows this process, — a painfully slow one in view of results, although individual compositors are sometimes wonderfully expert. But it is only when a great many men labor actively during more hours than ought to be spent in toil, that any considerable work is accomplished by this method. The composing-room of a large daily paper, for instance, presents, day and night, a spectacle of the almost ceaseless industry of jaded operatives. The need of relief in this respect was long ago recognized. The attempt at combination-letters was not less a precursor of reform than an acknowledgment of its necessity.

It remained for American inventive genius, in this generation, to conceive and perfect the greatest labor-saving device that has ever been applied to the art of printing, — the last need of the operative, — the Type-Setting Machine.

It was inevitable that this should come. The only wonder is that it did not come before. Perhaps, indeed, the idea was often conceived in the minds of skilful, though dreamy and timorous inventors, but not developed, for fear of opposition. And opposition enough it has encountered,—alike from inertia, suspicion, and conservative hostility,—since first it assumed a practical position among American ideas, some ten years ago. But I do not care to dwell upon the shadows. Turn we to the sunshine. There are two strong points in favor of the invention, which, since they cover the whole ground of argument, deserve at least to be stated. I assert, then, without the fear of contradiction before my eyes, that the Type-Setting Machine, besides being a universal benefactor, is, in a double sense, a blessing to the mechanic. It spares his physical health, and it stimulates his mental and moral activity. The first truth appears by sanitary statistics, which prove that the health of such artisans as the type - founder and such craftsmen as the printer has been materially improved by the introduction of mechanical aids to their toil. The second is self-evident, — seeing that there is a moral instructor ever at work in the mazes of ingenious and highly-wrought machinery. Those philosophers are not far wrong, if at all, who assert that the rectitude of the human race has gained strength, as by a tonic, from the contemplation of the severe, arrowy railroad,— iron emblem of punctuality, directness, and despatch.

In the interest, therefore, of education no less than health, it becomes imperative that machinery should be substituted for hand-labor in composition. At present, our printing-offices are by no means the sources whence to draw inspirations of order, fitness, and wholesome toil. On the contrary, they are frequently badly lighted and worse ventilated rooms, wherein workmen elbow each other at the closely set cases, and grow dyspeptic under the combined pressure of foul air and irritating and longprotracted labor. All this should be changed. With the composing-machine would come an atmosphere of order and cleanliness and activity, making work rapid and agreeable, and lessening the period of its duration. I know that working - men are suspicious of scientific devices. But surely the compositor need not fear that the iron-handed automaton will snatch the bread out of his mouth. To diminish the cost of any article produced — which is the almost immediate result of substituting machinery for band-labor — is to expand the market for that article. The SewingMachine has not injured the sempstress. The Power-Press has not injured the pressman. The Type-Setting Machine will not injure the compositor. Skilled labor, which must always he combined with the inventor’s appliances for aiding it, so far from dreading harm in such association, may safely anticipate, in the far-reaching economy of science, ampler reward and better health, an increase of prosperity, and a longer and happier life in which to enjoy it.

Let me now briefly sketch the history of type-setting machinery. This must necessarily be done somewhat in the manner of Mr. Gradgrind. I am sorry thus to tax the reader’s patience ; but facts, which enjoy quite a reputation for stubbornness, cannot easily be wrought into fancies. Color the map as you will, it is but a prosy picture after all.

Charles Babbage, of London, the inventor of the Calculating-Engine, first essayed the application of machinery to composition. His calculator was so contrived that it would record in type the results of its own computations. This was over forty years ago. At about the same time Professor Treadwell of Cambridge, Massachusetts, who was bred a practical mechanic, turned his attention to this improvement, and ascertained by experiment the feasibility of the typesetting machine. But mechanical enterprise was then comparatively inactive in America, and nothing of immediate practical importance resulted from the Professor’s experiments. Nor did greater success attend the efforts of Dr. William Church, of Vermont, a contemporary inventor, who constructed an apparatus for setting types, but failed to provide for their distribution. Subsequently, for a long time, the idea slumbered.

At length, about the year 1840, Mr. Timothy Alden, a printer, and a native of Massachusetts, conceived a plan for setting and distributing type, which has since been put into successful operation. Mr. Alden’s workshop was, I believe, situated at the corner of Canal and Centre Streets, in New York city. There he labored in privacy, year after year, encountering all manner of difficulty and discouragement, till his great work was substantially completed. His invention was patented in 1857, but the studious and persevering inventor did not live to reap the fruits of the seed he had sown. Worn out with care and toil and long-suffering patience, he died in 1859, a martyr to scientific progress. His patent passed into the hands of his cousin, Mr. Henry W. Alden, who has since organized a company for the manufacture and sale of the Alden Machine.

In appearance, this machine resembles a circular table, having in its centre a wheel, placed horizontally, from the outer edge of which lines of type radiate, like spokes from an axle, to the distance of about one foot. Three-quarters of the circle is filled up by these lines. In front is a key-board, containing one hundred and fifty-four keys, by which the operator governs the action of the machine. The central wheel controls some forty “ conveyors,” half of which compose the types into language, while the other half distribute them, guided by certain nicks cut upon their sides, to their proper places, when no longer needed. Both operations may go on at the same time. The types, as they are composed, are fed out in a continuous line, at the left of the key-board. The operator then divides this line into proper lengths, and “justifies” it by hand. “Justifying,” it should be stated, consists in placing spaces between the words, and making the lines of equal length. This machine is a very ingenious invention, and marks tlie first great step towards successful improvement in the method of Type-Setting.

Another machine, originated by Mr. William II. Mitchell, of Brooklyn, New York, was patented in 1853. In appearance it suggests a harp placed horizontally. In front is a key-board, in shape and arrangement not unlike that of a piano. Each key indicates a certain letter. The types employed are arranged in columns, nearly perpendicular. The touching of a key throws out a type upon one of a series of endless belts, graduated in length, from six inches up to three feet, which move horizontally towards the farther side of the machine, depositing the types in due order upon a single belt. This latter carries them, in uninterrupted succession, to a brass receiver, on which they stand ranged in one long line. This line is then cut into lengths and justified by hand. Mr. Mitchell’s Distributing-Apparatus— which is entirely distinct from the Composing-Machine — is, substantially, a circular wheel armed with feelers, which latter distribute according to the nicks cut in the types.

These machines require very considerable external aid in the labor they accomplish, while, like the Alden Machine, they neither justify nor lead the matter that is set. They have, however, stood a practical test,—having been in use several years. It may interest the reader to know that the matter for the “ Continental Monthly ” is set up and distributed by them, in the office of Mr. John F. Trow, of New York. They are also known, and to some extent employed, in printing-houses in London, and are found to be economical.

But, as remarked by Macbeth, “ the greatest is behind.” I touch now upon the most comprehensive and effectual invention for labor-saving in this respect,— namely, the Felt Machine. This ingenious creation, which is, in all particulars, original, and quite distinct from those already mentioned, performs, with accuracy and speed, all the work of composing, justifying, leading, and distributing types. It was invented by Mr. Charles W. Felt, of Salem, Massachusetts, a man of superior genius, whose energy in overcoming obstacles and working ont the practical success of his idea is scarcely less remarkable than the idea itself. I shall dwell briefly upon his career, since it teaches the old, but never tiresome lesson of patient perseverance. He began the business of life in his native town, though not in mechanical pursuits. His mind, however, tended naturally toward mechanical science, and he improved every opportunity of increasing his knowledge in that department of study. The processes of Printing especially attracted his attention, and the idea of applying machinery to the work of composition haunted him from an early period of youth. He read, doubtless, of the various experiments that had been made in this direction, and observed, as far as possible, the results achieved by contemporary inventors. But it does not appear, that, in the original conception of his wonderful machine, he was indebted to any source for even a single suggestion. I have seen his first wooden model, — made at the age of eighteen, — crude and clumsy indeed, compared with the machine in its present shape, but containing the main features and principles. This was the first step. He began with the earnings of his boyhood. Then a few friends, fired by his spirit and courage, contributed money, and enabled him to prosecute his enterprise during several years. In this way it became the one purpose of his life. In time the number of his liberal patrons increased to nearly one hundred, and a considerable fund was placed at his disposal. Tims, genius, energy, and patience, aided by capital, carried the work bravely forward. It is a pleasure to record that a worthy design was thus generously nurtured. Mr. Felt’s fund was subsequently increased by additional loans, from several of the same patrons. One of these gentlemen — Dr. Gr. Henry Lodge, of Swamscott, Massachusetts—contributed with such generous liberality that he may justly be said to share with the inventor the honor of having introduced this noble improvement in the art of printing. I take off my hat to Mæcenas. Dr. Lodge was led to appreciate the need of such an improvement by personal experience in publishing a large work, copies of which were gratuitously distributed among various libraries in the Republic. Acquainted with the toil of a printer’s life, impelled by earnest love of real progress, and guided by a sound, practical judgment, he was peculiarly well fitted for the difficult province of directing the labors of an enthusiastic inventor. His duty has been well performed. The success of Mr. Felt’s undertaking is due scarcely less to the pecuniary aid of all his patrons than to the counsel and encouragement of this wise, liberal, and steadfast friend. Thus aided, he has triumphed over all obstacles. Proceeding in a most unostentatious manner, he has submitted his device to the inspection of practical printers, and men of science, in various cities of the United States and Great Britain, and has everywhere won approval. His first patent was issued in 1854, — proceedings to obtain it having been commenced in the preceding year. Meanwhile he has organized a wealthy and influential company, for the purpose of manufacturing the machines and bringing them into general use. One of them has been built at Providence, Rhode Island, but the manufactory will be in Salem, Massachusetts, where the company has been formed.

The merits of Mr. Felt’s machine are manifold. It is comparatively simple in construction, it is strongly made and durable, it cannot easily get out of order, and it does its work thoroughly. All that is required of the operator is to read the copy and touch the keys. The processes proceed, then, as of their own accord. But the supreme excellence of the machine is that it justifies the matter which it sets. The possibility of doing this by machinery has always been doubted, if not entirely disbelieved, from an erroneous idea that the process must be directed by immediate intelligence. Mr. Felt’s invention demonstrates that this operation is clearly within the scope of machinery ; that there is no need of a machine with brains, for setting or justifying type ; that such a machine need not be able to think, read, or spell; but that, guided in its processes by an intelligent mind, a machine can perform operations which, as in this case, are purely mechanical, much more rapidly and cheaply than they can be performed by hand.

I cannot pretend to convey a technically accurate idea of this elaborate, though compact piece of machinery ; but such a sketch as I can give—from memory of a pleasant hour spent in looking at it — shall here be given as briefly as possible.

The machine stands in a substantial iron framework, five feet by four, within which the mechanism is nicely disposed, so that there may he ample room for the four operations of setting, justifying, leading, and distributing. In front is a keyboard of forty keys, which correspond to two hundred and fifty-six characters, arranged in eight cases. A single case consists of thirty-two flat brass tubes, standing perpendicularly, side by side, each one being filled with a certain denomination of type. Seven of the keys determine from which case the desired letter shall be taken. Thus, the small letter a is set by touching the a key ; the capital A by touching the “capital key” in connection with the a key ; the capital B by touching the “ capital key ” in connection with the b key ; and so on with every letter. There are also keys called the “ small capital,” the “ Italic,” and the “ Italic capital ”; so that the machine contains all the characters known to the compositor. The operation of these “ capital” and “small-capital keys” is similar to that of an organ-stop in modifying the effect of other keys.

When the machine is in motion,—and I should here mention that it is worked by steam, — a curious piece of mechanism, called “ the stick,”— which is about as large as a man’s hand, and quite as adroit,— plays to and fro beneath the cases, and acts obediently to the operator’s touch. The spectacle of this little metallic intelligence is amusing. It is armed with pincers, which it uses much as the elephant docs his trunk, though with infinite celerity. Every time a key is touched, these pincers seize a type from one of the tubes, turn downward, and, as it were, put it into the mouth of the stick. And so voracious is the appetite of this little creature, that in a few seconds its stomach is full,—in other words, the line is set. A tiny bell gives warning of this fact, and the operator finishes the word or syllable. He then touches the justifying-key, and the spacer seizes the line and draws it into another part of the machine, to be justified, while the empty stick resumes its feeding. No time is lost; for, while the stick is setting a second line, the “spacer” is justifying the first; so that, in a few moments after starting, the processes are going forward simultaneously. That of justifying is, perhaps, the most ingenious. It is accomplished in this wise. The stick never sets a full line, but leaves room for spaces, and with the last letter of each word inserts a piece of steel, to separate the words. When the line has been drawn into the spacer, the pieces of steel, which are furnished with nicked heads for the purpose, are withdrawn, and ordinary spaces are substituted. All this requires no attention whatever from the operator. The matter, thus set and justified, is now leaded by the machine, and deposited upon a galley ready for the press.

Tn this machine, distribution is the reverse of composition, and is effected by pimply reversing the motion of the shaft. By duplicating certain parts of the machine, both operations are performed at the same time. The process of distributing, and also that of resetting the same matter, may he made automatic by means of the Register. This device, although an original invention with Mr. Felt, is an application of the principle of the Jacquard loom. It consists of a narrow strip of card or paper, in which holes are punched as the types are taken, forming a substitute for the troublesome nicking of the type, which has heretofore been thought indispensable to automatic distribution. By this means the type can be changed in resetting, if desired, so that different editions of the same work can be printed in different sizes of type.

The machine is adapted to the use of combination-types as well as single letters. For this purpose Mr. Felt has developed a new system, based upon an elaborate analysis of the language. In a number of examples of printed matter, embracing a wide range of literature, the frequency of the single and combined letters has been ascertained by careful and accurate computation, and reduced to a percentage. It may interest the reader to know that e is the letter of most frequent occurrence, constituting oneeighth of the language. The, as a word or syllable, is found to be six per cent.; and, four per cent.; in, three per cent., etc.

I have not pretended, in this description of Mr. Felt’s machine, to explain every technicality, or to raise and answer possible objections. The great point is, that the labor of setting, justifying, leading, and distributing types by machinery is actually done, by means of his invention. Thus the aspiration of inventive genius, in this department of art, is nobly fulfilled. Thus the links in the chain of progress are complete, from Laurentius Coster, walking in the woods of Holland, in 1430, and winning, from an accidental shower-bath, the art of making movable types, down to the wideawake Massachusetts Yankee, whose genius will make printing as cheap as writing, and therefore a thousand times more available for all purposes of civilization, — besides lightening the burdens of toil, and blessing the jaded worker with a bright prospect of health, competence, and ease.