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ISO: Proofreading in the 1940s

From the Contact form:

I’m trying to get a sense of the tasks that went into proofreading the text of a small-town newspaper in the U.S. in the 1940s. I don’t know how common it was for linotype machines to be used by such papers at that point, and if so how proofing worked. Or if some earlier technology would more likely have been used, what that would have been and how proofreading would have worked.
Thank your for any ideas or guidance you can provide.  —Bert Brandenburg


  1. Linotype was very common in small and medium-sized town newspapers by the 40s. I own a platen press and a proof press out of the job shop of a small town Ohio newspaper that ran Linotype, I know of many others. It’s probably safe to judge that their routine for composing and proof followed the same pattern as much larger shops (such as the one I’m most familiar with, the Government Printing Office in Washington): Linotype slugs were assembled in galleys (the flat tray with one open side—long and skinny, the width of a newspaper column) and proofs pulled using simple proof presses with galley-height beds. The galley proofs would be read and returned to the Linotype operator to re-cast the slugs (lines) that required correction. Once the galleys were corrected the type would be imposed into pages and headlines (often cast on a Ludlow machine, but sometimes on Linotype) were added. I don’t believe there was generally a step of “page proofs” as there would be in book printing. Those forms, depending on the presses at hand, were either printed from directly for were used to cast stereotype plates.

  2. I should, perhaps, add that in a big shop like GPO, proofreading was a complete department within the Composing Division and proofreader was a coveted job that only experienced printers were considered for. In a small newspaper shop, probably the same person who cast the linotype slugs (and perhaps wrote the society column) did the proofreading.

    It’s also obvious that Linotype lacked (and did very well without) the so-called capabilities of our modern devices, which decided on my behalf that what I really meant was “for” rather than “or” in the last line of my previous post. I did mean “or” and am always the first to say that I’m a hopeless proofreader.

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