Notes about the Lower Case

Called a Lower case in U.K. and U.S., Bas de casse in France, Onderkast in Holland, Caxa Baxa (Cassa Bassa) in Spain.
 Originally, type was stored all in the one large case, as is still done for example in Germany, but in England, Belgium and France type became stored in two separate, upper and lower, cases, from at least the end of the sixteenth century.

The purpose of the Lower case is to hold the non-capital characters, and some punctuation and spacing. The original case comprised 56 boxes of various sizes, in two bays, as on the left.

This pattern is shown by Moxon in 1653, but has undergone many changes in the peripheral boxes, eg when the long s was discarded in rhe 18th century. [The changes are shown in red in the diagrams below (if using Netscape 3 or later).] Also the overall dimensions of the case are smaller than in Moxon's time (and vary as between U.S., England, Scotland, Holland, Belgium, etc.).
 On the left is the case of:
Smith 1755
Luckombe 1771
Johnson (Old) 1824
(54 boxes)
 And on the right is the French case of:
Fertel 1723
Diderot 1751-80
Lefevre (Old) 1880
(54 boxes)
 On the left is the standard English case of eg:
Johnson 1824
Tomlinson 1853
Southward 1882-1954
SBlake 1922, Caslon 1925
Tarr 1945, APES 1983
(53 boxes)
 And on the right is the U.S. case of:
MacKellar 1870-89
Southward 1882-87
BBS c1890
ATF 1906,23
Hamilton 1922
(54 boxes)
 On the left is the O.U.P. case of 1934 and earlier
(50 boxes)
 And on the right is the Scottish case of:
Savage 1841
Chambers 1891
SBlake 1922
Caslon 1925
(53 boxes)
 On the left is an Italian case
Pozzoli 1882
(54 boxes)
 And on the right is a Plantinian case
Plantin-Moretus pre 1876
(53 boxes)
Another style was followed in eg Belgium, Holland, France, Spain, with one less row of boxes in the case. For example Castillon (1783) had 54 boxes, Ronner (1915) had 43 boxes, Plantin (pre 1876) had 52 or 53 boxes, and Sigüenza (1811) had 41 boxes. [Diagrams have yet to be added to this page]
Whilst separate Upper and Lower cases were essential for bookwork, the smaller founts in use for jobbing work were easier to hold in Job or Double cases, which appeared in the nineteenth century, and essentially comprised a (small) complete lower case, with half an upper case in the third bay.
Other empty cases
ie with the boxes left blank
Other type layouts
ie with characters assigned to boxes
Full Index of layoutsGlossary of terms usedSources of the layoutsIntroduction
Quantities in a fount of typeQuantities in a case of type
Notes about Job
and Double Cases
Notes about Upper casesNotes about Lower casesAlembic home page
This page was written by David Bolton and last updated 22 November 98.