Matrix etc. records currently held at the Type Archive in London

The following are some of the important paper records held at the Type Archive in London, that relate to the production and subsequent use of matrices for the many typefaces issued by the Monotype Corporation. The information below is based on visits to the Type Archive over the years, but now made more important in view of the Archive's impending closure. Most of the material is currently stored in metal cabinets with drawers or shelves. Images below are of the actual cards or sheets, plus an image of the cabinet being used, when known. Some of the links below are to sources on the internet, either on the Alembic Press's Monotype Information site, or in one case on the Metal Type website. Note that there are other records (e.g. Manufacturing, Spare Parts, Sales, etc.) that have not been detailed here.


Kardex record cards
Single cards, one-sided, held by tabs onto a backing sheet in a removable tray. Each card 10cm x 7cm (approx). One or more cards for each symbol, in serial number order, 1 to 31265, and for each embellished letter, in serial order within alphabetic order, 28020 in total, with Latin a separate list from Greek, and Cyrillic. Each card records the serial number of the sign/letter, a pasted-in or drawn example of the sign/letter, the point size of the example, the unit width, any additional comment such as superior, inferior, etc, and a fuller comment (up to 12 words or more) such as weight (medium, bold, etc) and whether it matches other serials, or aligns with top, descender, etc of the face. The card can then record up to 21 entries showing typeface series and point size for each face that has been punched for that sign, with space for three point sizes per face. Some cards are missing, some have become rather crumpled.

Opposite on the right is a view of the front of the Kardex cabinets.

Below on the left is an open drawer showing a set of cards for the letter D from 73D to 88D (overall there are 1118 different serial numbered versions of D). On the right is a set of cards for signs numbered S22000 to S22014. Unlike the 73D cards, the S22000 etc signs are for Monophoto and not hot metal.

Special Signs Ledgers
22 volumes, each page heavy card 25cm x 35cm (approx), and double-sided, showing symbols in approximate shape order, and letters in alphabetic order grouped by each sort of accent (acute, grave, etc) and by roman, italic, etc., for each letter. The information is on small strips tabbed into the ledger page, each strip showing serial number, point size of example, unit width, a pasted or sellotaped-in example of the symbol, and comments. Some strips have become detached.

Matrix Charts
These exist as several sets of paper sheets 20cm x 30cm (approx) with pre-printed alphabet etc in blue (ozalid) ink. One set is for preliminary alignment work, another is the working set for punching. Similarly, there are a further two sets for display sizes, some in red ink. All the sheets are stored loose in boxes, in order of typeface series number and then point size.

At the top left of the punching sheet (see below) is a table showing the values for S, and S+U, for units from 5 to 20. In the top centre is a block showing the type series number and point size, and below that a small chart of five cells showing the layout of the codes A to D and the unit width (in units). Top right is a chart showing the meaning of the A B C D T S U codes. Beneath all these is a line recording the set width, the scale (i.e. the enlargement from pattern to punch), the standard (i.e. the guide to which most characters align from the righthand wall), H.L. (the hairline, i.e. the thickness of thin strokes), and serifs. There are then 41 lines available for detail for each letter, embellished letter, or symbol. The top sheet(s) are pre-printed with separate rows for A to Z, Ć etc. with five columns, each column having the five-cell block for A B C D and unit, for each of caps, italic caps, small caps, lower, italic lower. There is then a further set of columns pre-printed for long s, ligatures, figures, punctuation, etc with a column of five cells for roman, and another for italic. Occasionally the five cell block records extra values, which are an allowance for the babble (slope betweeen face and body), which needs to be trimmed to stop the extra area of the punch shifting its location when stamped. Where values for A and B are not shown it is because the glyphs have flat terminals, and thus A and B values are the same as for the letter A. Sheets other than the top sheet(s) do not have the pre-printed alphabet etc, and so have four main columns, each recording the serial number, the actual symbol (drawn), the block of five cells for A B C D and unit width, and a spare cell for comment such as up, off, T&B 334, etc. Some sheets have become a bit ragged and creased, and some are very faint.


Folio Layout Index
Four green ring binders that for each folio record
  • UA (Unit Arrangement)
  • Language (English, French, etc)
  • Folio number (up to 12370)
  • Layout
  • Type series and point sizes (e.g. 6D being 6didot)
  • Alphabets (2A, 6A, 7A etc) (e.g. 7A is roman upper case, small caps, lower case, italic upper case,
    lower case, bold upper case, lower case)
  • Matrix Case Arrangement number, and model of case (15x15, 15x17, 16x17, 8x8)
  • Left Keybars
  • Right Keybars
  • Number of rows, e.g. 13 or 14. Does not distinguish 11/14 from 12/14, however. (11/13 being the earlier set of keybars
    as for a 15 × 15 matrix case, 11/14 being for a 15× 17 case, and 12/14 being for a unit shift case)
  • Stopbar case (which is also the wedge number, apart from early wedges)
  • Remarks (e.g. customer, superceded by, caps and figs, etc).
Note that in many cases, some of the above details are left blank. The sequence of entry is in folio number order, and more or less in numerical keybar order, though there are a few that jump the sequence. It is roughly chronological, but actual dates could be obtained from the folio sheets, as long as the sheet has been signed at its foot. The folio layout index is very useful as it identifies the purpose of a particular set of keybars, which is not shown on the actual keybar frames themselves, as they are only identified by their serial numbers. A reduced version of the index, in keybar order, for a limited number of keybars, is at Monotype Keybars.



Layout sheets
For a given typeface, the layout sheet (or sometimes just the Folio sheet, where particular to an individual customer) is very useful as it shows the position of each matrix in the matrix case, the unit value of each row, and the serial number of the matrix case arrangement. It may also show some outside sorts, i.e. characters that can be fitted into the case in exchange for an existing character, and will sometimes record the different set widths of each available point size. The sheet also gives the requisite stopbar case, and wedge, and the layout of the keys on the two keyboards, plus their serial numbers. Early layouts (up to number 183) were published in the 'Monotype' Layout Book for the Keyboard and Matrix-case, but that only included 42 actual layouts. Later layouts were only printed when there was a perceived demand, for example, Monotype Technical Bulletin 46, in 1961, describes the introduction of new standardized layouts, and Monotype Technical Bulletin 72, in 1967, lists a new set of six printed layouts, with number 3016 then the highest. Some layouts are files along with the folio sheets, and some are on-line at Diecase/Keybar layouts.

Folio sheets
Separate (approx 12,300) sheets stored in a suite of filing drawers, recording
  • Folio number and MCA number.
  • The arrangement of the matrix case, and any outside characters involved.
  • Language (e.g. English 6 alphabet)
  • Typeface series number, keybar numbers, stopbar case number, wedge number
  • Additional notes (e.g. matrix extended setwise, characters moved to a different row, etc)
  • Date
  • and possibly, on the reverse
  • Keyboard arrangement (left hand and right hand)
  • Date
Folios are specific to a customer, so that a given typeface may have a variety of different layouts of matrices in the matrix case, and there are considerably more folio sheets than the printed/published layout sheets. Some information may not be entered, e.g. the keybars may be left un-numbered on the front sheet, or there may not be a page showing the keyboard layouts. Unlike the folio layout index, the folio sheets do not record the serial number of the Unit Arrangement, but these can be found in the Specimen Book of ‘Monotype’ Printing Types, in typeface order, and in the Unit Arrangments of ‘Monotype’ Composition Matrices booklet, in unit arrangement order.


Wedge diagrams
Machine shop drawings of wedge dimensions are held for wedges up to 2719, plus high-speed and experimental ones. The drawings show the wedge serial number, and the unit values of each position on the wedge, as well as the machining widths, for all the set sizes involved. What these sheets do not show is the type series that uses the wedge, and for example wedge 5 is used by at least 177 different typefaces. Some series numbers can be obtained from Monotype Stopbars which has extracted the information from various sources, for a range of common wedges and stopbars.



Type Series Ledgers
These nine ledgers record for each type series up to 989, then series L8 to L433, then figures serial F21 to F1943, then series G and M6. Each page shows:
  • the group of characters required >LI>the unit value if applicable
  • the set (this column appears to be left blank)
  • the weight (this column appears to be left blank)
  • the serials of the actual characters supplied
  • the relevant type series, if applicable
  • the sizes supplied
  • any relevant comments
It is thus an index of folios, in typeface series order, and the key to finding a layout for a particular typeface.


Unit Arrangements
Held in two formats, one the Unit Arrangments of ‘Monotype’ Composition Matrices booklet (as on the Metal Type website), the other single type series charts for a given typeface.
The booklet shows unit values for each typeface for A-Z Ć Ś ff fi fl ffi ffl &0-9Ł for capitals, small capitals, lower-case, italic capitals, italic lower case. It does not show unit values for punctuation, $ ß ct st etc. The arrangements in the booklet are in unit arrangement number order, currently 1-510, and also show the face series, 1-766 but with gaps. There is an earlier, undated, version of the booklet which only goes up to arrangement number 376.
The type series charts are for individual typefaces, showing the series number and unit arrangement number, and then by row for each unit, showing all the characters with that unit value, and then the physical width, i.e. the micrometer setting, for each point size. Punctuation, figures, $ ß are included on the sheets.
The unit arrangement serial number for a given typeface can be obtained from the Specimen Book of ‘Monotype’ Printing Types, which is in typeface order. A subset of that in unit arrangement order is at Unit Arrangements.



Matrix Supply Records

In two volumes, in typeface series order up to series 989, then series L8 to L433, then figures serial F21 to F1943, then series G and M6, each page showing
  • the group of characters required
  • the unit value where applicable
  • the set
  • the weight
  • the serials of actual characters supplied
  • the relevant type series
  • the sizes supplied
  • comments




Matrix Fount Records

16 ledgers for type series 1 to 996, plus A, B, C, F, G, H, J, and L1 to L461, and then Lasercomp and Studio Lettering. In type series order, per page of series point size, listing set size, matrix standard, unit arrangement, and showing which matrices have been made, and whether roman capital, small capital, lower case, italic capital, italic roman case. Valuable for the detail of set size, etc for the L series, which is not always shown on other records.



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This page was written by David Bolton in 2022 and last updated 10 September 2022.