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Chicago Daily Tribune, May 7, 1892


The Mechanism for Composition of a Device Which the Inventor Says Will Revolutionize the Art of Printing -- Absolute Perfection Claimed for the Invention -- What T. B. Bryan Thinks of It -- To Print a 200-Page Book In Twenty Minutes at a Cost of $5.

Twenty-two years ago in the city of Rochester, N.Y., James W. Paige began the work of constructing what at that time seemed an impossible machine. Assiduous labor, persistency of purpose, and an indomitable will finally crowned his efforts with success and Dec. 24, 1890, in the city of Hartford, the inventor saw his work completed -- a work which all who have been granted the privilege of seeing have pronounced the greatest mechanical invention of the age.

True, the machine does not talk, but it reasons; reasons with its operator. It is a typesetting machine and is called "the Paige compositor," and it does the entire work of composition, setting ordinary moveable type with far greater speed, accuracy, and artistic effect than has ever been accomplished by any method. The machine automatically distributes and at the same time sets the type indicated by the operator, automatically spaces and justifies the matter without mental effort on the part of the operator, places it in a galley ready for book or newspaper as desired, records the number of lines set, and "leads" the matter as and when required. All of this is accomplished by means of positive mechanism.

This machine is not to be confounded with any other machine, nor should it be called a mere typesetting machine. To see it in operation, to note with wonder its marvelous performance, one who understands, and even one who does not understand, the method of typesetting by the human printer, would call the machine a compositor in the truest sense of the word, as it performs simultaneously all the work of a human compositor. In an apprenticeship of less than forty days an operator has set 86,121 "ems" of solid, standard nonpareil in eight hours, an average of 8,515 "ems" an hour. These figures are wonderful when one takes into consideration the fact that the average printer of today sets but 700 or 800 "ems" an hour with his time of distribution also considered. The machine, as has already been said, distributes its type while it is also setting. The work is all done simultaneously.

The machine is run by one-twelfth horsepower and is now in private practical operation at Fifteenth street and Western avenue. It is probable that the directory of the World's Fair will offer one supreme prize for the best mechanical invention of the age; also one for that of electricity. For the former "The Paige Compositor" will be a competitor. This it will be the successful one is instantly and unstintedly accorded by all who have been to see it.

T. B. Bryan Views the Machine.

Vice-President Bryan of the World's Fair paid a visit to the factory yesterday and saw the machine at work. This machine, by the way, is the one on which the inventor worked for so many years and at present is the only one yet manufactured. Mr. Bryan was wonderstruck.

"Truly wonderful, truly wonderful," he whispered, as he looked on in amazement. "It does everything but talk. A grand invention."

Turning to Mr. Paige the Vice-President closed his eyes and related a dream which he once had and what he said to the Wizard, Edison, afterwards, about it.

"I said to Edison: 'Mr.Edison, I dreamed of a trunk once in Colorado which I called a mine. I wanted to see into this mine, but the lid of it was too firmly fastened for me. Now I wish you were a trunk, sir.'

" 'Why so?' said he.

" 'Because I would again try to life the lid -- would try to look into that wonderful brain of yours.'

"And so I say to you, Mr. Paige, I wish that you were a trunk. The man who can work out such an intricate contrivance must necessarily have a brain thousands of times more wonderful than the machine from which it was evolved."

The machine the inventor says, means a revolution in printing pure and simple. It is bound to come; is almost here, he says.

Just think of this for example. The poor but ambitious author -- Mr. Paige says he is everywhere -- has written a work which he feels within his burning soul is sure to be the long-looked for American novel. It is brief but it bristles. His pockets are empty, of course, and his frequent trips to heartless publishers have left him nothing but worn shoes and his manuscripts. He hears of this machine; he goes to it; his book is to be of 200 page; he borrows $5 from his landlady and presto, in twenty minutes he has the prized novel, the child of his brain, in cold but clear type in his inside pocket.

"This can be done with our machine," said Mr. Paige. "I can print a 200-page book at a cost of $5 I twenty minutes. The operator has only to watch the keyboard and copy and the machine will do the rest. An operator can average three or four characters at each touch of the keys, and this machine is the only one in the world for which there is no excuse for an error in proof."

Related Twain - Paige news stories:
"Mark Twain, James W. Paige and the Paige Typesetter"
"James W. Paige and the Jilted Actress"
The New York Times
, March 30, 1892
Scientific American, March 9, 1901 (includes rare photos)
The New York Times, November 13, 1927
The New York Times, October 1, 1940

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