Wlliam Gilmore Simms
The Simms Review (Vol 16: No 1) >> Simms as ''Nemo'': The Rediscovered Letters to the Charleston Mercury >> Page 5

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Page 5

Correspondence | [1860]
Transcription page, another corresponding appliance of fingers and forces does the work in
distributing the old one.
As a matter of necessity, the machinery is wonderfully nice; the
agencies and dependencies very numerous; and the whole fabric, seemingly
a very complicated one; while, in truth, its adjustment, as finally reached by
the discoverer, is the simplest thing in the world the invention, as I have
said before, approximating the perfection of law. To be more precise in
detail, let me mention, as the chief object and merit of the machine, that it
provides for the setting and the distribution of all the letters, characters, signs
and notes ordinarily used in printing, in number reaching no less than 154
different sorts; embracing the Roman upper and lower cases, the italics, the
small capitals, figures, points; and, briefly, every possible character and type
known to the press. The machine, by the way, is also susceptible of
adjustment and adaptation to fonts of letters of every size and from every
To set the type you play on keys which are more obvious than those
of the piano forte; and the distributing of the type is done automatically at
the same moment; though, if you please, either operation may be carried on
The hands, fingers or conveyors, are arranged upon the
circumference of the carrying wheel; first, there is the setting conveyor,
then the distributing; and twenty-four hands thus, alternately at work, effect
the required results of composition and distribution.
As the wheel revolves, worked by steam —a cat's-paw power being
quite adequate for the action, the distributing conveyors stop at the page of
"dead matter," and, taking each a letter, deposit it in its proper place, or
alley, or groove (equivalent to the old box); while the setting hands, fingers
or conveyors stick, in the order in which the keys, touched by the composers
fingers, may require.
One important feature of the invention is the "Register Wheel,"
upon which the signals for letters are all made before passing to the
conveyors. Upon this wheel may be accumulated sixty letters in advance of
the delivery. This, in other words, is as if the composer would take up sixty
letters, arranged into words, and hold them in his fingers before depositing
them in the stick.
This register wheel allows the operator to touch his keys with any
degree of rapidity which he may choose, or acquire from practice. Should he
only touch his keys as fast as the carrying wheel revolves, he will only keep
up with the delivery; but should he touch more rapidly than the carrying
wheel revolves, he can accumulate sixty signals in advance of the delivery
thus allowing himself time to "justify," read "copy," and find frequent
pauses for physical relief and rest.