Tag Archives: history of printing

The Paige Compositor

Enter James William Paige. Paige, from Rochester, NY, patented a machine in 1872 that could set agate (5½ pt) type.4 In 1877 he went into partnership with J. M. Farnham and the Farnham Typesetting Co in Hartford, CT with the intention of combining his typesetter with their distributor.5 This turned out to impractical and soon Paige began work on a completely new design – the Paige Compositor. By 1878 he had a (barely) working prototype.

In my younger days, I worked in a design studio attached to an offset litho printing works. I have nurtured an interest in printing technology ever since, even to the extent of harbouring a desire to get into proper letterpress print.

The story of James William Paige tells of dogged determination in the face of insuperable odds. In some ways, I wish Paige had succeeded in his desire to perfect the automatic compositing machine, but it must have been painfully obvious he was destined to fail spectacularly.