The rhythms of typing favour short, concise sentences, sentences with oral form. —Marshall McLuhan

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Caslon Sample

A Specimen of typesetting by William Caslon, letter founder, from the 1728 edition of Cyclopaedia. (Click to enlarge.)

Typesetting involves the presentation of textual material in an aesthetic form on paper or some other medium. Before the advent of desktop publishing, typesetting of printed material was produced in print shops by compositors working by hand, and later with machines.

After centuries of innovation, the basic principle of typesetting remains the same: the composition of glyphs into lines to form body matter, headings, captions, and other pieces of text to make up a page image, and the printing or transfer of the page image onto paper and other media. The two disciplines are closely related. For example, in letterpress printing, ink spreads under the pressure of the press, and typesetters take this dynamic factor into account to achieve clean and legible results.

Letterpress Era

During the letterpress era, with the invention of moveable type in Europe circa 1450, individual printing characters were made of blocks of type metal, and called sorts, assembled by hand for each page. Wooden printing sorts had been in use for centuries and were combined with metal type.

Hand compositing was rendered obsolete by continuous casting or hot-metal typesetting machines such as the Linotype machine and Monotype at the end of the 19th century. The Linotype, invented by Ottmar Mergenthaler, enabled one machine operator to do the work of ten hand compositors.

Digital Era

Computers excel at automatically typesetting documents. Character-by-character computer-aided phototypesetting (now known as imagesetting) replaced continuous casting machines in the 1980s, and was in turn rapidly rendered obsolete by fully digital systems employing a raster image processor to render an entire page to a single high-resolution digital image which is then photoset.

In the late 1980s, desktop publishing became available, starting with the Apple Macintosh. Programs like Adobe PageMaker and QuarkXPress popularized desktop publishing and enabled very fine control of typeset results.

Before the 1980s, practically all typesetting for publishers and advertisers was performed by specialist typesetting companies. These companies performed keyboarding, editing, and production of paper or film output, and formed a large component of the graphic arts industry. By the year 2000, this industry segment had shrunk. Publishers were now capable of integrating typesetting and graphic design on their own in-house computers. Many found the cost of maintaining high standards of typographic design and technical skills made it more economical to out-source to a new breed of designer/typesetter.

The availability of cheap, or free, fonts made the conversion to do-it-yourself easier but also opened up a gap between skilled designers and amateurs. The advent of PostScript, supplemented by the PDF file format, provided a universal method of proofing designs and layouts, readable on major computer and operating systems.

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Contact us at e-mail if you are ready to have your book typeset. We can create an interior layout for print publication or an eBook for electronic distribution.

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