Hand-printed books of poetry,
Plus tips and supplies for fellow letterpress printers.

You can buy a micrometer from
enginnering suppliers and
some hardware stores.
Imperial is easier to
convert into type
measures than
metric is.

Thin Spacing

This guide relates to the spacing available in our shop.


As every compositor knows the spacing system adhered to standards. A ‘nut’ space is half the width of an ‘em’, which itself is the square of the body size, the ‘thick’ is a third, the ‘mid’ space is a quarter, and the ‘thin’ is one fifth of the ‘em’ in thickness.

Narrow Word Spacing

That's almost always true, but there are exceptions. Whilst the old ‘type foundries’ like Messsrs Stephenson Blake & Co, invariably stuck to the one fifth proportion for their ‘thins’ and those ‘foundries’ using Monotype casting equipment, Like Messrs Yendall, Mouldtype Ltd, Startype, (and in latter days Messrs Stevens Shanks Ltd.) likewise stuck to the one fifth.

If you encounters solid areas of Monotype machine composed text setting, one must always put the inter-word spaces straight into the scrap box. They don't work at all with the hand setting justification. Indeed, if any get into your type-cases, the system becomes unworkable.

Larger printing companies with their own Monotype plants sometimes followed a trend for narrow word spacing and used a one sixth proportion for their ‘thins’ laid in typecases. I believe this was true of the Oxford University Press, and it certainly was of many others.

An Almost Insignificant Difference

To us, picking over the wreckage of an (almost) dead industry, it may seem a problem, finding a mixture but in fact it is absolutely not so in practise   the difference is so tiny.

Thins from the Composing Room Stores

Our ‘thins’ as supplied in any text size will mostly be of the one-fifth variety, but there will occassionally be a small proportion of one sixth variety. This will have no practical effect.

Checking Your Thins

You can check by using a founders sort for comparison: one with a pronounced arch to its ‘foot’, a tiny ‘tweezer flange’ at its head, and often not having a ‘nick’.

You Might Also Like...