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  • Composing rule | Definition and Translations

    Composing rules (or setting rules) are metal strips to be placed inside the composing stick to set the measure, to remove the line more easily or to set one line of type over another more easily.


    Dutch: zetlijnen
    German: Setzlinie
    Russian: наборная линейка

    Related Term(s): Composing stick

    Ralf Herrmann By Ralf Herrmann ()
    Contributors: bussket

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    thomas gravemaker


    The "Setzlinie" is never used to set the width of the stick. In order to set the width of the stick, the typesetter places the amount of 'Quadraten' that are needed to attain the width and adds a very thin piece of paper between them, to obtain  a line that is slightly wider and that can be squeezed. Most typesetters had a set of quads for this purpose in a drawer. The reason: setting or composing rules are always slightly shorter or have slightly rounded corners in order to glide them in and out of the stick. Some of them have got one, others two lips. To set for instance a 20-cicero width, one takes 5 quads of 4 cicero long.

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    Ralf Herrmann


    Yes, it is certainly not common anymore, but I still left it in as one of the possible uses, since the glossary isn’t time-specific. And never say never. ;-) 


    Composing Rules

    Before 1883, when United States typefounders agreed on the standard size for the pica, it was every founder for himself, and no composing stick could have an engraved pica scale on its bed. It was not possible to set the knee of a to a certain measure without the use of a set of composing rules. These were strips of steel made to different lengths, which could be put into a composing stick to set the measure.


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