type cases

Type cases: the boxes that hold the full range of letters in an alphabet of moveable type, both the upper case, that holds the capital letters, and the lower case.

Astronomer Johann Bode is so taken by the equipment of the letter-printing press that in his Uranographia of 1801 he suggests immortalizing it as a constellation. Here it is, below the horse, in a hand-coloured version:

image from devoted Italian star site www.atlascoelestis.com

Science populariser Ian Ridpath offers this image, from an 1824 set of cards illustrating Bode’s divisions of the sky:

In 1884 in Elements of Zoology, the naturalist C F Holder depicts something that looks like a type case, for keeping letters in, or like a prototype laptop

Library of Congress, via the Biodiversity Heritage Library

Really, it’s a case for pinning dead insects into position. This Holder, particularly in his books on fishing, has a nice eye for an image. His Charles Darwin: his life and works of 1891 includes the following initials:

‘Counters’ are the spaces within the letters.

Collecting your letters together; collecting your creatures. Collecting your dead insects in particular combinations with an eye to the technologies of writing. This is a strange conjunction.