Linn Boyd Benton’s Self Spacing Type

During the 1880s, the type industry began to face a frustrating design problem. Because type supplies – sizes, widths, base alignment and metal alloy – were uncommon, most printing establishments had no choice but to continue a business relationship with a single type foundry rather than branching out into others. The lack of advanced printing methods was keeping the industry from progressing quicker and more efficiently.

Linn Boyd Benton, along with Benton, Waldo & Co began working toward a solution to these issues. He envisioned a design that could change the way type was specified and handled in order to automate and shorten the composition time. The trial and error method of justifying a line of type manually was proving to be more tedious and time-consuming than necessary. Similar to the use of picas and points in a vertical type context, Benton believed that the same concept should be used for measuring width. In 1883, Benton received a patent for Self Spacing type, which was said to “increase composition speeds by 25%,” according to promotions. Because the Self Spacing Type styles were initially designed for newspaper, it did not transfer over as well in other mediums and was criticized by typographers for being difficult to read. Regardless, Benton’s creation was a huge breakthrough for typographic technology and proved to be a catalyst for larger future projects. Because of the criticism his self-spacing type faced, Benton’s pantographic punch cutting machine came into fruition as a reaction to the new design problem ahead of him. The self spacing type was an incredibly important invention for Benton because of this. In many ways, it was the predecessor for many other typographic inventions.



“Linn Boyd Benton: 1844 – 1932.” MULTIMEDIAMAN, 20 Sept. 2014,