Ear­ly print­ers made their own type. Sub­se­quent­ly type­found­ing became a spe­cial­ist indus­try in its own right, though type con­tin­ued to be made by hand until the Bruce type­cast­ing machine was invent­ed in 1838.

In the 1740s, Alexan­der Wil­son set up a type foundry in Glas­gow in 1744, and the firm con­tin­ued to pro­duce type for a hun­dred years. William Miller worked for this firm, before estab­lish­ing a foundry in Edin­burgh in 1809. The firm became Miller & Richard in 1838, and remained in busi­ness until 1952 just off Nichol­son Street, sup­ply­ing type to firms all over the world. Scot­tish type­founders made a dis­tinc­tive con­tri­bu­tion to type design, one lega­cy being the Scotch Roman type fam­i­ly. There is onfor­ma­tion about oth­er British type foundriess on the Type Archive web­site.

Type­founders pro­duced type spec­i­men books which showed not only the dif­fer­ent designs and sizes of type, but also the orna­ments, stan­dard illus­tra­tions and bor­derrs which they could sup­ply. Many print­ers also pro­duced ‘type spec­i­men’ books to show cus­tomers the range of types they had avail­able. ‘Hot met­al’ type­set­ting sys­tems, of which the best known are Lino­type and Mono­type, were invent­ed at the end of the nine­teenth cen­tu­ry. They cast the type need­ed to set a par­tic­ualr text, and once used, were melt­ed down for re-use.

Com­pos­i­tors were paid accord­ing to the size of the type they were set­ting — the small­er the type, the high­er the rate of pay.

As well as the dif­fer­ent type faces, in Britain the dif­fer­ent type sizes, start­ing with the largest, were known as:

Name Num­bers of lines per foot
Canon 18 lines and a Great Primer
Two-line Dou­ble Pica 20¾ lines
Two-line Great Primer 25½ lines
Two-line Eng­lish 32 lines
Two-line Pica 35 lines
Dou­ble Pica (two Small Picas) 41½ lines
Paragon (two Long Primers) 44½ lines
Great Primer (two Bourgeois) 51¼ lines
Eng­lish (two Minions) 64 lines
Pica (two Nonpareil) 71½ lines
Small Pica (two Ruby) 83 lines
Long Primer (two Pearl) 89 lines
Bour­geois (two Diamond) 102¼ lines
Bre­vi­er 112½ lines
Min­ion (half English) 128 lines
Non­pareil (half Pica) 143 lines
Ruby 160½ lines
Pearl (half Long Primer) 178 lines
Dia­mond (half Bourgeois) 205 lines