by Mildred Cookson, The Mills Archive Trust, UK

Over the last few months of lockdown I have been increasingly impressed by how smoothly the publication of Milling and Grain proceeds. Working from home, digital communication supports us in many ways; thank goodness it also enables the production of high quality printed journals. This train of thought set me thinking about the early days of Milling, the ancestor of today's issue.

An interesting well-illustrated article in the August 15th, 1903 issue of Milling described how the journal was printed in the days when digital only meant "of the finger". The first issue of Milling appeared in 1891, published by The Northern Publishing Company Ltd. The magazine was the brainchild of George James Short Broomhall, described by John Maynard Keynes as the "greatest practical statistician of our age" when he died in 1933. His stable included the Liverpool Corn Trade News, which first appeared in December 1888, renamed The Corn Trade News in 1890 and Broomhall's Corn Trade News in 1895.

Based in Liverpool, the early editions strongly featured Lancastrian companies. Milling was quite unique as scarcely any trade papers were printed by the proprietors; most were sent out to printing works to be set up and printed. The offices and printing works were in the busiest part of the city, close to the port. Facing the River Mersey, the offices were situated midway between the newly erected White Star Line and St Nicholas Church. The building was part of a group of warehouses known as the Goree Piazza. Named after the former slave trading island off the coast of Senegal, West Africa, the warehouses were built 11 years after the courts ruled that every slave became free as soon as their feet touched English soil.

The warehouses were demolished following bomb damage during the Second World War. The buildings had been very firmly built, as evidenced by their housing the heavy printing machinery that was installed in No 17. The roofs were low and the floors very extensive; all the upright pillars which supported the beams were of expensive woods and as hard as iron. By 1903 two modern machines, the Linotype and the Monotype, had been introduced, driven electrically rather than relying on a gas engine.

The Linotype machine, so called because it cast the type in lines, was introduced around 1899 and was protected by no less than sixty patents. Described as the most remarkable machine of the century, it marked the first and, at the time, the only successful departure from using moveable type and hand composition. The revolutionary step involved creating from machine-made matrices, independent type lines or 'slugs' now known all over the world as 'linotypes'.

The other improvement was the introduction of a device in which the linotypes were produced instantly and ready for use on the press "by the mere fingering of keys as on a typewriter". The keyboard was operated by just one person to produce and assemble lines of type ready for the press at the rate of ten to fifteen thousand letters-per-hour. It also allowed the face or style of type to be changed at will and allowed the operator to read and correct his material as he proceeded. Every issue of Milling was printed from new type, the previous being thrown into the melting pot and cast into blocks for another occasion.

The Lanston Monotype was installed just prior to the article being written and was said to be very difficult to describe. The linotype machine cast lines of type, whereas the Monotype cast separate types. The machine, as illustrated, was in two parts, a keyboard which had rolls of paper perforated to represent the setting out of the copy and a casting machine to which the paper was fed after perforation and which automatically cast the type and assembly in the galley ready for the printer. It was the only machine having the full English font of 220 characters, with Roman upper and lower case, italic upper and lower case and numbers and fractions.

Colour printing was a specialty and used to great effect to establish Milling as a superior looking, high-quality magazine full of much which is still of interest today.

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