Dwight Agner writes in response to the call for help with reading metal
"Surely they have some means of pulling a rough proof of these slugs for
The problem is not so much reading backwards--a skill fairly easily
learned--but the lack of contrast between the surface (printing area) of
the slug and the background. You would have to descern the character
shapes based only on depth perception, and the results are almost
certainly going to be less accurate proofreading than you would do from a
Many others wrote in to advise pulling proof sheets, which is of course
the correct answer!
Mr. Agner makes two smallish mistakes in his observations:
1. I understand his term "reading backwards" to mean from right to left,
top to bottom. That is NOT the standard method of reading metal type,
which is to set the form or galley on the makeup table facing away from
the reader, so the top line is at the bottom, nearest the reader, and the
last line at the top, away from the reader. This orients the type so one
reads from left to right, in the customary manner, but from bottom to
top. The letters are mirrored and upside down, but because one reads from
left to right, the effect is less disorienting. It can be done! But just
remember to MIND YOUR P's AND Q's (and B's and D's) [whence the common
2. The other small error is stating that "the lack of contrast between
the surface of the slug and the background" requires that one discern the
letter "based only on depth perception." Because one reads the type at an
angle of, oh, 45 degrees or such, and because the printing surfaces of
the letters reflect light from a different plane than the sides of the
characters or the shoulder of the slug, the letters on clean, newly cast
slugs normally appear lighter in color than the rest of the form of type.
This produces a marked amount of contrast, which may surprise Mr. Agner.
None of all this folderol of reading directly from the lockup, though,
makes up for the manifest ease of proofreading from a proof sheet!
Thought you'd like to know.
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