Before there were Chinese keyboards, there were Chinese printers

29 Jun

From an August 1917 Popular Science magazine:

How Would You Like to Hold a Chinese Printer’s Job?

Chinese characters do not express sounds although the pitch of the voice is significant. Their letters are ideographs, or writings of ideas or things. Hence the Chinese have no alphabet, strictly speaking.

For this reason the Chinese must employ an astounding number of characters. It takes about ten thousand characters to print a book in the Chinese language; yet sometimes an entire thought or a whole sentence is represented by one character!. The word “black” is one character, and so is “mother,” “dead,” “yes,” “yellow,” and a great many other words. With such a conglomeration, is it any wonder that the American printer wonders how it is possible to print anything in Chinese?

The illustration shows a frame containing one complete font (a font is an asortment of type of one size and style) of seven thousand Chinese characters. It required a month’s, time to arrange the type in place. The frame is sixteen feet long and five feet high.


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