Printshop on the Andrea Doria


Timothy Trower

I ran across this link to an Italian website dealing with hot metal composition (Linotype machines) and printing. It has several views of the print shop on the Andrea Doria, including a shot of the ship's Linotype being erected (rare enough of a picture, let alone on a ship) and other views of type being set and the ship's newspaper being printed. It does make me wonder if anyone has dove to the site of the print shop and if the presses and Linotype are still bolted to the floor or have torn lose.

In the first view, the Linotype (a Model 31) has the frame of the machine complete, the main cams are installed, the pot isn't yet in place nor are the magazine frames (although one of the erectors is working on that) and the keyboard, vice, distributor and many other finishing touches are still to come. The clearance on this machine is tight -- a Model 31 Linotype stands seven feet tall -- so there was virtually no way to install this machine as one unit. It had to be built in place.

One of the ships printers is shown on the phone, while to his right is the handle of a small hand press -- probably a Challenge or Chandler & Price Pilot Press. This would have been used for menus, invitations, and short printing runs.

The next view has three printers visible. In the foreground, a man is handfeeding copies of the ships newspaper, printing the second side of it. The press is unknown to me (probably of European make) but is a double revolution cylinder letterpress. In the background on the right hand side is a horizontal wheel; this is the clamp wheel for a paper cutter.

Although I can't read Italian, I can make out enough of it to tell that most of these images come from a film documentary about the Andrea Doria. I'd love an English translation of this web page if anyone is inclined, and would be glad to help with the technical descriptions if something doesn't seem to make sense!
Apr 27, 2005
Fascinating stuff! Just another technical detail of what went to the bottom in that giant ship. One tends to think of the liner as staterooms and public rooms, not realizing the entirety of the ship's community and services. Should those presses still be anchored in place, they are no doubt rusted into a single iron post and covered with silt and biological particulates. The drawers of type are likely scattered deeply in the ooze that coats the starboard walls.
Great piece of information. Great example of tiny pieces of research coming together to form a greater picture.
Sep 26, 2009
Here's the translation of the first part of the article using

To the age of the great ocean-going liners, that they furrowed the seas of all the world until at the beginning of Years Seventy, one existed on these small floating cities also small truth that little remember: one printing office. These great ships, that they allowed to catch up the other continents before the advent of the modern and fastest airplane, had small printing offices that they offered the last news and they printed the traversate long menù of the day during the transoceaniche ones. First Giannuzzi, mechanic-assembler of Linotype, have sended one curious photography to us of cinquant' years ago where particular Linotype camps one: one mod. 31 in phase of assembly on the Turbine-powered ship "Andrea Doria", jewel of shipbuilding the naval Italian, binoculars of the "Cristoforo Columbus". The "Andrea Doria" had been launched 22 December 1952. 24 January 1953 had completed the travel inaugurates them that it had it capacity to berth to wharf 84 of the port of New York. The last travel. The 17 July 1956 sailed from Genoa with 1134 passengers and 572 men of directed crew to New York. The commander was Piero Ink pots. Eight days after, the 25 July, to the wide one of the Island of Nantucket, to the hours 23, 15 minuteren and 18 second ones, came speronata from the Swedish ship "Stockholm" and from it makes produced it from the collision on the flank began to embark water. He will sink nine hours later. The "Andrea Doria" was completing the 101ª traversata and would have had to conclude its travel to New York to hours 10 of the successive morning. E' the end of the season of the great ocean-going liners.
Dec 4, 2000
No, not quite a "Linotypist." I started my career as a reporter/editor on a small paper that still had "Linos" downstairs. We had to read the type on the stone to make sure everything was correct. Editors had the advantage of seeing the slugs of type right-side up, while the printers had to read it upside-down. Both of us, however, had to read it backwards. At one point I did set a line or two of type, but my fingers are trained in QWERTY and not ETOAIN.

That fellow Etoain Shrdlu used to show up from time to time. I recall one story in which he was hanged in effigy. Few people knew then (and fewer know now) that ETOAIN SHRDLU are the first two rows of keys on a Linotype keyboard. Unlike a computer, you cannot delete anything on a Lino. Instead, you "bust" the line with nonsense letters. In theory, anyone ready the galley of type spots ETOAIN and pulls the "busted" line out of the tray. didn't happen.

There was magic in the sound of those machines working. They clinked and tinked and occasionally clunked. The typing rhythm was slow and deliberate because the fingers could not get ahead of the machine. And, the smell of hot type...ah, memories.

Who knows what a "hell box" is today?

Or, what a font really looks like?

Always "type high" and don't forget to tighten the quoins!

-- David G. Brown

Timothy Trower

Well, I am 42 years old, and some of my earliest memories are of watching my dad run the Linotype machine at the local newspaper. I grew up wanting to run one of these machines; this in spite of the conversion from letterpress and hot metal type to phototype and offset lithography. Worked as my dad's printer's devil at his shop in the mid '70s, and within a few years started our my letterpress shop (calling it, what else, White Star Printing!) and soon, I owned not one but two Linotypes.

As a preacher's kid, I was awed by my dad referring to "dead metal" and the "hell box" and "killing forms" -- but I also had to clean spacebands, melt metal and wash presses. A good initiation for what we do currently, though.

The print shop on the Andrea Doria looks like a shop I could walk into and start running any of the equipment. The same would hold true on the Titanic, although that print shop used only hand type instead of the faster Linotype.

I've wondered how the rolling of the ship would have affected the level of metal in the pot. Generally you want to keep the level of metal as high as possible to produce the best quality of slugs (fewer air holes) and keep the heating elements covered so they wouldn't burn out. There was no way to put the machine on a gimble, so the metal level must have been kept low.

Any standing matter would have had galley locks on it to keep the type from pieing from the movement of the ship; and in hot weather I would hope that the Andrea Doria had air conditioning since the temperature of the type metal was kept at 525 to 540 degrees. That would sure heat up a small printing office in a hurry. Just some random thoughts from a middle aged Linotypist!

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