About Hellbox

‘Imprenta de A. Vanegas Arroyo’ by J.G. Posada
Detail from ‘Imprenta de A. Vanegas Arroyo’ by José Guadalupe Posada.

In the argot of the printing office a hellbox has been a couple of related things. In manual setting of foundry type it was a casket into which, after a page had been set and printed, the sorts – pieces of type – were de­pos­it­ed. Damaged ones would be discarded or re­cycled, and viable ones re­turned to their places in the type­case, ready to set new copy. In hot metal setting it re­fer­red to a bin where after printing, the blocks of machine-set lead that made up pages were put before being melted down to use for the next job. The idea of a box to dump words into prompted its use as the title of this web­site.

The posts here are mainly about particular aspects of design, typography, print­ing or pub­lish­ing, and the old and new tech­nologies around these subjects. The emphasis on latin-alphabet and English-lang­uage subjects here is not owed to any sense of their greater import­ance, but to these being the con­text of the things I know a little about.

Benjamin Campbell

I have worked in publishing since the late 1980s, the time in the print trade when photo­composition which had all but replaced manual and mech­anical type­setting was itself being definitively superseded by digital composi­tion. Although I remember what it was like to assemble photoset type on a parallel motion board using layout sheets, scalpel, cutting board, glue spreader and rubber cement, for practically all of my working life the context has been key­board, mouse, screen and office printer. My work has mostly been in typo­graphy, design and some of the tech­nical aspects of print and digital pro­duc­tion. I have been on the staff of the London Review of Books for 24 years, and continue to do print and digital work for other pub­lishers, writers and artists.

Comments. Commenting on posts is not enabled at present but feed­back is wel­come and can be sub­mitted using this website’s contact form.  A note on the type. The typeface used for the body text and headings on this web­site is Questa, designed by Martin Majoor and Jos Buivenga. As well as the serifed text and display versions used here, Questa is available in sans serif and slab serif styles.