Typesetting machine

Adrien Delcambre, James Hedden YoungCirca 1850

Musée des arts et métiers

Musée des arts et métiers
Paris, France

Invented in 1840 by Delcambre and Young to solve the problem of mechanising typesetting, this machine was shown at the Exhibitions of Products of French Industry in 1844 and 1849. It impressed Henri Tresca, professor of mechanics at the Conservatoire, at the Universal Exposition in 1855, where it also won an award. The letters and symbols are first arranged on the typesetting machine using a machine called a distributor. Via a set of channels, they are then successively assembled in the order determined by the pressure of the operator’s fingers on a mechanical keyboard. It was due to this analogy with the piano keyboard that this machine was baptised the ‘Pianotype’. Designed to accelerate the typesetting process and reduce labour costs, the machine could be operated by female typesetters. It was improved by Isidore Delcambre, Adrien’s son, and shown at the Universal Exposition in 1862.


  • Title: Typesetting machine
  • Creator: Adrien Delcambre, James Hedden Young
  • Date: Circa 1850
  • Date Created: Circa 1850
  • Location: France
  • Physical Dimensions: 1:5 scale model
  • Provenance: Musée des arts et métiers
  • Contributor: Author: Marie-Sophie Corcy. English translation: David Wharry
  • Inventory number: Inv. 07137
  • Credits: © Musée des arts et métiers-Cnam/photo Jean Claude Wetzel

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