Ghost Project: Ghost in the Machine

The unveiling is upon us! An update on Ghost in the Machine from Directangle Press.


Tonight is the official unveiling event of Ghost in the Machine at Directangle Press & Tip Type in Pittsburgh! Nicholas DeLorenzo’s short story, inspired by the mystery of etaoin shrdlu, will be on display in broadside format and a number of book mockups will be circulating. Read more about the project below.

The final draft has been handed off from author, and some 250+ lines are in the process of being cast on Tip Type’s Linotype 5. These slugs will become the final letterpress bound edition of Ghost in the Machine, a limited run of 150, which is available now HERE.

A bit of additional history:

Matthew-Newton_rudy-lehman-twoRudy Lehman in his line-casting shop Lehman Typesetting (now Tip Type and Directangle Press) in 2007.
Read Matthew Newton’s essay on Rudy Lehman and view additional photos HERE. Photo: Nate Boguszewski

Directangle Press sits alongside Tip Type in a squat 1.5-story wedge-shaped building in the borough of Wilkinsburg, PA, a stone’s throw from the Pittsburgh city line. Prior to Tip Type taking over the space in 2013, it was owned and operated by a typesetter named Rudy Lehman, who bought his a Linotype machine and established his line-casting business in 1957. He ran his Linotype machines full time for over 50 years, until his death in 2013. Tip Type owners Brandon Boan and Manya Mankiewicz, who had become close to Rudy over the years prior, rescued the building’s contents from being scrapped and continue to carry Rudy’s line-casting legacy forward in the same place it began.

Writer Matthew Newton, a Pittsburgh native, penned an excellent essay on Rudy Lehman as part of his series American Twilight, which includes a number of additional photographs of the space in its original form. It’s a great document of the history of print and printshops past:

He sits down behind a peculiar-looking keyboard and rakes his wide fingers across the neatly lined rows of square metal keys, which are arranged in order of the frequency they occur in the English language (i.e., vowels first, followed by consonants, etc.). As Lehman randomly types, his hands hover over the keys between each strike. The machine is noisy and its small motor chugs to turn the belts and wheels that make its multiple mechanisms work.

The slugs that make up the letterpress edition of Ghost in the Machine are being cast on the very same Linotype that Rudy Lehman purchased in 1957. And it sure is still chugging along.

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Ghost in the Machine is a collaboration between myself (Josh Dannin / Directangle Press) and Philadelphia-based writer Nicholas DeLorenzo. In conjunction with Printeresting’s Ghost, I am working with Nicholas in publishing a short work of original fiction inspired by the mystery of etaoin shrdlu. The one-month project, which began on October 7th, will culminate in a short-run bound letterpress edition, and will be unveiled at a November 7th release event at Directangle Press & Tip Type in Pittsburgh.

So who/what/why is etaoin shrdlu? More on that and the project after this short video:

Clip from Linotype: The Film, 2012

The Linotype, called the “Eighth Wonder of the World” by Thomas Edison, was invented by Ottmar Mergenthaler in 1886, forever changing the history of print. Referred to as a second Gutenberg, Mergenthaler created a machine that could cast type by the line (line-o-type). This quickly became the industry standard, which it remained for well over 75 years. On July 2nd, 1978, the New York Times produced its final edition using their fleet of Linotype machines, documented in this great short film, Farewell, Etaoin Shrdlu.

Which brings us back to the elusive etaoin shrdlu. Really, this is the story of something slipping through the cracks… Many many times. Through the decades, the words etaoin shrdlu made their way past proofreaders onto millions of pages of printed matter. Naturally, curious minds wondered what it meant.


Snippets from The Times (London), November 2, 1929 (left) and November 11, 1929 (right). Images borrowed from Urban Cottage Industries’ blog coverage of Etaoin Shrdlu.


Model 5 Linotype keyboard at Tip Type, Pittsburgh

As was shown in the video above, etaoin shrdlu can be explained quite simply as functional nonsense words; the first two columns of keys on the Linotype’s 90-key keyboard. From Wikipedia:

The first two columns of keys are: e, t, a, o, i, n; and s, h, r, d, l, u. A Linotype operator would often deal with a typing error by running the fingers down these two rows, thus filling out the line with the nonsense words etaoin shrdlu. This is known as a “run down”. It is often quicker to cast a bad slug than to hand-correct the line within the assembler. The slug with the run down is removed once it has been cast, or by the proofreader.

And, when the slug wasn’t removed, it went to print; Evidence of the Linotype operator’s hand veiled by the mystery of etaoin shrdlu.

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Mark your calendar for Saturday, November 7th at 6pm! You’re invited to come check out the first pressing of Ghost in the Machine, order a copy of your own, and see a working Linotype machine firsthand! We hope you’ll join us at Directangle Press & Tip Type: 606/608 South Ave, Pittsburgh, PA 15221.

Check back weekly to follow the progress of the project here on Printeresting, and also on Instagram @directanglepress.

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More about Ghost in the Machine

Ghost in the Machine is being written (right now!) by Nicholas DeLorenzo in Philadelphia, and will be edited by Gary Parker in Eugene, OR, line cast on a Linotype at Tip Type in Pittsburgh, and designed, printed, and bound at Directangle Press in Pittsburgh. The finished limited edition will be published and available through Directangle Editions.

Nicholas DeLorenzo is a writer living and working in Philadelphia. A graduate from Temple University with a BA in English, his sports and pop culture writing has been featured on The Sports Network and Screen Invasion, and his creative non-fiction story The Leap was honored and recognized by Paste Magazine and Biographile. You can find additional works on his website and follow him on Twitter @nick_delorenzo.

Directangle Press is a small irregularly shaped letterpress and woodcut printshop in Pittsburgh specializing in short-run editions and ephemera.

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