Notes about the Upper Case

Originally, type was stored all in the one large case, as is still done for example in Germany, but in England, Belgium and France, for example, it became stored in two separate, upper and lower, cases, from the end of the sixteenth century. Storing Roman characters required more boxes to hold all the small capitals, accents, etc., than was the case with the Germanic fraktur characters, and using just one case was becoming unwieldy, and making the case extremely heavy.
 
                     
       
       
       
       
       
       
                     
       
       
       
       
       
       
U=7x7
U=7x7
 
 
       
       
       
       
       
       
       
                                   
       
       
       
       
       
       
N
W
  The purpose of the Upper Case is to hold the majiscule characters, ie capitals, and the small capitals, accented letters, and some punctuation and signs.

It is called an Upper case in U.K., Haut de casse in France, Bovenkast in Holland, Caps case or News Caps case in U.S., Caxa (cassa) Alta in Spain.

The standard case comprises 98 equal sized boxes, in two bays, as on the left.




The basic arrangment in each bay in the Upper Case is 7 rows of 7 boxes. This pattern is shown by Moxon in 1683, and is still in use today, although the overall dimensions of the case are smaller than in Moxon's time (and vary as between U.S., England, Scotland, etc.).

A twentieth century 'improvement', as on the left, was to make one bay have narrower boxes than the other, to allow a stronger fount of capitals, and weaker fount of the small caps.
 
The outside dimensions of the full-size case are:
U.S: 32 3/16 by 16 5/8 inches
Rooker: 28 1/2 by 14 inches
Holland: 32 5/8 by 13 inches
England: 32 1/2 by 14 1/2 inches
The old (English) sizes were
42 1/2 by 18 1/2 by 3 1/2 inches
or 32 1/2 by 15 1/4 by 2 1/2 (Johnson 1824)
or 31 by 18 1/2 inches (Moxon 1683)
The old Fount case size was 39 by 16 1/2 by 2 inches (Johnson 1824)
Scotland: 34 by 15 inches
Plantin Museum: 33 1/2 by 14 inches
Indian: 36 by 16 inches
Various row configurations in the caps bay are:
 
 In the United States of America, another pattern was introduced at the end of the nineteenth century, with some rows taller than others, again to allow more room for the capital letters, with the lesser-used small caps, etc. in the shorter boxes.

In some designs of case the caps rows contain 8, rather than 7, boxes per row, in each bay. Some cases contain 6 or 8 rows of boxes. In addition, other designs, eg Greek, have many more small boxes.
 Short
 Short
 Short
 Tall
 Tall
 Tall
 Short
 
  Double
  Double
 Medium
 Medium
 Medium
 Medium
 
 Medium
 Medium
 Medium
 Medium
 Medium
 Medium
 Medium
3S
3T
1S
 
2D
4M
 
7M
And the various case styles are:
 
 BaysRowsDatesMain feature
Standard English
(98 boxes)
7x7
U
7x7
U
7M
Moxon 1683
Smith 1755
Luckombe 1771
Stower 1808
Johnson 1824
MacKellar 1870
Southward 1882
BBS 1890
Stephenson Blake 1922
Caslon 1925, etc.
All boxes same width
 
Improved
(98 boxes)
7x7
N
7x7
W
7M
SB 1922
APES 1983
Left bay narrow, right bay wide
 
U.S.
(98 boxes)
7x7
U
7x7
U
3S
3T
1S
ATF 1923
APES 1983
Central rows are taller
 
French
(112 boxes)
8x7
U
8x7
U
7M
Castillon 1783Bays of 8 boxes in each row
French
(104 boxes)
7x7
U
7x7
U
7M
Muller c1912Right bay has subdivided boxes in bottom row
French
(108 boxes)
7x7
U
7x7
U
7M
Dumont 1915Some rows have subdivided boxes
 
Dutch
(105 boxes)
6x7
U
6x7
U
2D
4M
Zweijgardt 1822
Plantin-Moretus 1876
Ronner 1915
The left bay has subdivided boxes in the top two rows, and some other boxes are subdivided
(also 98, 107, 110, 111, 118 boxes) 
 
Spanish
(96 boxes)
8x6
U
6x7
U
2D
4M
Sigüenza 1811Bays of 8 boxes in each row
 
Italian
(76 boxes)
8x4
U
8x4
U
1T
1S
2T
Pozzoli 1882Some rows have subdivided boxes
Italian
(71 boxes)
8x4
U
8x4
U
4M
Lockwood 1894Some rows have subdivided boxes
Italian
(58 boxes)
7x4
U
7x4
U
4M
Enc Ital 1937One row each side has one box subdivided
 
Greek
(161 boxes)
7x7
U
14x7
U
7M
Stower 1808
Johnson 1824
ATF 1923
Caslon 1925
Right bay rows all subdivided and left bay with 2 subdivided rows
(and also 147 boxes) 
 
 
Whilst separate Upper and Lower cases were essential for bookwork, the smaller founts in use for jobbing work were easier to hold in Job or Double cases, which appeared in the nineteenth century, and essentially comprised a (small) complete lower case, with half an upper case in the third bay.
 
 
Other empty cases
ie with the boxes left blank
Other type layouts
ie with characters assigned to boxes
Full Index of layoutsGlossary of terms usedSources of the layoutsIntroduction
Quantities in a fount of typeQuantities in a case of type
Notes about Job
and Double Cases
Notes about Upper casesNotes about Lower casesAlembic home page

This page was written by David Bolton and last updated 19 February 1999.