The Paige Compositor was an invention developed by James W. Paige (1842–1917) between 1872 and 1888. It was designed to replace the human typesetter of a lead type-composed printing form with a mechanical arm. However, the machine was not nearly as precise as it should have been and never turned a profit because of its complexity and continual need for adjustment based upon trial and error. As a result, it was the linotype, which composed in a hot metal typesetting process, that became the new popular printing machine.
The Paige typesetting machine is notable for substantial investment that the prominent writer Mark Twain made into the failed endeavor: $300,000 ($6,000,000 today). Twain, a former printer, invested not only the bulk of his book profits but also a large portion of the inheritance of Olivia Clemens, his wife. Many point to his over-investment in the Paige typesetting machine and other inventions as the cause of not only his family's financial decline but also the decline of his wit and humor.
Only two machines were built. One was donated by Cornell University for a scrap metal drive during World War II. The other machine survives and is displayed at the Mark Twain House in Hartford, Connecticut.
- Lundin, Leigh (2011-05-22). "Tom Sawyer and the Diabolus Ex Machina". Redding: Criminal Brief.
- Lienhard, John (2000). "The Paige Compositor". Engines of Our Ingenuity. Houston: University of Houston (1372). ISBN 978-0-19-516731-3. Archived from the original on 1998.
- Lienhard, John (1988). "The Paige Compositor". Engines of Our Ingenuity. Houston: University of Houston (0050). ISBN 978-0-19-513583-1.
- Kirk, Connie Ann. Mark Twain, a Biography. Connecticut: Greenwood Printing, 2004. PS1331.K57.
- "Mark Twain, a Life" Ron Powers
- "Our Collection". Mark Twain House and Museum. Retrieved 28 July 2013.
- Page at ERIC
- U.S. Patent 157,694 Precursor by Paige (patent application filed 1872)
- U.S. Patent 547,859 Paige Compositor patent (application filed 1882)
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