In hot metal typesetting, a matrix is a mold for casting a letter, known as a sort, used in letterpress printing. However in printmaking the matrix is whatever is used, with ink, to hold the image that makes up the print, whether a plate in etching and engraving or a woodblock in woodcut.
In letterpress typography the matrix of one letter is inserted into the bottom of a hand mould, the mould is locked and molten type metal is poured into a straight-sided vertical cavity above the matrix. When the metal has cooled and solidified the mould is unlocked and the newly cast metal sort is removed, ready for composition with other sorts. The matrix can then be reused to produce more copies of the sort.
In continuous casting and composition casting typography, the matrix or mats for a complete font are loaded into a matrix-case and inserted into a casting machine, which casts the required sorts for a Page (paper) composition automatically.
- Man, John The Gutenberg Revolution:The story of a genius that changed the world © 2002 Headline Book Publishing, a division of Hodder Headline, London. ISBN 0-7472-4504-5. A detailed examination of Gutenberg's life and invention interwoven with the underlying social and religious upheaval of Medieval Europe on the eve of the Renaissance.
- Meggs, Philip B. A History of Graphic Design. John Wiley & Sons, Inc. 1998. (pp 58–69) ISBN 0-471-29198-6