I am writing a paper and would like to add something about the history of TeX and LaTeX and the difficulties of writing mathematical texts before the creation of TeX. Does anyone have any indication of material (books and/or articles) with this information! I would also like to quote information from the linotype typewriter.

  • 7
    While not devoted specifically to the historical aspects, "The Elements of Typographic Style", by Robert Bringhurst covers many aspects of history when showing elements of modern typography (goodreads.com/book/show/44735.The_Elements_of_Typographic_Style). And a history of Zapf is always a good read: download.linotype.com/free/howtouse/ZapfBiography.pdf Jul 14, 2021 at 18:19
  • 1
    Before TeX, when I was a grad student, IBM Selectric typewriters were used (changing to symbol balls when needed -- but still easier than writing in symbols by hand). Troff was around then but most profs preferred the appearance of the IBM typed papers. When we finally installed TeX, the typewriters were put aside.
    – Nemo
    Jul 21, 2021 at 18:03

2 Answers 2


There are two published articles on the history of TeX:

Re composition in metal, Linotype is not suitable for the task of composing mathematics. The preferred machine was Monotype. See

An earlier question in this forum has dealt with this topic: Typesetting before TeX and computers?. This deals mainly with mechanical methods.

As to what triggered the creation of TeX: Where's an example of the bad typesetting that inspired TeX? (More can be found by searching on the tag "TeX history".)

Troff was an early computer program from Bell Labs for typesetting math. It was available only at academic sites with Unix hardware. This question covers the territory rather thoroughly: TeX & Troff a reflection on the history of Computer Typography

There were also several "user level" computer programs available in the early days of personal computers. I'm looking for a question identifying those; I'm sure it exists.

  • The links posted help a lot, however, don't there is still some more complete text with the history of Latex too! If anyone has any indication, I appreciate it!
    – fsbmat
    Jul 19, 2021 at 21:33

Take a look at my A Few Notes on Book Design (texdoc memdesign) and section 1.6 Setting Maths which describes how typically maths was typeset in the days of lead type and hand-typesetting before TeX made things so much easier.

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .