In a small group of 8 we learned the very basics of letterpress. The measurement values of Points and Picas were finally demystified for me. In the past I've always been in a hurry to change the default indesign settings to silly inches. I suppose that was all my American mind could decipher. I now know that there are 12 points to a Pica. Mystery solved.
Couple of other interesting little tidbits were as follows. Minuscules, otherwise known as lowercase letters, were originally found on the lower shelf in the early printers shop. Majuscules, otherwise know as uppercase letters, were found in a corresponding location to their name as well. Did you know that the J and U letters were added later to the alphabet we know today? Hence all this V usage in the place of U's in ancient Rome. Would you believe I didn't know that the ampersand is actually a ligature? I really had no idea that it was one of an "E" and a "T".
The California job case was then explained in detail to the class where we got a first hand experience in ordering a case in a similar fashion. We became "printer's devils" for a little over an hour. The devils themselves, in days past, were to be ordering and deciphering letters in a similar fashion for a total of 6 years. Here we were complaining about it after a ridiculously brief time. Making sure your b's were p's, your d's were q's, your n's were u's and they were all in their respectful location within the California layout. I had terrible daydreams about the scene that would ensue if one of these cases were to slip out of someone's hands, crash on the floor and spread all it's tiny contents across the lay of of the classroom. I imagine these are the types of nightmares that may awake Jamie Mahoney in the middle of the night in a cold sweat.