the printing press
This page considers the press as a book and journal technology.
It covers -
The history of the printing press is one of sporadic improvements
in productivity that reduced labour requirements (ie the
number of people, skilled or otherwise) to print a page
and the time taken to print that page.
The first printing presses typically involved work by
two or three people in inking the type,
placing a sheet of paper on the platen, screwing down
the press to make the impression, unscrewing the press,
removing the paper and starting again. Work in setting
up the type required additional time and was a matter
of skill rather than strength. For around 200 years after
Gutenberg print runs were accordingly small - typically
between 120 to 300 copies for a book and up to 600 copies
for a journal, although a single page flyer or pamphlet
might be produced in larger numbers - and with some 200
copies of a sheet being printed each hour.
Improvements in the design of manually-operated presses
from the 1760s preceded the development of steam-operated
rotary presses, which essentially transformed printing
from a handcraft to an industrial activity. Innovations
by Richard Hoe (1812-1886) in the rotary press and continuous
roll double-sided printing for example permitted output
of 8,000 sheets per hour in 1846, with the main constraint
being the speed at which type could be set. That was addressed
through technologies such as Ottmar Mergethaler's Linotype
device of 1886.
William Peterson's Modern Fine Printing site
offers electronic access to basic documents on British
and American fine printing, particularly William Morris
and the Kelmscott Press. James Moran's Printing
Presses: History & Development From the Fifteenth
Century to Modern Times (Berkeley: Uni of California
Press 1978) is a major study.
For the steam age see 19th Century Printing Practices
(New Castle: Oak Knoll 2004) by Gabriel Rummonds. For
an early account consult Joseph Moxon's Mechanick Exercises
on the Whole Art of Printing, first published in 1684
and edited by Herbert Davis & Harry Carter (London: Oxford
Uni Press 1962).
Richard Huss's The Printer's Composition Matrix: Its
History & Development (New Castle: Oak Knoll Press
1985) is a definitive study of one of the tools.
Among archival and museum resources Luc Devroye's typographic
is a comprehensive link-farm, complemented by the Association
of European Printing Museums (AEPM).
Bride Printing Library in London is a specialist reference
library with a world-class collection covering printing,
paper, binding, graphic design, typography, illustration,
publishing and book-selling.
In Australia the more modest Melbourne Museum of Printing
at Footscray is worth a visit.
The UK Printing Historical Society (PHS)
publishes an authoritative journal and bulletin.
The American Printing History Association (APHA)
was founded in 1974 to encourage study of printing history
and associated activity, including typography, papermaking,
bookbinding, illustration and publishing.
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