Printing History – History of the Printing Press

Crude wooden hand presses allowed the printer to transfer ink to paper. These old slow presses could only print 300 to 500 printed sheets per day. Over time, power-driven machines could produce the same number of printed sheets in a few minutes (in newspaper printing, a few seconds). The old wooded presses used a torsion screw for making the impression and was provided with a clever mechanical arrangement devised to provide the proper pressure on the form. Further changes in press construction came about slowly until the first all-metal press was built by the Earl of Stanhope early in the 19th century. This press still used a screw device, but less exertion was required to force the impres sion on the sheet. Application of the principle of the lever to the iron press resulted in several presses which came into common use.

The idea of the printing press, as conceived by Gutenberg, reached its highest development by the late 1700’s. The job, or platen, press is the direct descendant of a machine perfected in 1858 by George P. Gordon of New York. In this machine the platen and form are turned on edge. In other presses, both the platen and the bed move with a sort of clamshell action.

The cylinder press was first conceived by William Nicholson of London who secured patents in 1790 but was unable to perfect a working model. Within time, however; the design for a steam-powered cylinder press was perfected and was capable of printing 1,100 sheets per hour.

Shortly after the development of the cylinder press, D. Napier, an Englishman, invented a press using grippers for picking up the sheet from the paper table and holding it while the sheet received the impression. While numerous other improvements have been added throughout the years, the flatbed cylinder press, except for the vertical press, is practically obsolete.

In 1847, Richard Hoe perfected the first rotary press with the type actually carried on the cylinder. An American, William Bullock developed the first web press, in 1856. These early web presses could deliver 15,000 signatures per hour and printed both sides. The name Hoe Press is synonymous among the newspaper industry.

Since that time, newspaper presses have been developed to a high state of efficiency which, by duplicating plate and units, has allowed newspapers to be printed and delivered at the rate of 160,000 per hour.