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Cylindrical printing, or, as it is generally termed, Machine printing, is a new mode of obtaining impressions from types, the introduction of which took place in the year 1814. It has caused a great revolution in the art, from the facilities which it affords for printing sheets of paper of a size of which no press worked by manual labour is capable, nor, were it capable, is the strength of one man equal to the exertion requisite for the pressure necessary to produce a respectable impression. In addition to this advantage of printing sheets of such larger dimensions, it possesses the power of multiplying impressions so rapidly as to appear like the work of magic. This may seem hyperbolical; but the average rate of working at a press for common work, that is the general run of book work, with two men, one to ink the types, and the other to work the press, is but 250 copies an hour, while a machine will produce 1,250 copies in the same time; and considerably more might be obtained, were not its powers restrained by the limited human means of feeding it with paper, it being found by experience that the number stated is the extent to which one person could supply it, he having regard to laying on the sheets evenly, so as to preserve a regular margin: but this speed was not deemed sufficient to meet the wants that were felt, and the Times newspaper is now printed at a machine where the paper is laid on at four places, one form of which, consisting of four pages, is printed at the astonishing rate of 4,320 an hour at its ordinary rate of working, a fact which I have seen and ascertained myself, by counting its motions with a seconds watch in my hand. Mr. Richard Taylor has also a similar Machine at which the Weekly Dispatch is printed. Considering what has been done, I cannot see a reason why the paper should not be supplied at six or eight places, if found necessary, so as to increase the number printed to 6,000 or 8,000 in an hour; as the wonder ceases when we remember that steam is the moving power. Of the comparative merits of the Machine and the Press I shall speak subsequently.

As the details of the invention are not generally known, I will give some account of them, letting the parties speak for themselves, so far as I have been able to procure their own statements. The first is the Specification of the Patent granted to Mr. William Nicholson; the next. Observations on the Art of Printing Books, &c., written by him, and published in his own Journal, which clearly describe the present machines and inking apparatus. This specification, and the other details, with the engravings, will render it unnecessary for me to enter into a lengthened description of these machines, or do more than merely state that the form is imposed in the usual manner, laid upon a horizontal table, which travels under a cylinder covered with woollen cloth, adjusted so as to have a proper bearing upon the types in order to produce an impression, and that the inking apparatus is at one end, consisting of small rollers, which take and distribute ink upon another table, for each impression, when the form in travelling passes under one of them to receive its coating of ink.

Specifications of W.Nicholson's Machine

“Specification of the Patent granted to Mr. William Nicholson, of New North-Street, Red Lion-Square; for a Machine or Instrument for printing on Paper, Linen, Cotton, Woollen, and other Articles, in a more neat, cheap, and accurate Manner, than is effected by the Machines now in use. Dated April 29, 1790.

“To all to whom these presents shall come, &c. Now know ye that, in compliance with the said proviso, I the said William Nicholson do hereby declare, that my said invention is described in the plan hereunto annexed, and the description thereof hereunder written, and in manner following; that is to say, my invention consists in three parts or particulars; namely, first, the manner or method of making, preparing, or placing, the original model, models, casts, types, engravings, carvings, or sculptures from which the impression is to be made. Secondly, in applying the ink, or colouring-matter, to such models, casts, types, engravings, carvings, or sculptures. And, thirdly, in taking off the impression, or transferring the ink, or colouring-matter, from such models, casts, types, engravings, carvings, or sculptures, to the paper, cloth, or other material upon which it is intended it should remain.

“I. In the first place then, I not only avail myself of all the methods of making, preparing, and placing, the original models, casts, types, engravings, carvings, or sculptures which have hitherto “been known or used in printing, and do myself make use of them in conjunction with my newly-invented method of applying the ink, or colouring matter, to such original models, casts, types, engravings, carvings, or sculptures, and also with my newly-invented method of taking off the impressions, but I do likewise make, put together, and arrange them in a new manner, as occasion may require; that is to say.

“II. I make my moulds, punches, and matrices, for casting letters, in the same manner, and with the same materials, as other letter-founders do, excepting that, instead of leaving a space in the mould for the stem of one letter only, I leave spaces for two, three, or more letters, to be cast at one pouring of the metal; and at the lower extremity of each of those spaces (which communicate by a common groove at top) I place a matrix, or piece of copper with the letter, punched upon its face in the usual way. And moreover, I bring the stem of my letters to a due form and finish, not only by rubbing it on a stone, and scraping it when arranged in the finishing-stick, but likewise by scraping it on one or more sides, in a finishing-stick whose hollowed part is less deep at the inner than the outer side. I call that side of the groove which is nearest the face of the disposed letter, the outer side; and the purpose accomplished by this method of scraping is, that of rendering the tail of the letter gradually smaller the more remote it is, or farther from the face. Such letter may be firmly imposed upon a cylindrical surface, in the same manner as common letter is imposed upon a flat stone. I specify and affirm that the above described methods of casting two or more letters at once, and of chamfering or sloping their tails, are parts of my new invention.

“III. I impose or dispose my letter for printing in the common manner, to be used in conjunction with my newly-invented improvements. And I likewise impose it in frames or chases adapted to the surface of a cylinder of wood, or metal, and fasten it to the said surface by screws, or wedges, or in grooves, or by other methods well known to workmen; and this imposing letter upon a cylinder I state and affirm to be part of my new invention.

“IV. I cut, carve, engrave, chase, cast, model or make, (in the usual manner of performing those operations,) blocks, forms, plates, types, or originals, to be used for printing, either of wood, metal, or other materials; and these I use in conjunction with my other newly-invented improvements. I likewise, for other kinds of work, do fasten with glue, cement, screws, wedges, or by other known methods, such blocks, forms, plates, types, or originals, as aforesaid, to the surface of a cylinder. I likewise, for other kinds of work, do cut, carve, engrave, chase, cast, model or make, blocks, forms, plates, types, or originals, as aforesaid, of a cylindrical form, of wood, metal, or other materials. And I state and affirm that this disposition, of blocks, forms, plates, types, or originals, upon a cylinder, and also that the cutting, carving, engraving, chasing and casting, modelling or making, blocks, plates, types, or originals, of a cylindrical form, as aforesaid, are parts of my new invention.

“V. In the second place, I distribute or apply the ink, or colouring-matter, upon the surface, or in the interstices, of the blocks, forms, plates, types, or originals aforesaid, by causing the surface of a cylinder, smeared or wetted with the colouring-matter, to roll over, or successively apply itself to, the surfaces of the said blocks, forms, plates, types, or originals, of whatever figure or construction such 'blocks, forms, plates, types, or originals, may be. Or else I cause the said blocks, forms, plates, types, or originals, successively to apply themselves to the said cylinder. I call the said smeared or wetted cylinder, the colouring-cylinder. Its surface is covered with leather, or the dressed skins which printers call pelts, or else it is covered with woollen, or linen, or cotton cloth. When the colour to be used is thin, as in calico-printing, and in almost every case, the covering is supported by a firm elastic stuffing, consisting of hair, or wool, or woollen cloth wrapped one or more folds round the cylinder. When the covering consists of woollen cloth, the stuffing must be defended by leather, or oilskin, to prevent its imbibing too much colour, and by that means losing its elasticity. It is absolutely necessary that the colouring-matter be evenly distributed over the surface of the cylinder; for this purpose, when the colour is thick and stiff, as in letter-press printing, I apply two, three, or more small cylinders, called distributing-rollers, longitudinally against the colouring-cylinders, so that they may be turned by the motion of the latter; and the effect of this application is, that every lump or mass of colour which may be redundant, or irregularly placed upon the face of the colouring-cylinder, will be pressed, spread, and partly taken up, and carried by the small rollers to the other parts of the colouring-cylinder; so that this last will very speedily acquire and preserve an even face of colour. But if the colouring-matter be thinner, I do not apply more than one or two of these distributing rollers; and, if it be very thin, I apply an even blunt edge of metal, or wood, or other material, or a straight brush, or both of these last, against the colouring-cylinder, for the purpose of rendering its colour uniform.

“VI. When I apply colour to an engraved plate, or cylinder, or apply the colour through the interstices of a perforated pattern, or cylinder, as in the manufacturing of some kinds of paper-hangings and floor-cloths, I use a cylinder entirely covered with hair or bristles, in the manner of a brush.

“VII. The whole of the manipulations or practices described in the two preceding paragraphs (numbers V. and VI.) are parts of my invention.

“VIII. In the third place, I perform all my impressions by the action of a cylinder or cylindrical surface; that is to say, I cause the paper, or cloth, or other material intended to be printed upon, (and previously damped if necessary,) to pass between two cylinders, or segments of cylinders, in equal motion; one of which has the block, form, plate, assemblage of types, or originals, attached to, or forming part of, its surface, and the other is faced with cloth or leather, and serves to press the paper, cloth, or other material, as aforesaid, so as to take off an impression of the colour previously applied. Or otherwise, I cause the block, form, plate, assemblage of types, or originals, previously coloured, to pass in close and successive pressure or contact with the paper, or cloth, or other material, wrapped round a cylinder with woollen. Or otherwise, I cause the last mentioned cylinder, with the paper, or cloth, or other material wrapped round it, to roll along the face of the block, form, plate, assemblage of types, or originals, previously coloured. Or otherwise, I cause a cylinder having the block, form, plate, assemblage of types, or originals, attached to, or forming part of, its surface, to roll along the surface of the paper, cloth, or other material intended to be printed, and previously spread out upon an even plane covered with cloth or leather; the said cylinder being supplied with colour by means of a colouring-cylinder herein before described, and herein after more particularly to be noticed.

“IX. The foregoing description shews the nature of my invention, which may be applied to a great variety of uses, and constructed or put together in a great variety of forms. Its uses consist in the printing of books in general, the printing of paper-hangings, floor-cloths, cottons, linens, woollens, silks, ribands, laces, leather, skin, and every other flexible material whatever. And its form or, construction, being no essential part of the invention, may without difficulty be obtained and carried into effect, by any workman possessed of common skill and ability. Nevertheless, as there may be some artists of such a moderate capacity as to find the foregoing instructions not sufficient to enable them to construct my machines, I shall proceed to exhibit drawings, and describe several methods of constructing them. But, at the same time, I think it pertinent to take notice, that as the following constructions cannot be exclusively claimed by me by virtue of his Majesty's letters patent granted unto me, excepting so far as the same include or contain my new improvements and inventions, so, on the other hand, I do not exhibit the same as the only practical methods of carrying my invention into effect, but I claim the general and universal application of the principles discovered and brought into practice by me, as before described; and do here proceed to exhibit and describe certain specific applications of those principles, chiefly from a conviction that it is my duty to render this present specification clear and intelligible by every means in my power. And moreover, since in the following applications or particular methods there are, and may be found, several contrivances resulting from a considerable degree of deliberation, labour, and expence, and tending to facilitate the practice of my said inventions, I do not by any means hereby exclude the following descriptions and drawings from my present specification; for I do not consider them as being merely illustrative of the general principles herein before described and explained, but do hereby assert and maintain, that all and every parts and part of the machines herein after described, which have not hitherto been used as parts of some other machine, or in combination directed to the accomplishment of the like purpose of printing, are stated and claimed by me as parts of my said invention; for the exclusive enjoyment of which, as well as of every other part of the said invention hereby specified by me, I claim all protection and every advantage which, by his Majesty's letters patent, I may lawfully be entitled to.

Explanation Of The Annexed Drawings


Two cylinder Printing Press
Fig. 1: Two cylinder Printing Press Enlarge

“Fig. I. represents a printing-press, more especially applicable to the printing of sheets of paper, or books. A. and E. represent two cylinders running or turning in a strong frame of wood, or metal, or both. The cylinder A. is faced with woollen cloth, and is capable of being pressed with more or less force upon HI, by means of the lever M. HI is a long table, which is capable of moving endways, backwards and forwards, upon the rollers E and K. The roller A acts upon this table by means of a cog-wheel, or by straps, so as to draw it backwards and forwards by the motion of its handle L. The table is kept in the same line by grooves on its sides, which contain the cylinder A. D is a chase, containing letter set up and imposed. B is a box, containing a colouring-roller, with its distributing-rollers CC; it is supported by the arm N. O is a cylinder faced with leather, and lying across an ink-block; this cylinder is fixed by the middle to a bended lever movable on the joint Q.

The action. When D, or the letter, is drawn beneath the cylinder B, it receives ink; and when it has passed into the position R, a workman places or turns down a tympan with paper upon it; (this tympan differs in no respect from the usual one, except that its hinge opens sideways;) it then proceeds to pass under the cylinder A, which presses it successively through its whole surface. On the other side, at S, the workman takes off the paper, and leaves the tympan up. This motion causes the cylinder B to revolve continually, and consequently renders its inked surface very uniform, by the action of its distributing-rollers CC; and, when the table has passed to its extreme distance in the direction now spoken of, the arm G touches the lever F, and raises the cylinder O off the ink-block, by which means it dabs against one of the distributing-rollers, and gives it a small quantity of ink. The returning motion of the table carries the letter again under the roller B, which again inks it, and the process of printing another sheet goes on as before. N.B. The table in this drawing is not quite long enough in its dimensions, compared with the inking-roller.

Three cylinder Printing Press
Fig. 2: Three cylinder Printing Press Enlarge

“Fig, 2. is another printing-press; in this, B is the inking-roller; A is a cylinder, having the letter imposed upon its surface; and E is a cylinder, having its uniform surface covered with woollen cloth; these three cylinders are connected, either by cogs or straps at the edges of each. The machine is uniformly turned in one direction by the handle L. The workman applies a sheet of paper to the surface of E, where it is retained, either by points in the usual manner, or by the apparatus to be described in treating of Fig. 4. The paper passes between E and A, and receives an impression; after which the workman takes it off, and applies another sheet; and in the mean time the letter on the surface of A passes round against the surface of B, and receives ink during the rotation of B. The distributing-rollers CC do their office as in the machine Fig. 1.; and once in every revolution the tail F, affixed to B, raises the inking-piece G, so as to cause it to touch one of the distributing-rollers, and supply it with ink. In this way therefore the repeated printing of sheet after sheet goes on.

“Fig. 31) is a printing-press, more particularly adapted to print cottons, silks, paper-hangings, or other articles which run of a considerable length.”

“Fig. 4. is a printing-press, chiefly of use for books and papers. 1 2 3 4 represents a long table, with ledges on each side; so that the two cylinders A and B can run backwards and forwards without any side shake. In one of these ledges is placed a strip or plate of metal cut into teeth which lock into correspondent teeth in each cylinder; by which means the two cylinders roll along, without the possibility of changing the relative positions of their surfaces at any determinate part of the table. This may also be effected by straps, and may indeed be accomplished, with tolerable accuracy, by the mere rolling of the cylinders on the smooth or flat ledges without any provision. A is the printing-cylinder, covered with woollen cloth, and B is the inking-cylinder, with its distributing-rollers. The table may be divided into four compartments, marked with a thicker bounding-line than the rest, and numbered 1 2 3 4. At 1 is placed a sheet of paper; at 2 is the form or chase, containing letter set and imposed; at 3 is an apparatus for receiving the printed sheet; and 4 is employed in no other use than as a place of standing for the carriage E, after it has passed through one operation, and when it takes ink at F. Its action is as follows: the carriage is thrust forward by the workman, and as the roller A passes over the space numbered 1, it takes up the sheet of paper previously laid there, while the roller B runs over the form and inks the letter. The sheet of paper, being wrapped round the cylinder A, is pressed against the form as that cylinder proceeds, and consequently it receives an impression. When A arrives at the space numbered S, it lets go the sheet of paper, while the prominent part of the carriage, G, strikes the lever P, and raises the inking-piece, which applies itself against one of the distributing-rollers. In this manner therefore the cylinder A returns empty, and the cylinder B inked, and in the mean time the workman places another sheet of paper ready in the space numbered 1. Thus it is that the operation proceeds in the printing of one sheet after another.

Press printing sheets in succession
Fig. 4: Press able to print one sheet after another Enlarge

Apparatus for handling paper
Fig. 9: Apparatus for handling paper Enlarge

“The preceding description is not incumbered with an account of the apparatus by which the paper is taken up and laid down. This may be done in several ways: Figs. 9 and 10 represent one of the methods. D E is a lever, moving on the centre pin C, and having its end D pressed upwards by the action of the spring G. The shoulder which contains the pin C is fixed in another piece F, which is inserted in a groove in the surface of the cylinder A; (Fig. 4;) so that it is capable of moving in and out, in a direction parallel to the axis of that cylinder. As that cylinder proceeds, it meets a pin in the table; which, (letter P, Fig. 9,) acting on the inclined plane at the other end of the lever, throws the whole inwards, in the position represented in Fig. 10; in which case the extremity D. shoots inwards, and applies itself against the side of the cylinder.

Apparatus for handling paper (2)
Fig. 10: Apparatus for handling paper (2) Enlarge

“In Fig. 11 is a representation of part of the table; the dotted square represents a sheet of paper, and the four small shaded squares denote holes in the board, with pins standing beside them. When the lever DE (Fig. 10) shoots forward, it is situated in one of these holes, and advances under the edge of the paper, which consequently it presses and retains against the cylinder with its extremity D. Nothing more remains to be said respecting the taking up, but that the cylinder is provided with two pair of these clasps or levers, which are so fixed as to correspond with the four holes represented in Fig. 11. It will be easy to understand how the paper is deposited in the compartment No. 3. (Fig. 4.) A pin P, (Fig. 10,) rising out of the platform or table, acts against a pin E, projecting sideways out of the lever, and must of course draw the slider and its lever to the original position; the paper consequently will be let go, and its disengagement is rendered certain by an apparatus fixed in the compartment numbered 3, (Fig. 4,) of exactly the same kind as that upon the cylinder, and which by the action of a pin duly placed in the surface of the cylinder A, takes the paper from the cylinder in precisely the same manner as that cylinder originally took it up in the compartment numbered 1. (Fig. 4,)

Part of a table which holds the sheet
Fig. 11: Part of a table which holds the sheet Enlarge

Apparatus for handling paper (3)
Fig. 5: Apparatus for
handling paper (3) Enlarge

Apparatus for handling paper (4)
Fig. 6: Apparatus for
handling paper (4) Enlarge

Apparatus for handling paper (5)
Fig. 7: Apparatus for
handling paper (5) Enlarge

“Figs. 5, 6, and 7, represent a simpler apparatus for accomplishing the same purpose. If Aa Bb (Fig. 7) be supposed to represent a thick plate of metal of a circular form, with two pins A and B proceeding sideways or perpendicularly out of its plane, and diametrically opposite to each other, and G another pin proceeding in the direction of that plane, then it is obvious that any force applied to the pin A, so as to press it into the position a, (by turning the plate on its axis or centre X,) will at the same time cause the pin G to acquire the position g; and, on the other hand, when B is at b, or the dotted representation of the side-pin, if any pressure be applied to restore its original position at B, the pin g will return back to G. Now the figures 5 and 6 exhibit an apparatus of this kind, applied to the cylinder A; and that cylinder, by rolling over the pins P and p, properly fixed in the table to re-act upon the apparatus, will cause its prominent part G, either to apply to the cylinder and clasp the paper, or to rise up and let it go. The compartment numbered 3 (Fig. 4) must of course have an apparatus of the same kind, to be acted upon by pins from A, in order that it may take the paper from that cylinder.

“There is one other circumstance belonging to this machine which remains to be explained. When the carriage E (Fig. 4) goes out in the direction of the numbers 1 2 3 4, both rollers, A and B, press the form of letter in their passage; but in their return back again the roller A, having no paper upon it, would itself become soiled, by taking a faint impression from the letter, if it were not prevented from touching it: the manner of effecting this may be understood from Fig. 12. The apparatus there represented is fixed upon the outside of the carriage E, near the lower corner, in the vicinity of the roller A; the whole of this projects sideways beyond the ledge of the table, except the small truck, or wheel B. The irregularly triangular piece, which is shaded by the stroke of the pen, carries this wheel, and also a catch movable on the axis or pin E. The whole piece is movable on the pin A, which connects it to the carriage. C D, or the part which is shaded by dotting, is a detent which serves to hold the piece down in a certain position. It may be observed, that both the detent and the triangular piece are furnished each with a claw, which holds in one direction, but trips or yields in the other, like the jacks of a harpsicord, or resembling certain pieces used in clock and watch making, as is clearly represented in the drawing. These claws over-hang the side of the table, and their effect is as follows. There is a pin C (Fig. 4) between the compartments of the table numbered 2 and 3; but which is marked F in Fig. 12, where G H represents the table. In the outward run of the carriage these claws strike that pin, but with no other effect than that they yield for an instant, and as instantly resume their original position by the action of their respective slender back-springs. When the carriage returns, the claw of the detent, indeed strikes the pin, but with as little effect as before, because its derangement is instantly removed by the action of the back-spring of the detent itself; but; when the claw of the triangular piece takes the pin, the whole piece is made to revolve on its axis or pin A, the wheel B is forced down, so as to lift that end of the carriage, and the detent, catching on the piece at C, prevents the former position from being recovered. The consequence of this is, that the carriage runs upon the truck B, (and its correspondent truck on the opposite side,) instead of the cylinder A, which is too much raised to take the letter, and soil itself; but, as soon as the end of the carriage has passed-clear of the letter, another pin R (Fig. 4) takes the claw of the detent, and draws it off the triangular piece; at which instant the cylinder A subsides to its usual place, and performs its functions as before. This last pin R does not affect the claw of the triangular piece, because it is placed too low; and the claw of the detent is made the longest, on purpose that it may strike this pin.

Return device for the roller
Fig. 12: Return device for the roller Enlarge

“Fig. 82) represents an instrument for printing floor-cloths, paper-hangings, and the like, with stiff paint and a brush.”

“Lastly; I must take notice, that in these and every other of my machines, as well as in every machine whatever, the power may be wind, water, steam; animal strength, or any other natural change capable of producing motion; and that the mechanism by which such powers may be applied to produce a regular unceasing, or an intermitting, motion, as circumstances may require, may be used with these machines, though I have held it totally unnecessary either to specify or annex those methods. The materials, the adjustments, the fittings, and that degree of accuracy necessary to the perfection of every machine, have likewise made no part of my specification; because every workman must know that no mechanism can be completed without a due attention to these well-known particulars. In witness whereof, &c.” — Repertory of Arts, &c. vol. v. 1796.

Observations on the Art of Printing Books and Piece Goods by the Action of Cylinders

“Observations on the Art of Printing Books and Piece Goods by the Action of Cylinders.

“————— Experto credite.

“We may conceive three ways of delineating figures, or writing. The first and most ancient consists in making the traces successively by a brush, a pen, or other instrument. This is design, painting, or writing. In the latter methods, either the whole or the greater part of the figures are made by the action or pressure of an original pattern against the material intended to be written or painted upon. It is the art of printing. The colouring is either deposited from the face of prominent parts of the original form, which is usually called a block of type; or else it is pressed from cavities cut in the face of the original, which in this case is called an engraved plate. Most books are printed from original patterns, in relief; and most of the imitations of paintings are performed by means of engravings. These arts are most frequently distinguished by the names of letter-press and copper-plate printing.

“It can scarcely be matter of new information to those who are but moderately acquainted with the state of the Arts; to be told that letter-press or book-printing is performed by an assemblage of single metallic letters, called types, made of lead hardened by an addition of antimony in the metallic state; that these letters are composed in the form of book pages, and wedged together in iron frames called chases; that the ink is a composition of linseed oil and lamp black, of so singular a nature, that it will adhere to a ball covered with a pelt or sheep's skin soaked in water, and kneaded to extreme softness under the feet, but quits this skin with great readiness to apply to the face of the letter when dabbed with the ball; and still more, that it almost totally quits the letter to adhere to paper rendered semitransparent by soaking in water; or lastly, that the paper is applied and pressed against the form of composed letter by means of a flat piece of wood urged downwards by a screw. These and numerous early discovered principles of this most useful art are generally known, and require no more than mere recapitulation in this place.

“The genius of the Chinese language not permitting that people to analyse its sounds into an alphabet, as has been done by most other nations, has induced them to retain those signs of things, and of their correspondent words, which probably constituted the first picture or hieroglyphic writings of every rude society. Changed and complicated as these may have become by the rapidity of transcription, the corruption of ignorance, or whatever other causes may have operated through a long succession of ages, they still for the most part use words that properly denote things, and not sounds. Such words cannot, therefore, be subdivided; and it has accordingly been found most convenient, by these first possessors of the art, to print from entire blocks, as was also done by the first printers in Europe. But our artists soon discovered that a few of the simplest characters, namely, the letters of the alphabet, would be in many respects more useful, as the elements for composing blocks for printers, than a number of blocks originally cut for every page of every individual book.

“Book-printing, therefore, though in fact of the same nature as block-printing, has been carried into effect by very different machinery from that made use of in the arts which still retain the latter method. In book-printing, the heavy metallic form lies on a kind of table, and the colour and the paper are successively applied to its face: but in block-printing, the block is carried and applied to the colour, and afterwards to the work intended to be printed. Thus, for example, in the printing of paper-hangings, the colour is spread with a brush upon a woollen cloth stretched over a surface of parchment or skin evenly supported by a half fluid mass of water and mashed paper. To this the block is carefully applied by a slight perpendicular stroke or two; after which it is applied to the dry paper on a table, and pressed against it either by one or more blows with a mallet, or by the regular action of a lever. The mechanical part of callico-printing is effected nearly in the same manner; but with smaller blocks, because of the greater difficulty of making the successive fittings on so flexible a material. And in both these arts, as well as in book-printing, in red and black, the variety of colours are produced by repeated applications of forms or blocks, of which the prominent parts are made to fit each other according to the nature of the design.

“In the art of printing from copper-plates, a colour somewhat more fluid than for book-printing is made use of. It is pressed into the cavities of the plate by smearing it over the surface; and by subsequent careful wiping the redundant colour is cleared away. In this state, if soaked paper, for which purpose the most spongy texture is the best, be strongly pressed against the plate, by passing both together between two cylinders of metal or hard wood, properly defended by woollen cloth, the greatest part of the colour adheres to the paper, and forms what is called a print.

“In all these processes, it is easily seen, that in the successive applications of colour, the accurate filling of the form or original with the material intended to receive the impression, and in various other parts of the manipulation, there is much room for the display of skill, or for injury from the want of it. It may moreover be collected, that the motions attendant on the various steps of manufacture, are in many instances difficult to be performed with rapidity and ease, until by long continued habit the workman himself is converted as it were into a machine. A very slight degree of attention to this subject must also shew that, if the originals were of a cylindric form, with a contrivance for regularly applying the colour and performing the subsequent operations, it would be easy to print books and piece goods with a degree of rapidity and uniformity, of which the usual method of successive applications seems scarcely capable without uncommon care and skill. This obvious conclusion has no doubt led to numerous experiments; none of which, so far as I can gather, whatever may have been their particular utility, have given much promise to supersede the ordinary methods. But as the increased demand for the manufacture of printed goods has rendered such an improvement an interesting object to manufacturers, as well as to those indefatigable artists who have directed their efforts towards improvements; and as the latter generally take up a new object under a strong persuasion that it has not before been pursued by others, it will certainly be of advantage to these deserving classes of men, to relate a few of the difficulties of this new art.

“The difficulties attendant on any improvement in the arts may be considered either as moral or physical. Under the moral, I would class every thing that relates to the prejudices of men in favour of the old methods, and their fears of risk, together with the oeconomical and commercial inconveniencies attending the new processes. The physical difficulties are such as attend the actual performance of any project after the same has been carefully arranged in the mind of the inventor. It happens unfortunately here also that the inventor is seldom aware of the moral impediments; but almost always concludes, that if he can succeed in accomplishing the purpose that he has in view, his cares and labour will then be at an end; and that the manufacturer, in particular, instead of pointing out new impediments discernible only from long continued experience, will more readily embrace and approve of the new processes, in consequence of his superior knowledge of their intrinsic value.

“Every good invention appears simple in the prospect, but it scarcely ever happens in the execution that the most direct road is taken; and in every case there will infallibly be many things unknown or unforeseen, which practice only can point out as necessary to be done for the complete accomplishment of the object in view. Hence, and likewise because few men possessed of independent fortune are likely to engage or persevere in a labour of this kind, it almost invariably happens that the expences exceed the ability of the inventor himself. For these and other reasons, new undertakings are generally brought forward by the inventor, a man strongly prejudiced in favour of his leading pursuit, together with a moneyed friend, who hopes speedily to increase his capital from the abilities of the other. It is not necessary in this place to describe the usual consequences of a partnership, where the minds, the views, and the circumstances of both individuals are so very different, and which may be modified still more essentially if either of the parties be deficient in the common principles required to bind men to each other. It is certainly of the highest importance to both, that the circumstances of such connections should be very maturely weighed before they are entered into.

“The commercial difficulties or facilities attending any invention, are also of great consequence. Every inventor ought to enquire not only what has been done before, but likewise into the present state of the manufacture he means to improve. In this way it is ascertained how small a part the mere press-work constitutes in the price of a book. He will find that twelve yards of paper-hangings are printed for one penny, in a single colour, by hand, which afterwards, by the accumulation of price, in paper, colour, duty, and ordinary profit, are sold for three shillings; none of which the inventor can pretend to diminish; and if he could annihilate the whole labour, his advantage would therefore be less than three per cent, without reckoning the cost and operation of his machinery. In the callico-printing, with a more expensive material, dyeing and field-processes, duty and profits of manufacture and vender, the price of laying the block will turn out to be an object still less considerable. Again: it will be seen that small flat blocks cost but little money in comparison with cylinders of sufficient diameter to retain their figure, and long enough to apply to the whole breadth of the cloth.

“Under these and other similar points of view, the inventor, who may consider the subject in a superficial manner, would be ready to abandon his undertaking. But this again ought not to be rashly done. It is true, that where the great force of capital is employed on objects not comprehended within his project, the saving, however large in its absolute amount, or desirable to a manufacturer, will scarcely come within the reach of the inventor by any bargain he can make short of an actual partnership. But it may he possible to separate the respective departments of a manufactory. A spinner is not necessarily a weaver; nor a printer a linen-draper or a dealer in paper-hangings. The several departments of manufacture and commerce are, generally speaking, in the hands of acute men, who seldom reason ill with regard to the advancement of their peculiar interests; and these departments are continually fluctuating in their arrangement, as convenience, profit, or the accumulation of capital may lead. Experiments are for ever on foot, from day-work to piece-work, and from piece-work to the employ of master-workmen with others under them, all supported by the capital of the large manufacturer, who himself in many instances is the mere instrument maintained by the advances or acceptances of the warehouseman, the factor, or the merchant. An inventor, who has not capital, may seek for employ on the goods or the capital of others; and if he has skill to maintain his ground against the numerous enterprises which the activity of opposite interests will raise against him, he will find that the old order of things will readily alter, as soon as an evident interest in favour of the new is shewn by actual and continued proofs in the market.

“Most of the physical difficulties attendant on any new process are such as experience only can shew. Thus, in the forging of iron by the pressure of rollers instead of hammers, a scheme upon which many thousands of pounds have been expended in this country, it was apprehended that the more impure parts, which are also the most fluid, might be pressed out by the action of cylinders, with equal or perhaps more advantage than by that of hammers; at the same time that the determinate figure of bars of any required size might be given without skill in the operator. Experience nevertheless has shewn, that the more fluid part is driven out much more effectually by the sudden action of a blow, than by the slower compression of a cylinder, which allows time for much of the fluid matter to extend itself within the mass. Various similar effects present themselves when cylinders for printing are substituted instead of planes. Instead of the action of dabbing, the colour is usually applied by simple and gradual contact, to much less effect; and the impression, though not essentially different from that of the block, is performed by a gradual action, which affords time for the cloth or paper to fold itself in a minute degree into the cavities of the sculpture. Hence it is found that the length of paper or cloth printed from a cylinder by a definite number of revolutions, will be greater or less than another piece manufactured precisely in the same way, but with a less or greater degree of pressure. In a block this defect is much less, not only from the considerable hold it takes upon the surface of the material, but also because the error is rectified at every successive application. One of the chief difficulties of cylinder printing consists, therefore, in the difficulty of laying one colour after another; and this would continue to be so even if the materials were not susceptible of change, the contrary to which is the fact. There are two projects for obviating this. The one consists in confining the whole piece to a long table, or to the circumference of a large cylinder; and causing the printing cylinder to move, not by the successive apposition of its carved surface, but of a bearing face regulated by a toothed wheel. The other method consists in the use of a frame to confine two or more cylinders, each provided with its own toothed wheel, and revolving against a large clothed cylinder provided with a suitable wheel to drive the others. The piece is caused to pass between the large cylinder and the others, in order to receive the impression. With regard to the first of these methods, it does not appear easy to confine paper, and still less cloth, in such a manner that its parts may continue without shift or wrinkle during the action of a cylinder, which not being allowed to roll without the check of a wheel, must draw the surface either the one way or the other. The difficulty of confinement will be very much increased by the indispensable requisite that the paper should be afterwards hung up to dry, and the callico be carried to the dye-house and the bleach-field, between the successive impressions, by which means the dimensions of both will be greatly altered. In the second method, it is observable that no colours can be printed but such as fall clear of each other. In this way, moreover, the gathering action of the cylinders may prove very mischievous. For, if we suppose the paper or cloth to pass between the great cylinder and the first printing roller by an action of the latter which tends to make it slip forward on the face of the great cylinder, and that when it arrives at the second printing roller it there experiences an action of a contrary nature, the consequence will be, that the material will become slack between the two rollers, and the fittings will be false. Not to dwell on that experience which brings forward this obstacle among others, its great probability may be deduced from the allowable supposition, that the circumference of the first printing cylinder should he one thousandth part of an inch too large, and that of the second the same quantity too small. For, in this case, the material will be shifted one-twentieth of an inch in fifty turns by the first cylinder, and the same quantity in the contrary direction by the second; a quantity upon the whole quite sufficient to destroy the effect of the colours in the progress of one single piece. Such minute differences can hardly be avoided in the first instance; in addition to which, we may place the varying dimensions of the printing cylinder, if not made of metal; and of the great clothed cylinder, which in effect has a larger or smaller diameter in proportion to the pressure which operates to render its elastic covering either thicker or thinner. The only method of diminishing these evils seems to be, that all the printing cylinders should, by dimension or pressure, or both, be made to draw the same way, the outer cylinder most, and the others gradually less and less, so that the material should have a tendency to apply itself more tightly during its passage through the apparatus.

“The application of the colour to the surface of a cylinder block, is attended with some difficulty. An ingenious mechanic may contrive various means to produce the action of dabbing, if required. When a stuffed cylinder covered with cloth is made to revolve in the colour, and thence, after passing a scraper, to apply itself to the block cylinder, it is found to be no inconsiderable difficulty that its dimensions change, and its covering becomes wrinkled by the action of the scraper as well as that of the block. A better method, therefore, consists in a revolving web of woollen cloth, like a jack towel, stretched over three horizontal cylinders parallel to each other, two of which support the elastic surface of the web, which in its revolution accompanies the block cylinder; and the other serves to guide the same web to the colour, or a cylinder revolving in it. This method would be very easy and pleasant in its operation, if it were not for a property common to all straps which revolve on the surface of two or more wheels. These are observed always to seek the highest place; so that if a cutler's wheel were made with a groove to carry a strap, instead of a round edge, the strap would infallibly mount the ledge, instead of remaining in the groove. On this principle, the web would very speedily shift itself to one end of the cylinders, if it were not confined sideways, or the lower roller were not made considerably thickest in the middle, and gradually tapering towards its extremities. This last simple expedient is not without its difficulties; but, as I have not actually tried it, I shall defer entering into any discussion on that head.

“The running of the paper or piece-goods towards one end of the leading cylinder is also one of the greatest difficulties attending this method of printing. It is not perfectly removed by tapering the leading cylinders.

“The nature of the trade of paper-staining in this country, which requires a large sum to be immediately vested in the payment of the excise duty, and consequently prevents any considerable stock from being manufactured until orders are actually received, and the varying fashions in printed callicoes, which render the expence of cutting the block by far the heaviest part of the disbursement for printing, are probably the chief reasons why manufacturers in this country have been less solicitous for the construction of machines calculated to afford profit only in the case of very numerous impressions. The physical difficulties of this art have likewise conspired, in no small degree, to prevent its having been applied in the large way to any but a few simple designs of the sort called running patterns in one colour.” — Nicholson's Journal, vol. i. 1797.

The following is the statement respecting König's machine, which was the first that was made; it appeared in the Literary Gazette, with an engraving; and as that Gazette was at the time printed by Mr. Benjamin Bensley, at a machine, as well as from other circumstances, I am led to believe that the information contained in it was supplied by Mr. Bensley himself, and that, as far as it goes, it may be relied upon.

“The cylindrical mode of printing, which, in contradistinction to the old process by the press, is called Machine Printing, was invented by the late Mr, Nicholson, well known in the scientific and literary world, who took out a patent in the year 1790, though it does not appear that his plans and experiments ended in any actually practical result. Whether M. König, who at a later period more successfully attempted to print by machinery, was indebted to Mr. Nicholson for his elementary principles, or whether almost the same ideas spontaneously occurred to each individual, is it, question that can only be satisfactorily solved by the former. Thus much is certain, that M. König's labours were the first which produced any fruit; — and surely more is due to him who, after years of persevering toil, succeeds in the application of hitherto unapplied principles, than to one of whom we can only say that he was simply the first to suggest ideas — since no evidence is offered of their ever having been acted upon.

“M. König, by birth a Saxon, and by occupation a printer, many years ago conceived it possible to print by Steam, though he then expected no more than to be able to give accelerated speed to the common press, to which end his first efforts were bent. As from the nature of such an undertaking, considering the state of scientific pursuits in his native land, he could calculate on little success unaided by others, and failing in his application for encouragement and support at the hands of the most eminent printers in several of the continental capitals, he turned his eyes towards England. Arriving in London about 1804, he submitted his scheme to several printers of repute, who, not being disposed to incur the risk of property which a series of experiments was sure to entail, and perhaps placing little confidence in a successful issue, received his overtures very coolly: and it is probable his applications in this country would have shared the fate of similar attempts abroad, had he not finally been introduced to Mr. Bensley senior, who, attracted by M. K.'s plans, speedily entered into an arrangement with him. After a short course of experiments on the fabrication of a press which should have accelerated motion, and at the same time render the work of the man who inks the type unnecessary, the above gentlemen were joined by Mr. G. Woodfell and Mr. E. Taylor, the former of whom however soon retired; the remaining three, in nowise discouraged by the tediousness and expense which all who are conversant with the progress of any invention in machinery well know to be unavoidable, persevered amidst unforeseen perplexities, which were doubtless not diminished by the parties' deficiency in practical mechanical knowledge. It was at length discovered that the intended improvement of the common press could not be brought to bear — and that much labour and prodigious expence would be thrown away, unless more radical alterations were invented. Cylindrical printing was now thought of — and after some two or three years of renewed exertion, a small machine was brought forth, the characteristic of which was, that instead of the printing being produced by a flat impression (similar to the press) the sheet passed between a large roller and the types still flat; and in lieu of the old fashioned balls, used by hand to beat over the types and [so to communicate the ink to their surface, skins were strained round smaller rollers, on which it was contrived to spread the ink, and under which the Form, i. e. the frame in which the types are fixed, passed in its way to the printing cylinder. Considerable promise of success attended this production; and after continued experiments, it was deemed practicable to extend the general principles to a more powerful machine. To print a newspaper was considered highly desirable — and on exhibiting to Mr. Walters, proprietor of the Times Newspaper, the Machine already erected, and shewing what further improvements were contemplated, an agreement was entered into with that gentleman for the erection of two large machines for printing his Journal. So secret had been the operations of the patentees, that the first public intimation of their invention was given to the reader of The Times on Monday the 28th of November, 1814, who was told that he then held in his hand one of many thousand impressions thrown off by steam. At this time but few persons knew of any attempt going on for the attainment of the above object; whilst among those connected with printing, it had often been talked of, but treated as chimerical.

“The machines at the Times Office, cumbrous and complicated as subsequent improvements have made them appear, are yet in many respects admirably adapted to the purpose for which they were erected, and it is believed will outlast many contrivances for printing which have been since brought out.

“The next advance in improvement was the manufacture of a machine for Messrs. Bensley, distinguished from those before mentioned by the mode of perfecting (or printing on both sides) — so that the sheet of white paper is placed in the feeder, and delivered from the machine printed on both sides! In addition to the essential difference between this machine and those previously made, it came forth with many obvious improvements, though still unquestionably complex; — and for the first attempt at effecting register (causing the pages to fall precisely on the back of one another) a greater degree of success than might have been expected was attained, subsequent experience shewing the many difficulties to be surmounted in the accomplishment of this object. Deficiencies were now detected in the inking: the strained skins were found uneven in their surface; and attempts were made to clothe the rollers with an elastic preparation of glue, treacle, &c. which has at length attained perfection.

“By this time the invention had attracted the attention of various individuals, who thought the manufacture of printing machines an easier task than they afterwards found it to be; and far the greater number of attempts, we believe, failed almost as soon as undertaken. A machine, however, similar in its capacities to that last mentioned, but much more simple in its construction, has been brought out — under the direction of some eminent engineers. It was not long before these gentlemen were requested to apply their inking apparatus to Messrs. Bensley's machine; and at one stroke, as it were, forty wheels were removed — so great was the simplification: and at the same time the defects of the former system, of communicating the ink to the types, were most effectually remedied. Massive and complicated as it was, yet as an immense expense had been incurred in its erection, Messrs, Bensley went on using their machine until the destruction of their establishment by fire in 1819. And even after the rebuilding of the premises, the machinery, which had been only partially damaged, was reinstated, and worked for some time: — it has now, however, given place to two large and admirable machines built on the improved plan, which when inspected by a judicious eye can only create wonder at the heretofore circuitous manner adopted to attain ends so apparently within easy reach. The writer has no hesitation in stating that the original machine contained upwards of one hundred wheels; whereas the new machine, with about ten wheels, accomplishes, in point of quantity, exactly the same object, and with a marked advantage in regard to the quality of the printing. Another important point respecting the new machine is, that it occupies scarcely half the space of the original one.

“The printing machine in its present state appears susceptible of little improvement. It produces excellent work, and its movements are attended with certainty and despatch — the double, or perfecting, machine throwing off 800 to 1000 sheets, printed on both sides, within the hour, — and the single machine delivering 1500 or 1600 done on one side: which, in cases where one form of the types (as in newspapers) is ready to be worked off while the last side is preparing, is attended with the greatest advantage, since the rate of delivery thereby becomes doubled. The first is that by which our Gazette is printed, and the last described is that with which Mr. B. Bensley is now (and has for a considerable time been) printing the Morning Chronicle newspaper.

“Other leading daily newspapers are also wrought off by steam; as well as several publications of extensive circulation. Like almost every ingenious invention, this has had no small portion of prejudice to encounter, and perhaps has been longer in forcing its way than many other schemes of real utility. The various advantages, however, which it holds forth have attracted the attention of several proprietors of the more extensive printing concerns, who have introduced it with benefit to the public — to whom, by means of this great reduction of labour, the productions of the press may be furnished at a reduced rate of charge.” — Literary Gazette, October 26, 1822.

It may, perhaps, be allowable to make a few observations on this statement, more particularly as Mr. Nicholson is seldom spoken of in connexion with printing machines, and when he is, it is in such a manner as to convey the impression that he was a visionary man, who had some imaginary scheme in his head which he was incompetent to carry into effect. To rebut this opinion I have given the specification of his patent, with his own observations on his invention, which certainly do not discover any symptoms of a weak or a speculative man. I knew Mr. Nicholson personally, and I have no doubt that, had he lived, he would have carried his invention into effect; but he had a number of other pursuits which occupied his time. He published a work on navigation, which I have seen quoted as authority for its opinions; he was the author of a Dictionary of Chemistry, in two quarto volumes; he edited and published monthly Nicholson's Journal of Science, &c. which was in high repute; he wrote the Prospectus for the Royal Institution, on its establishment in 1799; and he likewise kept a large school in Soho Square, the leading feature of which was, a scientific education. I was, for ten years, in the habit of hearing in an undisguised manner the opinions of the most eminent scientific men in England, — as I held the office of Assistant Secretary to the Board of Managers of the Royal Institution, (the Secretary being an honorary officer,) also that of Secretary to the Patrons of the Library, and Secretary to the Committee of Chemistry, as well as Superintendant of their Printing Office, — and in all that time I never heard his name mentioned but with respect among these gentlemen, nor did I once hear him spoken of as a visionary who would project schemes that he was unable to execute. In addition to his multifarious pursuits, he was agent to the late Lord Camelford, whose sudden death left Mr. Nicholson involved in difficulties, from which he could never extricate himself.

Could this man, then, who planned the printing machine, and the manner of printing calico, &c. in an improved and expeditious manner, who moreover published the details of his process, with drawings of the requisite machines, be deemed, with justice, nothing more than “one of whom we can only say that he was simply the first to suggest ideas,” this being all the merit that is allowed him by the Literary Gazette? Now it appears to me that the term “suggesting ideas “refers with rather more truth to Mr. König, who, coming to England with the idea of applying steam as the moving power to presses, and being supported by English capital, spent some years in unavailing efforts to reduce his ideas to practice, and when he could not succeed, gave up the attempt as one completely foiled, and turning round upon Mr. Nicholson's plan, produced a cylindrical printing machine.

Dr. Olinthus Gregory, in a lecture delivered by him before the Mechanics Institution at Deptford, in 1826, among other topics illustrative of the patronage afforded to the arts and sciences by the intelligence and enterprise of this country, directed the attention of his audience to “the case of Mr. König, a truly ingenious foreigner, and his invention of an improved printing press, in which, by duly blending the alternating and rotatory principles of motion, the apparatus is capable of working off 1100 sheets an hour, with the superintendance of two boys. Tracing the history of his invention, of his difficulties, and of his want of encouragement, through the greater part of the continent of Europe, Mr. König says, 'I need hardly add, that scarcely ever was an invention brought to maturity under such circumstances. The well known fact, that almost every invention seeks, as it were, refuge in England, and is there brought to perfection, seems to indicate that the Continent has yet to learn from her the best manner of encouraging the mechanical arts. I had my full share in the ordinary disappointments of continental projectors; and, after having spent in Germany and Russia upwards of two years in fruitless applications, I proceeded to England.'

“What could not be accomplished by the encouragement of princes on the Continent,” proceeds Dr. Gregory, “was effected by the aid of private individuals in London. A few enterprising printers, — and their names cannot be mentioned but with honour on such an occasion; Mr. Thomas Bensley, Mr. George Woodfall, and Mr. Richard Taylor, — liberally assisted this ingenious foreigner in bringing his invention to maturity. The machine was set to work in April 1811, and 3000 copies of sheet H of the “New Annual Register for 1810,” was printed by means of it. This was, doubtless, the first part of a book ever printed solely by a machine. Messrs. Bacon and Donkin were, it is true, simultaneously at work upon analogous contrivances, and, since then, other ingenious artists, especially Applegath and Cowper, have contributed greatly to the simplification of this class of machinery.”

Donkin & Bacon Machine

In 1818, Messrs. Donkin and Bacon obtained a patent for a most ingenious but complex machine, which claims the merit of having been the first to print with a circular movement of the types. It is said that the invention of this machine was simultaneous with that of König. A great point was gained in it, for the composition inking rollers were first introduced in this machine, Mr. König's having rollers covered with leather, which were not found to answer the purpose so well.

In this machine the patent specified the fastening of the pages of type to the surface of a prismatic cylinder having any number of planes from four to eight; to these types the ink was immediately supplied by a large elastic roller placed over the type cylinder, and made to rise and fall in accordance with the irregular motion of the surfaces of the latter; two other and smaller rollers conveying the ink from a receptacle to the larger roller. The sheet of paper to be printed was applied to another revolving prism, composed of segments of cylinders exactly adapted to meet the irregularities of the type roller. To insure the niceties and regularities of motion and of contact required in printing, toothed wheels, corresponding in shape to the prisms, were placed upon the axis; and however strange, at first sight, may appear to non-mechanical persons the working together of metal wheels of such angular shapes, yet by providing for a free vertical motion of the gudgeons of each roller, the operation of the whole machine was steady and uniform. The annexed diagram, representing a section of the principal parts, will enable the reader to form a more correct idea of this curious machine:

Donkin & Bacon Machine
Donkin & Bacon Machine Enlarge

A, the quadrangular prismatic roller, with its surfaces of stereotype plates.
B, the roller for distributing the ink, which it receives from the two smaller rollers a e, in contact with the box i.
C, the pressing cylinder, covered with cloth or felt.
D E, the track of the paper in the direction of the arrows.

The Norwich Mercury, a paper published by Mr. Bacon, contains a prospectus of his newly invented machine, to which is added a notice respecting its merit as compared with that of Mr. König, erected at the Times printing office, from which statement the following is an extract: —

“In Messrs. Bacon and Donkin's machine, there is no reciprocating motion. The types are placed on a prism of as many sides as the nature of the form requires. This prism occupies the centre of an upright frame, like the roller in a copperplate press; below this is a kind of compound-faced roller, suited to the form of the prism; through between these the sheets to be printed (attached to the face of a piece of cloth) are passed in succession, and in the meantime the revolution in the type prism brings its different portions in succession under a system of inking rollers placed over it, by which it receives successive charges of ink, to be delivered to the sheets as they pass in succession between the lower rollers.”

Mr. Hansard, in his “Typographia,” says, that “one machine would not answer for all kinds of work.” And “the only one of these machines that was, I believe, ever made, rests in peace as not being found useful.”

Further developments

On the erection of the machines for printing the Times newspaper, Mr. Bensley being apprehensive that there would be impediments thrown, in the way of their general introduction by the workmen, who had already shown symptoms of opposition, was desirous that I should see them at work, that he might, have my opinion on the subject. I accordingly went with Mr. Joseph Bensley, his eldest son, to look at them, and view their manner of working, and on my return, Mr. Bensley was anxious to see me, that he might have my report. I told him that truly they surpassed any thing I had imagined, and did the work so well, and so expeditiously, that I did not believe any opposition on the part of the workmen could prevent their coming into use. This opinion was gratifying to him: but I also, told him that I foresaw another thing that might probably take place, which would have an equally injurious effect with respect to him. With considerable anxiety he asked to what I alluded; I told him that I thought some man of abilities would step in and simplify them, for they appeared to me complex in their construction. He treated this suggestion with indifference, as a thing that could never happen, and expressed himself perfectly satisfied that no person would ever make the attempt. My prognostication, however, was fulfilled; for immediately after, Mr. Edward Cowper, of the firm of Applegath and Cowper, printers, proved not only its possibility, but its practicability, by sweeping away at once wheels, &c. which had cost, as I was credibly informed at the time, at least £1500. in the course of their experiments; and thus made the machine more simple, and, less liable to be out of order, while he at the same time improved it greatly in its facility of working, and in the quality of the work it produced. Mr. Cowper took out a patent for his improvement; and, as I was told, in consideration of the expense that Mr. Bensley had been at in the pursuit, which amounted to at least £16,000, offered him, as an act of justice, a share of the patent, which was accepted. The machine erected for “The Times “cost the proprietor of that newspaper £3,000.

Messrs. Applegath and Cowper then commenced manufacturing these machines, which met with general approval; they also much improved the inking apparatus. After the dissolution of their partnership, Mr. Cowper established a manufactory for them at Manchester, in conjunction with his brother, he himself continuing to reside in London.

Cowper's machine for printing books
Cowper's machine for printing books Enlarge

In the year 1824 a new mode of machine printing was introduced, that of printing with two colours simultaneously in the same impression. This arose out of the Commission appointed by Government to inquire into the best means of preventing the Forgery of Bank Notes. A pamphlet was published by Sir William Congreve, describing the process as inimitable, except by their machine, for which they had a patent, so that no one else could “possibly produce a facsimile. A design was made, generally composed of a great number of lines in a flourishing style, and, when engraved on two pieces of metal, these lines were printed with two colours, one part sinking below the other after each impression, and, there being two sets of inking rollers, each part was inked at the same time, when the lower part rose again to a level with the other, so that one part of these complicated lines should be black, and the continuation of them should be blue or red, or any other colour that might be thought proper, and any device that might be included in the design should also be in two colours, such, for instance, as the King's arms, and the register should be exact, so that each line should uniformly be perfectly continuous, notwithstanding the change of colour. Government adopted the plan for printing a new stamp on the backs of country bank notes, and also for the Excise Stamps for paper. So far, however, from being inimitable, I have no hesitation in saying, that there never was a plan suggested that was more easy of imitation, even with the common press, and by the customary workmen. The machines were made by Messrs. Donkin and Co.

A single machine, that is, a machine which prints one side of the paper only, may be estimated to produce upon the average one thousand impressions in an hour; and were I to attempt to describe the one by which the Times newspaper is now printed, I should state that it is the mechanism of four single machines combined in one frame, all being worked simultaneously by steam as the motive power: thus there are four places at which to feed it with paper, four printing cylinders, and four places at which the sheets are delivered when printed, so that the actual speed of each part of the machine is rather more than one thousand an hour. This ingenious and skilful combination is the production of Mr. Augustus Applegath.

I have seen it stated by the proprietor of a machine, that it would print at the rate of two thousand impressions in an hour: I have known another assert that his perfecting machine would print one thousand five hundred in the same time. This is a fallacy, which produces disappointment and dissatisfaction. I have had occasion in the course of business to satisfy myself as to their real capability, by attending and carefully observing them at work, and have thus ascertained that a single machine cannot be depended on for more than one thousand in the hour, nor a perfecting machine for more than seven hundred and fifty. I am well aware that both may be driven with greater speed for a short time, but in the case of newspapers and periodical publications, where punctuality is indispensably requisite, I would never calculate upon greater expedition.

With respect to the comparative merits of the cylindrical method of printing and those of the press, the manufacturers of machines as well as most master printers, not content with the real superiority of properties which the machine does certainly possess, attribute to it properties which it does not possess, and which are incompatible with it, namely, those of producing the finest work, and printing the finest impressions from highly finished engravings on wood at the rate of eight hundred or one thousand per hour; even an engraver on wood has fallen into this error, and has produced a work with numerous beautiful illustrations, in which the writer of the book has boldly defended this erroneous opinion, but the engraver himself has cautiously avoided the risk of, and shrunk from, the comparison, and has had the book printed at the press. The Penny Magazine has trumpeted the same fallacy; and yet the spirited Publisher has all his splendid works, with their beautiful illustrations, printed also at the press: thus tacitly acknowledging its superiority, and denying the opinions which he is the means of publishing to the world.

In producing the finest workmanship in printing, it is essentially requisite to use the best ink: this is ink made with strong varnish, which binds the colouring matter, and, when dry, prevents its smearing on being handled or setting-off in the process of binding; the colouring matters are selected with care from among those of the best quality; the whole is ground to a state of impalpability; the strength of the varnish causes the ink to require a great deal of distributing on the balls, which I prefer to rollers for the best work, — See Balls, — in order to diffuse it equally on their surface; the form should be well and carefully beat, so as to coat the face of the types, &c. completely and uniformly with ink, without any superfluity; the pressure should be slow and gradual, what is termed a soaking pull, not quick and abrupt, and when the bar of the press is brought home, the workman should rest there a short time, in order to transfer the ink completely from the types, &c. to the paper, and fix it firmly on its surface. These precautions and care are necessary to produce the finest work in printing; and in every instance, in whatever art or manufacture the article may be, good workmanship and high finish will be found to require more time for their production than in an inferior article.

From the rapidity with which impressions are produced by the cylindrical method of printing, it must be apparent that it is not capable of executing work of a superior kind, as the ink must be weak to enable the light rollers to distribute it as expeditiously as it is required; the ink too must be prepared with a soft varnish to enable it to do so, which deprives it of the valuable property of drying, as well as of binding the colouring matter so as not to smear; this weak ink also incurs the risk of allowing the oil in the varnish to separate from the colouring matter, and thus spread in the paper and discolour it. Another imperfection is, that there is not time to ink the face of the type, &c. properly, which is thus obliged to be done in an imperfect manner with an inferior ink; and in taking the impression, again for lack of time, there is not pressure sufficient to fix the ink firmly to the paper.

As overlays cannot be used in cylindrical printing, the engravers on wood, when producing a subject which is to be printed at a machine, hollow out on the surface of the block the parts that are to appear light, as well as round off the edges that are to be printed lightly, and engrave on those lowered parts, so that the surface is not a perfect plane; and this is to answer the purpose of overlays, thus in practice allowing that of which they deny the necessity and which they ridicule in theory — unequal pressure to produce the desired effect; but the object is not gained by this method, for, to obtain an impression from those lowered parts, thick woollen cloth, called a blanket, is used, which, owing to its elasticity, is pressed into the hollows as well as between the lines of the depths; so that an impression is produced, in which the lights are composed of crude lines, and the depths are muddy, and which show more than the engraved line, and thus the wood-cut does not possess that delicacy in the light parts, nor that firmness in the dark, which are produced by good workmen at the press, and which give to the whole a brilliant effect.

The hollowing of the block on its surface requires great care and judgment, not only in ascertaining the precise situation and bounds, but also the precise depth to which it ought to be lowered; for if a thick blanket be used, the light parts will be produced stronger and heavier than is required, and if a thin one be used, they will either not appear, or, if they do, will be rotten, or else chalky; and some small parts in the depths will always require to be of a full firm colour, which a thick blanket and weak inferior ink will never produce. See Engravings on Wood, Fine Presswork.

The advantages that cylindrical printing possesses are of great importance in the art, and not less so with respect to the public. Its power of printing larger sheets of paper than was ever before contemplated, has enabled the proprietors of newspapers to enlarge them to a previously unparalleled extent. The rapidity with which impressions are multiplied is also an advantage of great consequence, as in the case of morning newspapers, instead of going to press on the evening preceding the publication, they can now wait until five o'clock in the morning, and even later, when if a despatch or an express arrives with any important news, it is in the hands of the public at the usual hour of publication; neither is this rapidity of less advantage to periodical publications, more particularly to those of which a large number is printed, for example, the Evangelical Magazine, and the Methodists Magazine, of each of which there were printed about 24,000 copies. When these were done at press, it was necessary to put the last sheets to press ten days before the publication, whereas now they can delay them till the third day, and yet be punctual in publishing at the regular time. They thus avail themselves of any later intelligence that may arrive, and give it publicity a month earlier than before the invention of cylindrical printing.

Another advantage in machine printing is, the regularity and uniformity of colour through any number of impressions, as it can be regulated with the greatest nicety to any shade; in this instance it is superior to the press for the production of common work, in the uniformity of colour, but only superior to common work in its rivalry with the press.

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1) , 2) Not included by the author. — OBI
m/machines.txt · Last modified: 2013/11/26 04:07 by obi