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History of The Printing-press (502).- "I am preparing a work about journalism and wish to ask if you can tell me where I can obtain a brief history of the printing-press from early years up to the present age." Answer.- In the year 1902 Robert Hoe, of New York city, published a short history of the printing-press and of the improvements in printing machinery, from the time of Gutenberg to the present day, which will assist you in your work.
-The Inland Printer, Volume 44
An excerpt from the beginning of the book:
ABOUT the year 1450, Gutenberg was engaged in printing his first book from movable types. No method of taking A m. the impressions simpler than that employed by him can be imagined, unless it be with a "buffer," or by means of a brush rubbed over the paper laid upon the "form" of type, after the manner of the Chinese in printing from engraved blocks. His printing press consisted of two upright timbers, with cross pieces of wood to stay them together at the top and bottom. There were also intermediate cross timbers, one of which supported the flat "bed" upon which the type was placed, and through another a wooden screw passed, its lower point resting on the centre of a wooden "platen," which was thus screwed down upon the type. After inking the form with a ball of leather stuffed with wool, the printer spread the paper over it, laying a piece of blanket upon the paper to soften the impression of the platen and remove inequalities. This was the machine which Gutenberg used. The mechanical principle embodied in it was found in the old cheese and linen presses ordinarily seen in the houses of medieval times.
Were Gutenberg called upon to print his Bible to-day he would find virtually the same type ready for his purpose as that made by him, no change having taken place in its general conformation; but he would be bewildered in the maze of printing machinery of the beginning of the twentieth century.
The simple form of wooden press, worked with a screw by means of a movable' bar, continued in use for about one hundred and fifty years, or until the early part of the seventeenth century, without any material change. The forms of type were placed upon the same wooden and sometimes stone beds, incased in frames called "coffins," moved in and out laboriously by hand, and after each impression the platen had to be screwed up with the bar so that the paper which had been printed upon it might be removed and hung up to dry.
The first recorded improvements in this press were made by William Jensen Blaew, a printer of Amsterdam, some time about 1620. They consisted in passing the spindle of the screw through a square block which was guided in the wooden frame, and from this block the platen was suspended by wires or cords; the block, or box, preventing any twist in the platen, and insuring a more equal motion to the screw. He also placed a device upon the press for rolling in and out the bed, and added a new form of iron hand lever for turning the screw. Blaew's press was introduced into England, and used there as well as on the continent, being substantially the same as that Benjamin Franklin worked upon as a journeyman in London, early in the last century.
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