The old press.
Earl Stanhope.
An anxious night.

Statement in the Times.
König's machine.
Cowper and Applegath.
Scene in Printing-House Square.

THE clumsy press, with which William Caxton and Wynkyn de Worde printed off their black-letter volumes in the Almonry or Red-pale at Westminster, continued with slight alterations to supply Britain with the works of Shakspere, Milton, Dryden, Pope, Goldsmith, Cowper, in a word, of all the writers who adorned our literature until the present century was some years old.

Its great improver was Charles, third Earl Stanhope, who, born in 1753, devoted much of his aristocratic leisure to the study of machinery. The chief change he made was “in forming the entire press of iron, the plate being large enough to print a whole sheet at once, instead of requiring a double action.” The blank paper, being placed upon a frame-work, is folded down


the newly inked types, which lie in a “form" upon a horizontal slab. Paper and type being wheeled, by the turning of a handle, under a heavy square plate of metal, this, called the platten, is, by means of a lever, brought down upon the paper, pressing it suddenly and strongly against the type. The printed sheet is wheeled

[ocr errors]
[blocks in formation]

out; another takes its place; and so the work of the Stanhope press proceeds.

A Saxon clockmaker, called König, who could find no Continental printers to take up the subject of an improved press, came to London with his plans about the year 1804. He found the presses there throwing off 250 single impressions in an hour; and setting steadily to work in the face of many difficulties, he persevered until he had constructed a printing machine capable of being worked by stean. Already, about the year 1790, a Mr. Nicholson had taken out a patent for printing by revolving cylinders, one of which was surrounded with type, and the other with soft leather, so that a sheet, passing between them, received the impression. It remained for König to apply this principle to the steam machine; and so considerable was his success, that in 1814 Mr. John Walter of the T'imes, alive to everything in the shape of literary progress, gave him a commission to set up his cylinders on the premises of the great Daily.

This was a dangerous move, needing the utmost caution; for the infuriated pressmen, maddened by the prospect of hand-labour in printing being superseded by machinery, would have torn to pieces both inventor and invention, had they got any inkling of the work that was going on, not many yards away.

When all was ready, the pressmen were told one night to wait for news expected from the Continent, and at six o'clock on a Nov. 29, dark November morning, Mr. Walter came in among 1814 them with the damp sheets in his hand, to tell them that the Times was already printed off by steam; that if they meant violence, he was ready for them; but that if they kept quiet, their wages should be continued until they got work elsewhere. Taken completely aback, they looked in amazement at the paper which he distributed among them, and without a struggle they yielded to the power of this friendly foe. And ever since that anxious night the clank of the engine and the rushing of white hot steam have been heard amid the multitudinous noises of Printing House Square.

The following announcement appeared in the Times of that




same November morning :-"The reader now holds in his hands one of the many thousand impressions of the Times newspaper, which were taken last night by a mechanical apparatus. That the magnitude of the invention may be justly appreciated by its effects, we shall inform the public that after the letters are placed by the compositors, and enclosed in what is called a 'form," little more remains for man to do than to attend and watch this unconscious agent in its operations. The machine is then merely supplied with paper; itself places the form, inks it, adjusts the paper to the form newly inked, stamps the sheet, and gives it forth to the hands of the attendant, at the same time withdrawing the form for a fresh coat of ink, which itself again distributes, to meet the ensuing sheet, now advancing for impression: and the whole of these complicated acts are performed with such a velocity and simultaneousness of movement, that no less than 1100 sheets are impressed in one hour.”

König's first machine, although an undoubted stride far beyond the Stanhope press, was comparatively clumsy and complicated. Its worst point was the inking apparatus, in which no fewer than forty wheels were always at work. The type was laid on a flat surface, and the impression was taken by passing it under a large cylinder. He afterwards improved the machine, so as to accomplish the printing of the sheet on both sides.

A simpler machine by Cowper and Applegath was introduced in 1818, which, in order to secure register-a technical name for the perfect coincidence of the printed matter on opposite sides of the same sheet—had, between the printing cylinders, two drums, under and over which the paper was passed. Still the march of improvement continued. A four-cylinder machine, also by Cowper and Applegath, began in 1827 to print at the rate of about 5000 copies in an hour. Napier also made many improve

ments. The process of inking became simpler, and so 1848 the work went on, until in 1848. Applegath set up a

machine, which consisted of a great central upright drum,

surrounded by eight smaller cylinders also vertical, bound in cloth, and connected by toothed wheels with the central mass,






[ocr errors]

so that the rate of revolution should be uniform in all the nine. The type was arranged in vertical columns upon the great drum. Every cylinder had its own inking apparatus. Eight workmen, standing on elevated stages before eight piles of blank paper, supplied sheet after sheet to the tape fingers of the monster, which, drawing the paper down to a cylinder, passed it round, and carried it off impressed. About 12,000 copies in an hour were thus. produced. Hoe of New York is now the engineer, who supplies Times, Scotsman, and all our leading newspapers with their huge wonder-working machines.

On the 7th of May 1850, the Times and its Supplement contained 72 columns, or 17,500 lines, made up of more than one million types. Two-fifths of this matter were written after seven in the evening. Here are some notes of the night's work :

[blocks in formation]

The entire impression of this gigantic newspaper, for one day, was therefore completed in about four hours. . But even 1850, near as it looks, is behind the age


newspaper life. Let us see how the Times is worked in 1861. And here. we need make no apology for borrowing the words of a graphic. describer, who is himself, if we mistake not, thoroughly familiar with the scene he depicts.*

“The printing-house of the Times, near Blackfriars Bridge, forms a companion picture to Gutenberg's printing-room in the old abbey at Strasbourg, and illustrates not only the development of the art, but the progress of the world during the intervening centuries. Visit Printing House Square in the day-time, and you find it a quiet, sleepy place, with hardly any signs of life or movement about it, except in the advertisement office in the corner, where people are continually going out and in, and the clerks have a ,

* Froin “The Triumphs of Invention and Discovery," by J. Hamilton Fyfe.




busy time of it, shovelling money into the till all day long. But come back in the evening, and the place will wear a very different aspect. All signs of drowsiness have disappeared, and the office is all lighted up, and instinct with bustle and activity. Messengers are rushing out and in, telegraph boys, railway porters, and "devils' of all sorts and sizes. Cabs are driving up every few minútes and depositing reporters, hot from the gallery of the House of Commons or the House of Lords, each with his budget of short-hand notes to decipher and transcribe. Up stairs, in his sanctum, the editor and his deputies are busy preparing or selecting the articles and reports, which are to appear in the next day's paper. In another part of the building the compositors are hard at work, picking up types, and arranging them in "stickfulls,' which being emptied out into 'galleys,' are firmly fixed therein by little wedges of wood, in order that proofs' may be taken of them. The proofs pass into the hands of the various sets of readers, who compare them with the copy' from which they are set up, and mark any errors on the margin of the slips, which then find their way back to the compositors, who correct the types according to the marks. The 'galleys' are next seized by the persons charged with the making-up' of the paper, who divide them into columns of equal length. An ordinary Times newspaper, with a single inside sheet of advertisements, contains seventy-two columns, or 17,500 lines, made up of upwards of a million pieces of type ; of which matter about two-fifths are often written, composed, and corrected after seven o'clock in the evening. If the advertisement sheet be double, as it frequently is, the paper will contain ninety-six columns. The types set up by the compositors are not sent to the machine. A mould is taken of them in a composition of brown paper, by means of which a stereotype'is cast in metal, and from this the paper is printed. The advertisement sheet, single or double, as the case may be, is generally ready for the press between seven and eight o'clock at night. The rest of the paper is divided into two 'forms,'—that is, columns arranged in pages and bound together by an iron frame, one for each side of the sheet. Into the first of these the

« ElőzőTovább »