IMPROVEMENTS AFTER GUTENBERG

The next 350 years saw significant improvements in the screw printing press. About 1550 the wooden screw was replaced by iron. Twenty years later(ca. 1570), innovators added a double-hinged chase made up of a frisket, a piece of parchment with a cut out exposing only the actual text to be printed serving to prevent ink spotting the non print areas of the paper, and a tympan, a layer of a soft, thick fabric to improve the regularity of the pressure despite irregularities in the height of the type.

About 1620 Willem Janszoon Blaeu in Amsterdam added a counterweight to the pressure bar which made the platen rise automatically; this was the "Dutch press", a copy of which was to be the first press introduced into North America, by Stephen Daye at Cambridge, Massachusetts in 1639.

About 1790 an English scientist and inventor William Nicholson, devised a method of inking using a leather covered cylinder (later in conjunction with a composition of gelatin, glue, and molasses). This was the first introduction of rotary movement into the printing process.

The metal press (1795).
The first all-metal press was constructed in England in about 1795 . Several years later a metal press was built in the United States where the action of the screw was replaced by a series of metal joints. This was the "Columbian," which was followed by the "Washington" of Samuel Rust, the apogee of the screw press inherited from Gutenberg; its printing capacity was about 250 copies an hour.

Stereotypy and stereography (late 18th century).
Increased demand for printed materials stimulated the search for greater speeds and volumes. Stereotypy and stereography were conceived and explored. Stereotypy, consisted in making an impression on text blocks of type in clay or soft metal in order to make lead molds of the whole. The stereotyped plates thus obtained made it economically possible to print the same text on several presses at the same time with the added benefit of having the type pieces immediately available for further use and thus increasing the rate at which they could be recycled. This process was used with notable success around 1790 in Paris.

A variation of stereotypy was galvanoplastic metallization, after 1848, in which process plates of thin metal lined with a base of lead alloy were made electrolytically by the deposition of a coat of copper on a wax mold of the typeform.

Stereography was tried in which sets of copper matrices of each letter were manufactured in multiples. The matrices were then assembled as text, so that they covered the whole surface of the bottom of a mold from which the lead plate was then cast. Once the cast had been made, the matrices were available for further use. The idea was to bypass the composition of the type in making the mold.

Koenig's mechanical press (early 19th century).
The prospect of utilizing steam power in printing prompted research into means by which the different operations of the printing process could be joined together in a single cycle.

In 1803, in Germany, Friedrich Koenig envisaged a press in which the raising and lowering of the platen, the to-and-fro movement of the bed, and the inking of the form by a series of rollers were controlled by a system of gear wheels.

Presses with a mechanized platen produced satisfactory results after the perfection, in the United States, of the "Liberty" (1857), in which the action of a pedal caused the platen to be held against the bed by the arms of a clamp.

Though Nicholson very early took out patents for a printing process using a cylinder to which the composed type pieces were attached, he was never able to develop the necessary technology involved.

The cylinder was in fact the most logical geometric form to use in a cyclical process. Given an equal amount of energy, the pressure exerted by a flat platen had to be spread over the whole of the surface to be printed, whereas the pressure exerted by a cylinder could be concentrated only on the strip of surface actually in contact with the cylinder at any one instant. The efficiency of the cylinder was demonstrated as early as 1784 on a French press for books for the blind.

In 1811 Koenig and an associate, Andreas Bauer designed a cylinder as a platen bearing the sheet of paper and pressing it against the typeform placed on a flatbed that moved to and fro. The rotation of the cylinder was linked to the forward movement of the bed but was then disengaged each time the bed moved back to go under the inking rollers.

In 1814 the first stop-cylinder press of this kind driven by a steam engine was put into service at the Times of London. This press had two cylinders, which revolved one after the other according to the to-and-fro motion of the bed. This additional cylinder doubled the number of impressions; a speed of 1,100 sheets per hour was achieved.

In 1818 Koenig and Bauer designed a double press in which a sheet of paper printed on one side under one of the cylinders then passed to the other cylinder, to be printed on the other side. This was called a perfecting machine. In 1824 William Church added grippers to the cylinder to pick up, hold, and then automatically release the sheet of paper.

In order to make the cycle of the cylinder press completely continuous thus causing greater efficiency, the platen needed to be cylindrical as did the typeform. In 1844 Richard Hoe in the United States patented this type revolving press, the first rotary to be based on this principle. It consisted of a cylinder of large diameter, bearing columns of type bracketed together on its outer surface; pressure was applied by several small cylinders, each of which was fed sheets of paper by hand. This system achieved speeds of more than 8,000 sheets per hour. The system however did have one prime drawback: fragility; faulty locking up of the forms caused the type to fall out of the cylinder.

This defect was remedied through the application of stereotypy to this production method; that is, the forming of curved plates. By making an impression of the typeform on strong pasteboard, the flong, or mat, this was fixed against the inside surface of a rounded mold, which was then injected with lead alloy. From 1849 on experiments were conducted with this process; it was regularly used in London by the Times beginning in 1856 and after 1858 this method was in general use throughout the printing industry.

Mechanization of feeding the press with paper was accomplished by the use of a continuous roll of paper (Web) supplied on reels instead of sheets. Technically, producing paper in a continuous roll had been known since the beginning of the century. The first roll-fed rotary press was made by William Bullock of the United States in 1865. The press contained a device for cutting the paper after printing and produced 12,000 complete newspapers per hour. It wasn't until after 1879 that automatic folding devices were incorporated into rotaries, the first of which were designed by Bullock and Hoe.

In time other types of curved stereotype plates were used on rotary presses. These included electrotype plates that are curved before being backed; rubber or plastic plates made by molding or by a photomechanical process; and metal wraparound plates made by photoengraving or electronic engraving.

Attempts to mechanize composition (mid-19th century).
Mechanization of the composition process was difficult to achieve in the 19th century, however, the invention of a compression mold in 1806 was a step leading toward the mechanization of the production of type. In 1822 William Church of Boston patented a typesetting machine consisting of a keyboard on which each key released a piece of type of the corresponding letter stored in channels in a magazine. The pieces of type obtained through this means had to be assembled by hand with the composed line then manually justified. Church avoided the problem of distribution by annexing to the magazine a device for constantly casting new pieces of type.

Over the next 50 years many machines based on the same principle appeared some with the addition of a mechanism that placed the selected type pieces the right way round. These machines produced type at the rate of 5,000 to 12,000 characters per hour, as opposed to about 1,500 by hand composition. The type in all of these machines was simply delivered in a continuous row, which then had to be divided into lines and justified. Thus, the composing operation was still not complete.

With the introduction of a mechanical distributor, a sort of reverse compositor where pieces of type from lines that had been used passed before the operator, who then pressed the corresponding key on his keyboard for the appropriate channel in the magazine to be opened up to accept the type. The speed of mechanized distribution did not exceed 5,000 characters per hour and was, thus, no faster than hand distribution.

Justification, which requires the intelligent estimation of the size of spaces between words was one of the prime difficulties encountered in the mechanization of letterpress composition, the other being the time taken during which the pieces of type were used for printing, which delay kept composition and distribution from being integrated into one complete cycle.

Typecasting compositors (1880s).
The Linotype machine was invented in the 1880s in the United States, by the German born Ottmar Mergenthaler. The Linotype was a typecasting compositor that cast type in a solid one-piece line, or slug, from movable matrices of each letter. The matrices were notched so that they could return only to their proper slot in the magazine after use. Justification was accomplished by inserting wedged spacebands between groups of matrices immediately after making up the words of a line. Here the matrices rather than the type pieces went through the four basic operations of letterpress composition; cast lead was used for printing. The Linotype can produce the equivalent of 5,000 to 7,000 characters per hour.

In 1885, the Monotype machine was invented in the United States, by Tolbert Lanston. The Monotype, casts individual pieces of type for a line and justifies each line by counting in units the width of the spaces taken up by the pieces of type and adding spacers to fit. The matrices are indefinitely reusable, and the pieces of type, which are used only for the impressions, are returned to the caster. The contemporary Monotype typecaster is controlled by a ribbon of paper perforated on a separate keyboard. It can produce 10,000 to 12,000 characters per hour.

In 1911 Washington I. Ludlow, an American perfected a typecasting machine for the large display type. The matrices are assembled by hand in a composing stick, which is then inserted above the opening of a mold; the matrices are also distributed by hand.