BED AND PLATEN PRINTING MACHINES (continued)

XXXXIXXXXXXXEARLY BRITISH MACHINES

Wilson (1879) says the first platen machine in England was built for Messrs. Spottiswoode in 1830. Jacobi (1919) says Holms' Scandinavian appeared in England in 1841. Wilson and Reader (1958) A History of David Napier & Sons, 1808-1958 (London: Weidenfeld & Nicholson, 1958) says  David Napier 'turned his attention to the platen machine in the late 'thirties, but the firm's big success with it did not come until the early 'fifties.' While the Brown, Brooks and Long machines were true double platens like the later Hopkinson & Cope and Napier presses (one platen, two type-beds), the early Napier and Holm's Scandinavian were singles. In fact, the early Napier resembled the Scandinavian.

    Gaskill offers some background:

In the earlier days of printing machine invention and improvement, calico tympans with a thick blanket between them were used; the impressions were consequently not sharp, and the work had a thick and dirty appearance. The hand-press was resorted to whenever first class work was required. These were the pressmen's golden days; but machine managers became more enlightened, and soon found that by substituting parchment for calico tympans, and sheets of paper for blankets, and by regulating the number, size, and weight of the rollers, work could be produced equal in quality to the very best press-work at a wonderfully accelerated speed.

XXXXXXXXXX.XXXXXNapier, 1837 [G.B.]

David Napier, (1785-1873) inventor of the sheet gripper for cylinder machines, received British patent  GB 7343 for a bed and platen machine carriage motion. The patent appears to be irrelevant to his 1837 machine as constructed, if the illustration in Wakeman (1873) is accurate.

    The Wakeman cut shows a Scandinavian-like machine with a different means of drawing the platen down onto impression. Instead of Holm's crank motion, a heavy cross-shaft near the base of the machine carried eccentric wheels on its ends which acted upon rollers on the lower ends of the platen rods. Platen return was by counterweight.

XXXXXXXXXXXXxXScandinavian, 1842 [G.B.]

Swedish inventor Carl August (Charles Augustus) Holm introduced his single-ended machine in England after initially doing so in Germany. In England, Braithwaite & Milner constructed them at first; complaints led to the job going to Nasmyth, Gaskell & Co. of Manchester. In Germany, they were produced by Hummel of Berlin, Koenig & Bauer of Warzburg and Sigl of Berlin. The first English installation was at W. Clowes & Son, London. British patents GB7918 of 1838 and GB12382 of 1848 are relevant. An accurate draft of the Scandinavian appears on page 10 of Harrild's 1860 price list. The illustration (below) is from Jacobi (1919).     

    The stationary bed was positioned across the frame, contrary to handpress construction, and the platen descended to take the impression. Frisket, tympan and rollers attached to a reciprocating carriage; all three forme rollers cleared the forme. Like the forme rollers, the wavers were set in forks on the carriage, distributing the ink upon a stationary ink-table at the rear of the bed. The rear-most waver acted as an ink ductor, bearing upon the fountain roll when  the carriage was at  rest  in  its  inner position. The fountain was affixed to the rear of the frame; the fountain roll was turned by a ratchet and pawl, moved by the descent of the platen.

    The platen was supported upon two heavy rods, one at each side of the press, which were attached to and pulled down by a stout beam beneath the bed. The beam rose and fell in response to a crank in the mainshaft, to which it was linked by a heavy connecting-rod. The side rods projected below the attached beam into guides cast into the lower side rails of the frame, and were held above in similar guides on the upper rails.

    The mainshaft ran longitudinally under the press, below the impression girder and above the moving beam which it activated. Keyed to the rear end of the shaft was a large bevel wheel, geared to the power shaft upon which were tight-and-loose pulleys and flywheel. A grooved cam was fitted to the shaft's front end; it moved the carriage via links and a long curved lever. The shaft's mid-section was cranked: The bed was drawn from beneath the platen to access the forme.

    'Where fine work is required, all the means of making ready are the same as at a Common Hand Press,' said Hopkinson & Cope. The Scandinavian was offered in super royal (platen 28"x21") and double crown (platen 31"x22"); the smaller could be supplied with Hand Apparatus for four pounds ten extra. List prices (1862) were 125 and 155. Two attendants were required to feed and take-off. Hopkinson & Cope claimed speeds of 600-700 iph and said, 'for woodcut printing it cannot be excelled', noting that nearly 100 were at work.

XIXXXXBrooks, 18(??); Brown, 18(??); Long, 18(??) [G.B.]

John Brooks of London, James Brown of Kirkcaldy and Thomas Long of Edinburgh are the names I associate with the earliest double platens and about which more information is needed. The double platen offered the facilities of two machines with somewhat lower first cost and an important saving of space. A total of six double platens made variously by these three builders is noted in David McKitterick's A History of Cambridge University Press, (Cambridge: CUP, 1992-2004) Vol. 2, as part of CUP's equipment in 1868, which also comprised seven Napier double platens, one Napier single cylinder and one Middleton double cylinder. McKitterick mentions the scrapping of a Long double in 1886.

    The following description of an early James Brown double is from an article on 'Printing' in Chambers's Information for the People, (Philadelphia: Lippincott, 1867), written for a British publication ten years earlier:

'The best kind of flat-surface machine was the contrivance of a gentleman in London, and is now in general use in this country. It consists of an upright frame and printing-platen, resembling the common handpress, with a type-carriage at each side. The type-carriages go below the platen alternately; so that, in point of fact, the apparatus is two presses with one printing-surface to serve both. The movements to and fro of the type carriages, and the pull downwards of the platen, are effected by machinery beneath. The forms are also inked by an apparatus for the purpose. This machine requires a layer-on and taker-off of sheets at each end, besides a superintendent, and works about 700 sides per hour, . . . Since the expiry of the patent, machines of this kind have been made by J. Brown & Co., engineers, Kirkcaldy. The machine is very beautiful and effective, answering every purpose of book-work in ordinary demand. . .  The principal advance [in printing machine development] . . . has been since the year 1832, when the printing of cheap literary sheets rose into importance, and by a fortunate coincidence, the patents of various machines having about the same time expired, a new impulse was given to the trade. . . . The making of printing-machines has in itself become a great business.'

    The article's date of writing is indicated by its mention of the 'just finished' Hoe type-revolvers for the London Times (1857). The 1842 Edinburgh edition of Chamber's Information for the People page 637, presents the same material, adding that the London gentleman's machines 'have been working for some years in Mr. Spottiswoode's printing office', supporting Wilson's (1879) date of 1830. The cut of the Brown press shows that it resembled a lighter version of the 'old-style' Hopkinson & Cope 'double,' which it preceded, and seems to depict the 'grooved-drum' bed motion typical of the later H&C.

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