BED AND PLATEN PRINTING MACHINES (continued)

XXXXXXXXXXIXXXXAdams, 1836 [U.S.A.]

The classic American book press, invented by Isaac Adams of Boston, catalogued by Hoe as late as 1881, manufactured by I.&S. Adams until 1856 and by Hoe thereafter.

    A perfect understanding of the machine may be gained from the complete specification and superb drawings of British Patent No. 2264 of 1854, covering 2, 4 and 6-roller presses, with two variant gripper arrangements. The U.S. patent of 1836 (specification and drawings) is useful, as are the Hoe catalogues with their 'putting-up' instructions and diagrams. Ringwalt's American Encyclopedia of Printing offers information on operation and make-ready in the articles on the engraver  Joseph Adams, pp 20-21; Adams Press, pp 21-22; Making Ready, pp 298-299 and Presswork, page 361. Abbott's The Harper Establishment is required reading; the cut (below) of the Harper pressroom is reproduced in Moran, and is fairly accurate, as is the old cut of a hand-cranked early version with 'side-winder' fly, seen in several publications including Harold Sterne's Catalogue of Nineteenth Century Printing Presses.  The ubiquitous Jocelyn cut (as seen on this website's Press Gallery, page 37) is a poorly drawn, disgraceful rendition.

    The US National Archives in Washington, DC holds a small collection of letters, from leading printers and printers' engineers, in support of Adams's request for extension of his 1836 patent. While furnishing a great deal of fascinating information, the letters convicingly demonstrate the vital importance of the Adams press to the American trade. Part II (Scribner's Magazine, May 1880 pp 36-37) of DeVinne's article on woodcut printing describes the deficiencies of the Adams and its eventual replacement by the cylinder, beginning in the 1860s.

    The machine featured a roll-away platen, toggle-driven rising bed, drum distribution, travelling set-off sheet, tympan attached to platen, reciprocating carriage with two, four, or six rollers entirely covering the forme and grippers to hold the sheet on the frisket, pointing board to allow pre-feeding of the sheet, impression throw-off, automatic fly delivery (blithely infringed and vigorously defended by Hoe). The press required a feeder and ran about 800 iph. 

    There has been confusion regarding J. Adams and I. Adams. Engraver Joseph Adams of New York advised pressmaker Isaac Adams of Boston when the latter was asked by Harper's to furnish presses capable of running heavy cut formes without double or triple-rolling. The two gentlemen were not closely related. See Ringwalt (1871) pp 20-21.

    From Putman's Home Cyclopedia (New York: Geo. P. Putman, 1852):

The platen press of the best construction has self-inking rollers and a fly . . . It is worked by two persons, one of whom, a stout man, keeps it in motion by turning a crank attached to a fly-wheel [while the other, a slight young damsel, lays-on the sheets]. The bed and platen are immense masses of cast iron, intended by their strength to guard against an inclination to spring, which is very apparent in the hand-press, and partially corrected by making the bed and platen slightly concave on their face.

    While we wonder whether the author really meant 'concave' or if the impression faces were actually crowned (convex) as in some Universal presses, he goes on to say that such a machine, 26"x42", will weigh 8,090 pounds, run 400 iph hand-cranked and 600 iph powered. And also,

'Among the bed and platen presses, the most valuable and the most extensively used, are those manufactured by Mr. J. Adams [sic] of Boston. . . . Mr. Adams's press was the first in this country to which a fly frame was attached. It requires but one person (a woman) to tend it and put the paper on the register pins . . . It is adapted for stereotype and letter-press, as well as wood-cut printing.'

    Haven Hawley's 2004 paper 'Evidence from the Margins' (www.prism.gatech.edu) cites a date of 1844 for the introduction of the popular 26"x 40" size, and quotes 1849 prices of $1550 (2-roller) and $1750 (6-roller) from Specimen of Printing Types and Ornaments Cast by John T. White (New York: John T. White, 1849). The smallest competing Hoe cylinder (28.5"x 41" bed) Hawley notes, cost $1600 and $1800 that year. DeVinne states:

'For many years the book printers of England and America opposed machines. . . . It was the almost unanimous opinion . . . even as late as 1840, that really fine wood-cut presswork must be done on the hand-press . . .' And, on p 36: 'Of most importance was the Adams power press . . . It supplanted all rivals . . . For nearly thirty years it was regarded as the only machine fit for printing books. This preference was warranted by its success with type-work and with the small wood-cuts which were sparsely scattered over the pages of American books thirty-five years ago. It was not so successful with large and black wood-cuts . . . It was on this press that the experiment of four and six inking-rollers was first made, but only to the improved printing of cuts of small size and light color; on full-page or double-page cuts the failure of the press to face the cuts was as decided as ever. The unavoidable inference that the Adams press was too weak for heavy wood-cut work was formed very slowly.'

    The light dawned, according to DeVinne, when publishers noted 'that for some years the large wood-cuts in manufacturers' catalogues, which had been printed by job-printers on cylinder presses, showed a sharpness of line, a fulness of color and a clearness of tint rarely seen in good library work. . . . The easy victory won by the cylinder was largely due to improvements in their construction made after 1860.' DeVinne goes on to describe the introduction, at about the same time, of printing on dry paper and the adoption of hard packing on cylinders.

     In 1871 Ringwalt stated 'Hoe's Catalogue says that for letterpress and cut work of the finest quality, these presses cannot be equalled, and, in spite of the numerous improvements in cylinder presses, this assertion is believed by many experienced book-printers.'  On tympan packing for the Adams, Ringwalt says: 'The tympans in general use are composed of fullers' board, covered with packing or draughting paper; or several sheets of draughting paper, covered with fine muslin or  billiard cloth.' Overlays were applied to the face of the tympan; the tympan frame held the packing tightly to the platen, to which it was attached. Frisket frame and forme rollers reciprocated with the carriage. Frisket corks were not required, as the bed fell away from the frisket after the impression. Bearers, frisketed-out, were placed in blank pages and, if the forme had to be locked-up off-center to allow a narrow sheet to reach the grippers, bearers were required at the tail of the forme to keep the center of pressure directly over the toggles.

    Vague allusions to Adams presses running as late as the 1920s are found; I've never seen reliable evidence. The Adams of Bruce Rogers's time at the Riverside Press was probably an I.&S. Adams handpress, although the Riverside had purchased an old Adams machine near the end of the century for imitating handpress work.

   XXXXXXXX.XXHopkinson & Cope, 18?? [G.B.]

'These Machines produce the Finest Description of Book-work, and are in use in most of the large offices; the accuracy and solidity of their manufacture prevents those breakages which are so frequent with flat-surface machines,' according to Harrilds' 1860 price list, which asked 390  for the double-demy (35"x 22" platen). An additional 35 was asked if both ends were to have the 'mouse-roller' travelling distributor. Advertised speed was 1200-1600 iph (both ends).

    By comparison, the list offers the 23"x35" Marinoni/Cope Anglo-French for 345 and the double-demy Connisbee Main for 150. But as Gaskill (1877) points out in favor of the double-platen, 'The work produced by them resembles press-work more closely than that thrown off by any other machine.' The H&C and previous double-platens were often called 'old-style' or "ordinary" platens to distinguish them, as a class, from Napier's improved doubles.

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