Letterpress Printing - History

History

In about 1440, Johannes Gutenberg is credited with the invention of modern movable type printing from individually cast, reusable letters set together in a form (frame or chase). He also invented a wooden printing press, based on the extant wine press, where the type surface was inked with leather covered ink balls and paper laid carefully on top by hand, then slid under a padded surface and pressure applied from above by a large threaded screw. Later metal presses used a knuckle and lever arrangement instead of the screw, but the principle was the same. Ink rollers made of composition made inking faster and paved the way for further automation.

With the advent of industrial mechanisation, the inking was carried out by rollers which would pass over the face of the type and move out of the way onto a separate ink plate where they would pick up a fresh film of ink for the following sheet. Meanwhile, a sheet of paper was slid against a hinged platen (see image) which was then rapidly pressed onto the type and swung back again to have the sheet removed and the next sheet inserted (during which operation the now freshly inked rollers would run over the type again). Fully automated, 20th-century presses, such as the Kluge and "Original" Heidelberg Platen (the "Windmill"), incorporated pneumatic feed and delivery of the sheet.

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