Sunday, February 12, 2017


The humble ADANA
Click any image for a larger version

This was not my first visit to the National Print Museum. As a former jobbing printer I just can't resist the appeal of all those, sort of Victorian, machines.

The first thing always to catch my eye there is the humble ADANA, even when they have switched it from one end of the room to the other since my last visit.

In my youthful foolishness I bought one of these with the intention of publishing a local newspaper. That was madness and I ended up jobbing printing, from visiting cards to a full set of baptismal certificate blanks. So the ADANA was part of my growing up and coming to terms with the world.

Anyway, I poked around the museum a bit more on this visit and if you're interested I'll show you some of the things I found. If you are then still interested and in a position to do so you should pay a visit to the museum which is a magical place.

The great thing about the Print Museum is that the machines are all out on the floor. It is in a sense a working print room and you can get in close as long as you don't touch.

Wooden Handpress

This is a reproduction of an early wooden press. It was built for The Tudors television series and is currently on loan to the National Print Museum.

Columbian Hand Press

This was one of the first of the iron presses, invented in about 1813. This one dates from 1830. It was originally used to produce books and papers until the advent of mechanised printing during the industrial revolution.

Native American influence of the Eagle

One of the attractive features of the machinery of the period, apart from their mechanical perfection and the quality of the materials, is the extent of the decoration. This eagle on the Columbian serves as a counterweight and, along with its companion the rattlesnake, indicates a Native American influence.

Albion Handpress

This one was invented in 1824 and used mainly for commercial book printing until the middle of the 19th century. Its toggle was less complex than the lever mechanism on the Columbian.

Albion Atlas

Again, the decoration is appealing.

Heidsieck Platen Press

The platen press came in the latter half of the 19th century. It was mechanised and was ideal for quick jobs such as leaflets and flyers.

Original Heidelberg Press

This press, known as The Princess of Presses, came into play in 1913. It was an absolute wonder in its day and variants were still in use right into the offset era. I won't attempt to describe it here but you can read all about it in this piece.

Movable Type

From Gutenberg's time right through to the age of ADANA, movable type has been in use. The process is tedious. Each letter, and space, has to be individually set up. This is done initially in the composing stick, seen on top of the type case above.


Then the composed page is transferred to the chase. Final justification between individial composite elements is carried out, if necessary, and the whole assembly is tensioned by screwing open the quoins, seen here on the left of the chase.

All this may give you an idea why I didn't end up publishing a newspaper on my ADANA.


The real trick in typesetting was the advent of the Linotype machine where whole lines of print could be cast from a keyboard. Each line was known as a slug and you only had to make sure the lines were all assembled correctly, and combined with whatever litho blocks (photos & drawings) came via the art department, and you had a newspaper page ready to print.

At a later stage of development, the page was printed to a papier maché type intermediate surface from which a single page plate was cast and bent to fit onto a rotor. This meant that pages could be printed at very high speed. The Linotype typesetting combined with the rotary press enabled the mass production of newspapers right into my youth.

Last edition of Sunday Press

This is from the last edition of the Sunday Press. You can see the intermediate papier maché page (upright and right way round) and the resultant metal plate for the rotor (bottom right and reversed print).

1916 Proclamation

There is an original of the 1916 proclamation on the wall. What, you might ask is that doing in a print museum? The printing of the proclamation is a story in itself - adventure combined with printing ingenuity. Check it out. And just for reference you can examine the typography of the Print Museum's copy in a larger size here.

Wharfedale Press

And this is a machine which can print a load more of them. It is believed that the actual Proclamation was printed on a machine like this. This particular one was used by the Nenagh Guardian until the 1930s. It could produce up to 800 copies an hour.

I hope the above has whetted your appetite for visiting the marvelous treasure trove which is The National Print Museum. You will see all of the above exhibits, which are all my own photos taken on the spot, and a lot more besides.

Further reading, if you're still interested:

National Print Museum website.

History of Printing in Wikipedia

Letterpress Commons

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