Home Scribal Arts Structural Book Arts Articles & Notes

One of the reasons we relocated in early 2003 was so that we could begin plans for building a period printing press.  Here you'll find a few notes and link with information on period press'.  We haven't been able to pursue this desire so far but I want to keep these notes about just in case we ever get the chance to make this dream real.

English Common Press


Cushing Common press Workshop Photos


Colonial Williamsburg Common Press


The English Common Press


Picture of the Franklin Press  and Another



My Dead German  more Guetenburg


Briar Press - Gutenberg


William Caxton


Printing in England from Caxton to Barker


Click the image to visit MinVent

Assorted Notes

Taken from http://neil.franklin.ch/Usenet/rec.org.sca/19971125_Printing_press_period_or_not

  • The two oldest surviving printing presses are of the 16th century and are to be found in the Plantijn-Moretus-Museum in Antwerp.

  • The earliest illustration of a printing press is to be found in a "death's dance" cycle made in Lyon in the 1490's.

  • Jost Amman's "Stšndebuch" or "Book of Trades" was first published in 1568. (Dover ISBN 0-486-22886-X) It shows a book printer at his > press.

  • Leonardo da Vinci made some designs for an improved printing press, though it isn't sure whether they were ever executed. He focused of the ergonomically and economical aspects by putting the typecast on an inclined platform, so that the printer would be enabled to put another sheet of paper on the type in less time than before.

  • Gutenberg's cast metal types replaced the plate. They were "mass produced" (one copper tool per letter needed). This had multiple advantages:

    - all letters of the same tape (a, b, c) look the same. This makes reading easier.

    - wood cuts become fuzzy at about 50 copies, useless at 150..200. Modern wood cut artists number their copies, price drops above copy 20! Metal types (mainly lead, but Gutenberg used gold) last 1000+ copies.

    - text consists of stringing letters, this is faster than cutting. Even if you count casting time (don't forget reuse of types).

    - spelling errors can be corrected, simply replace a type. Try correcting cut wood (make a hole, insert a peg, cut that).

  • The first image of a screw-type printing press is dated 1499 - Artist unknown. About 40 pre-1600 A.D. images exist of these presses, but is apparent that some images are adaptations of prior images. Print evidence shows that the basic form of the screw-type press was set and functional at the beginning of the 16th C. and that there were few changes until the start of the 17th C. In 1507 Jodicus Badius Ascensius (of Paris) produced a print showing the model as used throughout the 16th C. this was a wooden screw driven printing press. In 1511 Albrecht Durer sketched a printer using the "wooden screw type" printing press. It is thought that his sketch is of the press used in the printing office of his godfather Anton Koberger. A print dated 1520 (artist unknown - cannot find the artist's mark) shows a fine example of this press with miscellaneous press tools - bodkin, scissors, paste brushes, and the frisket frame.


Antique Print by "The Graphic" DATE PRINTED: June 30th 1877
The overall size is approx. 22x16 inches.
This is a brief description with a note of the contents of this picture: A moment in history where Caxton explains the machinations of his world changing invention, the printing press. The King & Queen look very interested, as the young princes stay close to their mother. The opposites of their elegant and opulent dress, compared to Caxton and the press worker, is quite striking here. The above scanned image does this print no justice as it has much more detail than the impression shows.

Conversations with Printing Press Historian Steve Pratt:

  • 12/10/2002 - First drawings of English Common Press only 50 years after the Gutenberg Press

Book History Workshop Conchobar hopes to attend this workshop with Steve Pratt in the future.


Additional Bibliography

  1. Blumenthal, Joseph. 1973. Art of the Printed Book 1455-1955. New York, NY: The Pierpont Morgan Library.

  2. First Scottish Books http://www.nls.uk/didgitallibrary/chepman/index.html, accessed December 2002. National Library of Scotland.

  3. Jean, Georges. 1992. Writing: The Story of Alphabets and Scripts. New York, NY: Harry N. Abrams Inc.

  4. White, Jan V. 1988. Graphic Design for the electronic age. New York, NY: Watson-Guptill Publications.


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