This reel-fed flatbed press was the invention of Scottish printer Tom Cossar, whose father John founded a printing business in Glasgow in 1867.
Although never patented, John Cossar had invented a folding and pasting machine to help his newspaper and printing business run more smoothly but Tom was to go a step further with the creation of his masterpiece, which was to become known as the Cossar press.
Tom’s passions lay with designing and manufacturing printing presses. His first complete Cossar press was shipped to New Zealand in 1903 and four years later his two-page wide press, which enabled up to an eight-page paper to be printed in one operation, was installed in the Strathearn Herald premises in Crieff.
THE press is also a symbol of a well known Crieff family’s continuity. David Philips was the last in a long line of Philips to edit and produce the Herald on the mammoth machine.
It began with David’s great grandfather, also David. The paper then passed to David’s grandfather, Edmund, then David Philips senior, affectionately known as the ‘Boss’, before finally coming under the helm of the present David Philips.
As an apprentice David junior learned all aspects of the business, especially using the machinery including the Cossar Press. He remembers one of his jobs was having to crawl underneath it to oil all the holes. He said: “Printing was a different part of the process altogether and it was always recognised as so by the unions.
“You were either somebody who set up the type or you were somebody who printed it. In those days one could never cross over but people did in our place because it was a small concern.” And it was for this reason and the reliability of the Cossar press that the Herald never missed an edition.
“The paper even went out during the general strike and the printing strike. Union members were compelled to go on strike during the printing strike but my father and I worked though the night to ensure the paper appeared.
My forebears had done the same during the general strike, and also assisted with the Perthshire Advertiser to make sure that it was published.
“The Herald was printed on a Thursday afternoon. On press day you could hear it running in the house upstairs and from outside on the pavement. You could feel the vibrations of it operating although you could stand a coin on its edge on it and it wouldn’t move. Tom Cossar was a wizard. The press is still in excellent order
Reporters would type up their pieces and local correspondents send in articles. David and his father would sub-edit them and create the layout. The articles would then be sent through to the case room foreman who would typeset them in hot metal before printing up a proof for final checking. Pages would be imposed and the press would start rolling.
When the paper was printed it would be parcelled up with paste and string and delivered to the depot at Alexander’s Bus Station for onward transportation to the outlying communities.
“We would hear about it if we were ever late,” added David. “Sometimes the paper would burst on the reel. If it had a nick in it or a hole, it would catch. We would have to stop the machine as quickly as possible and clean all the inked rollers again.”
The Lagonda has attracted a lot of attention — it’s one of those machines that few people have seen and had attained an almost mythical status.
The machine was installed in the 1950s, while Gary Arber was in the Royal Air Force, but it was never very popular.
The feed mechanism is driven by a long, single bar running from left to right and it was very difficult to operate.
The British Printer write-up of the Lagonda suggested they could be run side-by-side, but the way the motor housing is positioned leads me to believe that this could never have been done in practice.
Gary Arber’s Letterpress Print Shop.
The visitor’s first impression is the wealth of objects — everywhere.
Each surface is filled with engaging and interesting things.
Stationery, ephemera, odds-and-sods from the print works itself.
This ground floor is Gary Arber’s shop window and the place to deal with customers.
NOTE: The machinery from Gary Arber’s shop is now held as a collection at Catseye Press UK.
Content Courtesy of Professor David Shields of the Rob Roy Kelly Collection, University of Texas Austin.
Wood has been used for letterforms and illustrations dating back to the first known Chinese wood block print from 868 CE.
The forerunner of the block print in China was the wooden stamp.
The image on these stamps was most often that of the Buddha, and was quite small. Provided with handles to facilitate their use, they were not unlike the modern rubber-stamps of today.
In Europe, large letters used in printing were carved out of wood because large metal type had a tendency to develop uneven surfaces, or crack, as it cooled.
In America, with the expansion of the commercial printing industry in the first years of the 19th century, it was inevitable that someone would perfect a process for cheaply producing the large letters so in demand for broadsides.
Wood was the logical material because of its lightness, availability, and known printing qualities.
Darius Wells of New York invented the means for mass producing letters in 1827, and published the first known wood type catalog in 1828. In the preface to his first wood type catalog, Wells outlined the advantages of wood type.
Wood type was half the cost of metal type, and when prepared by machine it had smooth, even surfaces, where the possibility of unequal cooling caused large lead type to distort.
Up until that time, the usual procedure was to draw the letter on wood, or paper which was pasted to the wood, and then cut around the letter with a knife or graver, gouging out the parts to be left blank.
Wells, however, introduced a basic invention, the lateral router, that allowed for greater control when cutting type and decreased the time it took to cut each letter.
In 1834, William Leavenworth made his contribution to the wood type industry with the introduction of the pantograph to the manufacturing process.
He adapted the pantograph to the Wells router, and the combination formed the basic machinery required for making wood type on a production basis.
Joseph Moxon (8 August 1627 – February 1691), hydrographer (mapper of oceans) to Charles II, was an English printer of mathematical books and maps, a maker of globes and mathematical instruments, and mathematical lexicographer.
He produced the first English language dictionary devoted to mathematics.
In November 1678, he became the first tradesman to be elected as a Fellow of the Royal Society.
Between the ages of around 9 and 11, Moxon accompanied his father, James Moxon, to Delft and Rotterdam where he was printing English Bibles.
It was at this time that Moxon learned the basics of printing.
After the First English Civil War the family returned to London and Moxon and his older brother, James, started a printing business which specialized in the publication of Puritan texts, with the notable exception of A Book of Drawing, Limning, Washing or Colouring of Mapps and Prints of 1647 which was produced for Thomas Jenner, a seller of maps.
In 1652, Moxon visited Amsterdam and commissioned the engraving of globe-printing plates, and by the end of the year was selling large celestial and terrestrial globes in a new business venture.
He specialized in the printing of maps and charts, and in the production of globes, and mathematical instruments made of paper.
In January 1662, he was appointed hydrographer to the King, despite his Puritan background.
His shop at this time was on Ludgate Hill ; afterwards, in 1683, it was ‘on the west side of Fleet Ditch,’ but always ‘at the sign of Atlas.’
Moxon’s 1683 book, Mechanick Exercises, provides descriptions of contemporary printing methods that have proved useful for bibliographers.
A rectangular metal frame (usually cast iron) called a chase was the basis of the printing forme for many years. The type was placed on a flat surface called a metal compositor’s stone and locked into position.
This metal frame is used to hold type in place while printing, usually on a platen press or flat bed press.
Type and blocks are locked up towards the centre of the chase using furniture to position it and quoins to apply pressure against the type matter.
Lock up was done on a composing stone to ensure that type was level. Before the quoins are tightened a wood planer is tapped gently on the type surface using a wooden printer’s mallet to confirm the feet are flush against the stone and completely level.
The size of a chase matches a specific press. The measurements, in inches, of the inside of the chase are also used to describe the press size.
Some chases, especially large ones, have handles at the top to assist the printer in both transporting and placing the chase in position on the press.
Chases can also be useful with flatbed presses for a variety of situations. Composition of complex forms can be created on a composing stone in a large chase, then brought to the press before printing.
The photograph above shows the bottom right hand corner of a chase into which type – in this case lines of type (sometimes called slugs) – spaced with various pieces of “furniture” have been locked up..
Furniture was normally wood but sometimes strips of lead, Elrod material, Monotype supercaster material or cornerstone.
Quoins (pronounced “coins”) were used to secure the whole assembly.
Sometimes two wooden wedges were set against each other to tighten the forme and to keep the furniture parallel to the side of the chase.
I had never seen hempel quoins (in the second picture below) until I started at The Guv in 1973. Up until then I had been using Cornerstone (British) Quoins which I considered superior.
In the picture above spring loaded quoins are being used. When a quoin key is turned in the threaded part of the quoin (the circle with the square recess) the two sections spread to apply pressure to the furniture to keep the whole assembly firm and secure.
Turning the quoin key in the opposite direction slackens the pressure off and releases the furniture and type.
Once the type was arranged in its final printing position, the quoins were tightened up and the forme “planed down”. The whole chase, complete with its contents, was then transferred to the printing press.
In this form the chase and contents were called a “printing forme”.