Printing Presses in the Collection

Printing Presses in the Collection
Printing presses in the reading room

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The Columbian:

This press was manufactured in 1834 by George Clymer. His presses were originally made of wood around 1812-14, but he was not satisfied with them and had them cast in iron. Yet they did not sell well in America and in 1819 he moved to London. This is the last press made during his lifetime, the largest size Columbian press ever made. It was used for printing newspapers, and then for proofing and printing broadsides, particularly for auction sales. I acquired it in London in 1975 or 76, and when I brought it here it was in a terrible shape. I restored it and offered it to UCLA, but they were rather passive about having a bookarts program, and it stood for several years in the basement of Clark Library. Eventually Prof. Sidney Berger offered it a home at UC Riverside where it was restored to its original looks by Janet Takahashi.

The Seggie Press

This is a smaller version of the Columbian, made by Seggie in Edinbourough, Scotland. It has much smaller bed and also much less ornamentation. Smaller presses like this were not common because they were more expensive than similar size Albion presses. I refer to this one as a front parlor model, because presses like this would be used by enterprising Victorian ladies to print church related materials for their congregations. It is restored by hand and in perfect working order. I purchased it in England about 1980.

The Common Press:

This press is the same as the press Benjamin Franklin used when he apprenticed for his brother in London in the 1720s. He also used this type of press in his office when he returned to America. This particular press was probably made in the 1970s as a work of love by someone on the east coast; I purchased it from the man's daughter after his death. It is in perfect working condition and the last thing that it was used to print was a 24 page church cook book. It is the closest relative to the common wood press from the revolutionary war.

Common Press

Sherwin & Cope Imperial

This Imperial press I purchased in the mid 1980s from a dealer in England who had shipped it to me. But I was living in a one bedroom apartment at that time and I had no room for it, so I never uncrated it. One day I met Sidney Berger, the librarian at UCR Special Collections, and his face paled, and he stopped talking momentarily when I said I have one of these presses sitting in the garage. So after a discussion I agreed to put the press at the UC Riverside; actually this one and the Columbian were the first ones to come to Riverside in the early 1990s as a result of that conversation with Sid Berger. The Imperials are somewhat similar to the Albions although they were made by a different manufacturer and have a completely different mechanism for the impression bar and pulling handle. The mechanism of the Albion derives its strength from a series of linkages in the head of the press whereas this one works on compound levers to multiply the force that has been exerted by the pull of the printer. This particular press is exceedingly rare because of its small size, and for teaching students it is a jewel of a press to have.

2 Hopkinson & Cope Albion Presses

This is a Hopkinson & Cope table top Albion press no. 2450 built in 1846 in Finsbury, London. It belonged to Dr. Robert Harland, a librarian at the Bancroft Library at Berkeley, and I purchased it when he retired and moved to a smaller apartment. The second Hopkinson & Hope bench top Albion is in the reading room. It was built in 1852 and it is no. 3324. I got it fifteen years ago from a printer in northern California who was moving to the East Coast and did not want to ship it.

Adams' Cottage Press

This Cottage Press is an example of a few surviving portable iron presses. It was invented in 1861 by a man on the east coast by the name of Adams. Many of these presses were taken into the field during the Civil War and were used for military orders. It was on a press exactly like this that on the last day of the war at Gettysburg General Robert E. Lee published his famous, "Order No. 9" declaring surrender to General Grant of the north and issuing safe conduct passes to all his soldiers and troops. This particular press is in first rate condition and was acquired from Dawson's book store 15 or 20 years ago for a colossal sum of money, but in retrospect it was a good deal!

Cottage Press

"Challenge" Galley Proofing Press

This galley proofing press with a hand operated heavyweight iron cylinder comes from the late 19th century. There were several models of these presses, and they were used for proofing newspaper columns before putting them on a press for actual printing. I acquired it in the early 1980s; it was to be junked for scrap and I could not stand printing equipment being destroyed, so I took it home and restored in the summer of 1999 or 2000.


The HAR-MA presses

Three Har-Ma presses with serial numbers 0, 3 and 4. They were manufactured by engineer Harold Smith from Sacramento. The occasion for their development was a dinner between him and Roger Levenson of the Tamalpais Press. Roger was complaining that hand presses always needed a lot of tinkering with make ready, and Smith decided to come up with a design that would meet Levenson's needs. No 0 is the prototype and smaller than all the others. It has the distinction of being made of steel and iron of Carquinez bridge, the first iron bridge in California. The name Har-Ma was for Harold and his wife Alma; he made a total of 15 numbered from 0 to 15 but there was no model 13. Harold wasn't superstitious, but the number 13 cannot be found. Har-Mas are the ultimate restatement of the 19th century printing press bought to perfection. They require almost no make-ready, they have an adjustable ink roller guide and the impression bar can be pulled from either right or left side. I bought the model 0 after nos. 1-3 were made and Smith had no use for the prototype. Then Roger Hilleary took it and used it for 25 years printing miniature books, some of which are here in Special Collections. The no. 3, with the oak base, was originally used by Levenson in his studio in Berkeley called the Tamalpais Press. He worked with it for a period of years and then decided to move from an oak base to a steel base, and let me purchase the older model. And the no. 4 was given to me by Alma Smith, Harold's widow, in 2000.

C & P Pilot Press

This is a C&P pilot press with the 6 x 10 in. chase, an iron press manufactured in the United States. It was a workhorse press in the period from around 1895 to 1912; most printers would use it for social stationery, business cards, memos etc. because it had automatic inking and on a press like this you could easily pull 250 impressions per hour. I acquired this one in the early 80s from a dealer Theodor Sullivan for then an enormous sum of $250, and I lent it to my friend Roger Hilleary, a mathematician and statistician who took up the hobby of printing. This press lived in his house in Monterrey California from 1982 until 2007, and it had a good use, this was the press on which his miniature books were printed.

Vandercook Proofing Press

This Vandercook proofing press model zero is a countertop model. I acquired it in the mid 1990s. from the member of the Zamorano Club Anthony Kroll, a great artist, one of the world greatest hand engravers, who used it for proofing his engravings. When he became elderly he took it from his shop home and stored in his back porch from where I "rescued" it together with a pantograph. .

The Asbern

Manufactured in Germany in two sizes and very useful, these Asberns saw a great deal of usage in American print shops in the 60s and 70s, but when the age of mechanical typesetting came to an end they also were sent off to a corner. This press, made in 1964, belonged to Christine Bertleson who was trained at the Scripps College. When she left the Claremont colleges she came to UC Riverside to teach in the art department, and the press was used in her home studio for reproduction proofs and ephemera. When Christine left Riverside it was left in a garage. I purchased it and gave back to UC Riverside where it has been a workhorse for the students and the faculty.

Other printing equipment in the collection

The Acorn Press

This Acorn press is a gift of UC Santa Cruz to Special Collections at UCR. Like the Columbian press, the Acorn was invented and manufactured in the United States. It is much smaller, simpler and less ornate than the Columbian, but it can work just as hard. It was actually made to be disassembled and put into the back of a wagon to be taken across the country, and it found its use in Middle America in the 1830s 1840s. But because of its weight and the cost of shipping it did not make it to California at that time. This particular press was used at UC Santa Cruz by the printer and poet William Beaverson, a former lay brother of the Order of Preachers, who used this press for his poetry.

Edison/Dick Mimeograph

This mimeograph, patented by Thomas A. Edison and mass produced by A. B. Dick predates the common use of typewriters. The instruction, dated March 25, 1899, asks to "Write on the stencil paper (over the plate only with the stylus as you would with a hard lead pencil, taking care to give equal through only a light pressure..."

Edison/Dick Rotary Mimeograph No. 75

Another, later machine from the same company. This one, produced around 1906 features a crank mechanism and a copy counter.

2 Heyer Mimeographs

These duplicating machines use wax-coated stencils through which ink is pressed. The stencil is written on a typewriter with the ribbon removed; the keys cut through the coating so that ink can pass through it. Drawings can be made with a hand stylus. From one stencil runs could go as high as 5000 copies. These mimeographs were immensly popular, among others, in the fandom world; innumerable fanzines were published on them. The green older one, Conqueror Mark III model 70 ocomes from Dr. Petko's office, while the other, model 1770, was purchased on e-bay in order to demonstrate the students the printing technique; it still has a used stencil

Portable typewriter Mercury Royal

Who knows, this carry-on, no-electricity tapper could have been used for typing stencils, maybe even fanzines...


Spirit Duplicator

Model 150, letter size. These lo-tech devices, also known as Ditto machines were commonly used in schools and churches. The low volume printouts were often blue, smelled of aclohol which was used as the solvent, and faded quite rapidly.


Kelsey Exelsior presses were manufactured for a hundred years (1875-1975) with only minor changes. This press, a 5 x 8 in. model L-N pattented in 1928 is missing roller trucks and chase. 

Last modified: 4/3/2015 9:22 AM by A. Dolan-Mescal

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