19th century print visionaries
By Lawrence Wallis Thursday, 03 April 2008
Surfacing at the time of the Northern Rock scare was the name Applegarth, belonging to the beleaguered chief executive of the benighted bank. It is an unusual name that brought to mind the work of Augustus Applegath (1788-1871), a resourceful inventor of printing presses in the 19th century. Admittedly the spellings of the two names differ slightly, but the commonality is clear.
Applegath collaborated with his brother-in-law Edward Cowper (1790-1852) on various projects, including the design of a machine for printing banknotes in 1816.
It was a rotary machine employing stereotypes bent to fit around a cylinder and incorporating twin impression cylinders. Two revolutions of the cylinders were necessary to print each sheet and a precocious offset method was devised for reproducing the same design in perfect register on the obverse and reverse sides of the paper. By 1819 the machine was performing reliably and consequently moved for installation to the Bank of England, the first in a battery of a dozen.
In 1828, Applegath and Cowper built a flatbed machine for The Times in London capable of producing 4,200 prints hourly.
It embodied four impression cylinders and required eight attendants for feeding the white paper to the machine and for taking off the printed equivalents. For two decades, the machine produced the then prestigious title until superseded by a rotary press.
Next came the development of a rotary machine in 1848 that encompassed a vertical type cylinder and eight impression cylinders requiring a press crew with a comparable number of layers-on of the white paper. It was a transitory invention soon eclipsed by the horizontal rotary press of Richard Hoe in the USA.
Lawrence Wallis held international pre-press marketing positions and was a respected author and print historian.
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