Once we had built a metal press that could stand up to pressures way beyond the capability of wooden presses, it was a logical next step to accelerate that press’ work rate with some kind of power source. In 1811 Friedrich Gottlob Koenig (1774-1833) in collaboration with watch-maker Andreas Friedrich Bauer (1783-1860) hooked up a steam engine to a flat-bed cylinder press which was thereby enabled to print much faster than a Stanhope press. Printers could now produce about 1,000 impressions an hour: one early installation at The Times in London printed 1,100 impressions an hour. The Koenig & Bauer 1818 model had pushed productivity up to 2,400 impressions an hour.

Koenig’s 1814 cylinder press. (The paper went round the cylinder: the type remained flat beneath.)

The trouble with this machine, as described at my earlier post on Augustus Applegath’s attempted successor, was that it tended to smash itself to pieces as the type beds were powered apart beneath the cylinders carrying the paper, and came to a crashing stop at the two edges of that bottom layer of the machine. That post suggests that The Times had gotten the press up to more than 5,000 impressions an hour: a whole lot of banging and crashing.

By 1830 mechanical presses had begun to proliferate around the world, with the first steam driven rotary press was produced by Richard March Hoe (1812-86) in New York City in 1843. This press required the prior invention of stereotyping, so that the type could be moulded in a curved unit which could be mounted onto a cylinder.* The first one in Europe was installed in Edinburgh in 1851. The rotary press improved printing efficiency still further, allowing for outputs at the rate of 10,000 impressions per hour.


* You can see this being done about 8½ minutes into the video at Making the newspaper.