If a sturdily-built iron letterpress is carefully maintained and properly operated, shouldn’t it last forever?
Well, forever is a long time. But so is five decades, the span of years across which Florida printer Buddy West has operated the same Original Heidelberg letterpress at Panama City Publishing Co. in that town's St. Andrews district.
A local paper, The Walton Sun, was on hand last week when West demonstrated the press in the publishing museum that the company, founded by his great-great-grandfather in 1920, has become. A video of the demonstration can be found here.
The windmill-action press is said to be of 1950s vintage, which would make it about the same age as Heidelberg Windmill No. 35345E—the machine that Heidelberg believes to be the oldest of its presses still in operation in the U.S.
Surveying their own installed bases, other press manufacturers undoubtedly can point to presses just as reliable and just long in the tooth. But for sheer indestructibility, Heidelberg remains the iconic brand.
It’s too bad that people and their love of craft printing can’t be as long-lasting as antique Heidelbergs. As West observes about the printing museum in the video, “It won’t be long before there won’t be many places like this. When they get gone, there’s not any more.”