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Print's Past - 1825 Columbian Press Pt. 1

Published on September 29, 2010

This is the town of Murphys, California.  During the gold rush, thousands of miners came to this place to find treasure.  And today we’re here, with the help of Unisource World Wide, to find treasure of a different kind. 

In 1825, Columbian Hand Press, the second oldest working press of its kind in North America and its owner-operator, Paul Quyle. 

Paul Quyle:  You know this particular press is something you don’t see every day, and I’m very happy to be the owner of it.  We’re looking at and working with a Columbian Hand Press.  This press was designed by an American clear back starting about 1790, he started working on it and perfected it and patented it about 1813.  

American printers loved to be able to move around, they were not in one place very long.  And he did not sell these presses in America, they were too heavy, too big, too hard to move, whatever the reason.  He became discouraged, moved to England and this press was made in London in 1825.  After his death, the presses were copied by many other people. 

When it went to Russia, there was a Russian Eagle put on the top and when it went to Germany the German Imperial Crown, to turkey there was a Crescent Moon, but wherever you find them, the basic principle was the same. 

So what we have here is a Columbian Press and I’d like to explain the parts of it.  First of all, is the platen, which is the main part that is going to move up and down as we pull the great bar.  The great bar will put the pressure on the type and it is guided by a piston and it comes down upon the chase bed.  Now, the chase bed has the form that we’re going to print locked up on it. 

Now this particular form, I’m cheating I have to admit.  Most of the text is set with my Linotype, but part of it is handset, so the title and the Califon is handset type, the rest of it was done by linotype.  It’s interchangeable as far as we’re concerned.  Now, in this case, the frisket is holding the paper we have here which was kindly provided by Unisource.  It’s a very excellent machine-made paper, very smooth printable surface.  It should be something that we can work on without any problem. 

So the frisket goes down over the timpen, the paper we are going to print on is in place, the timpen and frisket move down.  This is all held in place by this frame, which locks down and is held here by the hooks to keep it in place as we continue the printing process. 

Now, the whole chase bed is going to be rolled in under the platen by turning this crank, which is called the rounds.  And the rounds will move it under here and we have to end at the proper place so we don’t crush the frame or anything else.  Now we apply pressure with the great bar pulling it to where it stops allowing it to dwell for just a moment, then we reverse the procedure running out the caste bed out again and we can now open the press.  We will pull the timpen and frisket back and let it stand.  Now, open the frisket and here we have a printed page.  And it happens to be a very nice-looking page at this moment.  

And here we have the final product turned out on the hand press.  And as soon as the ink dries a little bit, this will be folded and made into a four-page presentation. 

So at the moment, at least we now have a very nicely printed page from this Columbian press. 

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