Historical Printers & Printing, in Pictures (pt. 1)

Vintage print room

In an unusual departure from our usual ’21st Century’ blog posts, we go back in time and take a pictorial look back at historical printing works and all the weird and wonderful pieces of machinery they used ‘way back when’. Many of the illustrations are woodcuts or engravings and depict workshops, people, tools, printing presses and outfits of the time— many from hundreds of years ago. There is even a steam-driven banknote printer and a multi-level 6-cylinder press which we find mind-boggling! We think the images are fascinating.

Here are the first ten illustrations – next month we’ll follow up with another ten so come back soon. Enjoy!


Fig 1 (above): Printers operating the press on the left and inking the type on the right.*


Fig 2 (above): A printer’s workshop (date unknown).*


Fig 3 (above): 16th Century Printing presses, Germany.
Image courtesy of Tolnai korabeli kép alapján, by Gottfried-Történelmi krónika. Source: Tolnai világtörténelme. Ujkor -könyv, book.


Fig 4 (above): A Bramah Numerator Press (steam operated!) for banknote production.*


Fig 5 (above): Richard March Hoe’s six cylinder printing press, 1864.
Illustration by N. Orr (from ‘History of the Processes of Manufacture’ 1864).


Fig 6 (above): intaglio printers, 1642.
Illustration by Abraham Bosse.


Fig 7 (above): Eduard and Milly Brockhaus visiting the printing house press room, 1870. Author/credit: unknown.


Fig 8 (above): Harper & Brothers publishing house (New York City) 1855.
Illustration by Harper & Brothers.


Fig 9 (above): Men tending a mechanized, shaft-driven printing-press (date unknown).*


Fig 10 (above): A printer’s workshop in the 18th Century (woodcut).
Author: unknown. Source: British Library, Shelfmark: Harl.5915.(215.).

Of course if you are looking for printing services, techniques and facilities which are rather more up to date, then please get in touch with Firstpoint Print as we have state-of-the-art printing equipment whether it’s large format, litho or digital printing services that you require. With branches in Clerkenwell EC1, Victoria SW1 and London Bridge SE1, we cover the whole of London and supply to the South East and the UK generally.


* Author: Wellcome Library, London. Copyrighted work available under Creative Commons Attribution only licence CC BY 4.