Page 10 - Novemberr 2015
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10

THE WOODEN PRESS by Nicholas Smith (7951)

( OCTOBER'S COVER )

THE prinƟng press shown on last month's         Other slightly unusual features are the
cover was built in the early 1970's under       platen, made of oak but with a ¼ inch steel
the supervision of Philip Gaskell. Unlike       sheet on the boƩom (Stower says that it
many replicas, it is neither a copy of a        should be of 4 inch mahogany), and the fact
genuine exisƟng press, nor based on an early    that all the main joints are held together by
illustraƟon, like the Durer Press. It relies    steel pins – which means that the press can
instead on the detailed descripƟon and          be dismantled and moved relaƟvely easily.
measurements given in Stower's Printer's        The most awkward part is the carriage &
Grammar of 1808. This has led to a press        stone, which needs four people to liŌ &
which is significantly larger than average –     move.
the platen is 20 ½ by 13 ½ inches, giving a
print area of about 26 x 20 inches.             We have in fact moved the press more than
                                                once – a fairly short journey to the library
The press was constructed by the Cambridge      of Corpus ChrisƟ College here in Cambridge,
University Engineering workshops and was        and a much longer one to Haddon Hall
first seen in public at the Siberch 450 years    in Derbyshire, as part of a film about the
celebraƟons in 1971. Since then it has been     making of the King James Bible.
part of the Cambridge University Library's
Morison Historical PrinƟng Room, set up to
teach the basics of tradiƟonal leƩerpress
prinƟng to students (and anyone else who
shows an interest).

The press is made of tradiƟonal materials,
except that steel has replaced wrought iron.
The bed was originally a slab of limestone,
but this cracked in two at the very first
serious pull by Dr Gaskell – the stone had
been laid directly on the wooden coffin.
TradiƟonally stones were either laid onto wet
plaster-of-Paris or onto a layer of bran – the
laƩer being used when we fiƩed the new
marble slab.
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