The development of cylinder presses was largely driven by the growth in circulation of newspapers during the early nineteenth century, and primarily The Times of London. The cylinder machine itself was the brainchild of German printer Friedrich Koenig, who patented the first model in 1811. (See here for a previous post about Koenig.)
James Moran in his Printing Presses (Faber & Faber, London, 1973) notes that during the late 1820s this newspaper installed a machine designed by Augstus Applegath that could print at a rate of 4,200 impressions per hour. This machine, a four-feeder, was steam driven, 18ft high by 14ft long, with type travelling ‘to and fro almost the whole length of the machine below four impression cylinders grouped together, and the form was inked on each journey by four sets of composition rollers’ (ibid, 1973, p.129). [Note: the first steam-driven Koenig press was installed at The Times, in secret, in 1814, printing the first issue for the November 29th edition. It is worth noting how secrecy was employed to prevent a walk-out by the pressroom, much in the same way that Murdoch moved the print operations of The Times and its associated News Corp papers to Docklands in 1986-1987.]
My recent visit to Dorrigo, northern NSW, Australia, revealed a wreck of a Wharfedale, another cylinder press, though one more modest than the Applegath model. The photo here (including a rare shot of the author) was taken outside the town’s museum where the remains of the once glorious machine now sit rusting.
Moran notes that the predecessor of this type of press was built in the mid-1850s, with the Wharfedale being developed by Samuel Bremmer, a North Country of England journeyman according to Mason who rose to become printing manager at a London firm, and William Dawson, a joiner and cabinet maker of Otley, Yorkshire, England in the valley of the river Wharfe – hence the name. Look closely at the side panel of the press in Dorrigo and that’s exactly what you still see proudly displayed in raised letters.
Moran writes: ‘[The Wharfedale] Basically…consisted of an impression cylinder mounted on parallel side frames, a bed which, with the ink slab, moved to and fro, carrying the cylinder in gear one revolution, when travelling outwards, and leaving the cylinder stationary on returning, in order to admit the sheet being laid into the grippers for the next impression’ (ibid, 1973, p.135). Over time the principle was taken up by a number of other manufacturers, hence the name Wharfedale became generic.
To see one at work follow this YouTube link to the wonderful site of the National Print Museum, Ireland. One interesting point to note – the paper sheets were fed by women employees after make-ready had been completed, by a man.