4.2.2: 1830 - 1910 - Organisation of a printing / publishing business

The layout and the organisation of the print shop changed as a result of drastic technical changes. The wooden presses, operated by two men, were replaced by steam-driven presses and later by electrically driven presses (including, among others, the platen press), cylinder presses and rotary presses. The introduction of type-setting machines (Linotype en Monotype) also completely changed the printing shop. An increase in the production capacity was combined with a decrease in production time, resulting in an increasing amount of pressure on the relationship between masters and printers. A strongly hierarchical structure still existed in the publishing and printing industries between the owner and the employees and among the employees themselves. The printing industry employed, in addition to the owner (employer), a foreman, trainees, craftsmen, type-setters, printers and correctors. A separate designer did not yet exist. The foreman was, next to the employer, the head of the printing shop to whom obedience was owed. He provided fire and lighting, closed the printing shop and had an overview of all work and equipment. Depending on the size of the printing shop, the organisation was more or less complicated. The increasing number of printers (1850: 175, 1880: 425, 1890: 683 and 1909: 1000) included a mixed company. It varied from the small commercial printing shops with just one or two platen presses, serving in particular the local and regional markets, to shops operating on a national scale and employing several cylinder presses, which were forced to produce a continuous stream of new editions. The printing shops and publishing houses often were family businesses. Here too, the publisher-printers A.W. Sijthoff (Leiden) can be mentioned as an example.

The various tasks in the publishing house, such as bookkeeping, correspondence with authors, engravers, draughtsmen, binders, dispatching the items from the publisher's list, and the storage of paper and list items were still in one hand, but as a firm grew, these tasks were left to several head clerks (bookkeepers). The firm of A.W. Sijthoff employed nine persons in 1851, but this number had risen to 118 by 1890.

The organisation in the publishing house was mainly still a matter of personal insight of the owner in the acceptance of manuscripts, contacts with authors and a good exploitation of list items. The publisher-bookseller learned his trade through experience, especially by working as an apprentice in established firms at home or abroad. The acquisition of new list titles was an important goal of the publisher with new and old, original Dutch or translated titles making up the list. The acquisition of list items took place at list auctions, by acquiring translation rights of foreign titles or by attracting new authors. A good exploitation of the list was achieved not only through diversification in format (see 4.1.4), but also by annual visits to the bookshops, at first by the publisher-bookseller himself, later by agents. On these trips (usually in March/April) the annual accounts over the past year were made up on the basis of the items delivered and returned.

When in the course of this period the modern publisher (without a bookshop) became completely dependent on the sales to retailers, an active and alert attitude became increasingly necessary in a growing market with increasing competition. Using prospectuses, advertisements, shop posters, reviews and premiums, the publishers could bring newly published titles to the attention of retailers and private persons; old titles were exploited again via reissues, price reductions (for retailers as well as for individual customers) or by selling them off at list auctions.

author: B.P.M. Dongelmans

Organisation of a printing / publishing business

platen presses

Definition: relief printing press where a flat metal plate (platen) presses the paper on to the forme (type matter and clich├ęs).

gravure presses

Definition: press for printing in intaglio, either with a flat forme (plate press) or with a cylindrical forme (rotary press).

printing presses

Definition: 1. general term for a device or machine for the printing of books, plates, etc. 2. the whole of the activities carried out in the printing and distribution of texts.

automatic printing presses

Definition: apparatus or machine for printing books, plates, etc., automatically operating, i. e. not driven by human power.

one-pull presses

Definition: printing press with a platen large enough to print one side of a sheet in one pull.

hand presses

Definition: printing press operated only or mainly by hand; in particular a simple platen press or (in earlier days) wooden press.

wooden hand presses

Definition: printing press of wood, in which the platen is lowered by means of a screw mechanism which presses the paper onto the horizontally placed forme. Two pulls are necessary to print one sheet of paper.

iron hand presses

Definition: printing press of cast iron, whereby the platen is pressed on to the paper and the horizontally placed forme by bringing a mechanism in the form of a knee joint in a 'stretched' position. Its pressure is large enough to print a sheet in onepull.

offset presses (1)

Definition: 1. printing press for offset printing. 2. high-speed offset press on which paper is printed in a continuous web.

copperplate presses

Definition: hand press for printing engraved plates; whereby the plate, with a sheet of paper on top of it, is pressed horizontally between two rollers placed on top of each other, which are moved by means of a star wheel.

private presses

Definition: literally, a private printing press; often a composing room and printing press established in a house for the purpose of making beautiful printed matter in a small print run, not primarily for commercial purposes.

rotary presses

Definition: printing press of which both the forme - in relief printing a half and in intaglio printing a whole cylinder, in planographic printing a thin, metal plate stretched around a cylinder - and the counter pressure element consist of a cylinder; usedspecifically for very large print runs.

cylinder presses

Definition: relief-printing press whereby a revolving cylinder presses the paper against the flat forme (type matter and blocks).

steam presses

Definition: printing press which is powered by steam.

treadle platen presses

Definition: platen press driven by means of a treadle.

gilding presses

Definition: apparatus with which by hand or machine a gold, colour or blind stamp can be made under high pressure on bindings, advertising cards, etc.