4.2.4: 1830 - 1910 - Copy, composition, printing (printing presses, printing ink) and correction

The techniques of typesetting and printing used during this period have been described in a number of manuals for the professional. In addition to some correction manuals and format books, we have the first printed Dutch printers' manual dating from 1844 and written by P.M. van Cleef, followed by a second, of 1854-1860 by C. Schook, whereas at the end of the century, R. van der Meulen published his manual in four editions, each revised (1883 to 1905). After 1900, when professional training courses for the printing business were being organised, a series of instruction books for typographers is published.

These technical sources - together with presses and tools still extant and the material study of the books themselves - show the great changes that occurred in typesetting and printing in the period from 1830 to 1910. Although the essential actions remained the same (setting lead type, locking-up in a forme, inking, printing by pressing paper onto the forme), a mechanisation can be observed in the trade which, just as the general industrialisation in the Netherlands, gained momentum rather late in comparison to other countries: only after about 1855 did this mechanisation begin to spread and only after about 1880 did it become more or less general.

During almost the entire period, the lack of type continued to be a problem in typesetting, so that working with standing type was almost impossible and every new issue had to be composed anew. This last problem could be solved by means of stereotype, but this was not used on such a large scale as in the Anglo-Saxon world. The early composing machines (invented around 1840) that worked with existing type also remained a curiosity in the Netherlands, but the 'hot' typesetting machines that were invented in the United States in the late 1880s (Linotype and Monotype), were successful: they did not compose existing type but matrices with which type was then cast in the machine. In this way they avoided the lack of type; they worked faster, also because distributing became superfluous: if no further reprints were required, the composition was melted down again. Where a hand compositor could set approximately nine hundred characters per hour, these typesetting machines reached five thousand characters per hour. The first of these machines (a Linotype) was installed in 1894 at Binger's in Amsterdam, but until 1910 they were used only in a few large newspaper-printing shops.

Proofs were usually drawn from composition not yet made up (galley proofs). Proof reading was carried out either by a corrector in the printing shop or by the publisher. Initially the author could correct only if he stayed near the printing shop (as the type had to circulate quickly); only larger printing houses could forward proofs, but even then they had to be returned quickly. Not until the arrival of the typesetting machine could proofs of the entire book be forwarded and read as a whole. The industrialisation process implied that stop-press corrections and cancels were rarely used.

The mechanisation of printing went faster than that of typesetting. The wooden printing presses were in general use until approximately 1855, but even before they could be replaced by the iron hand presses (Stanhope, Columbia, Albion), the high-speed press arrived on the scene in which a cylinder rolls over the flat forme. This cylinder press was introduced round 1830 and had gained some renown by 1855, but only after 1880 was it used on a large scale. Where the production speed of the wooden and iron hand presses was about 100-125 sheets per hour, the first printing machines produced 500 sheets per hour, while the next generations of cylinder presses realised twice that speed and more. Driven by a steam engine, these presses made production even faster and less expensive. For printing newspapers the rotary press was developed which became successful after 1910.

For small printed matter (trade printing and the like) a separate type of press, the jobbing platen press, was developed in the United States after the middle of the nineteenth century. Introduced in the Netherlands soon after, the platen press remained in use for small printed matter until the middle of the twentieth century.

The inking was no longer done by means of ink balls, but with the ink roller, both in the iron hand press (manual) and in the platen press and all types of printing machines (automatic). Until about 1850, when factory-made ink became common, the ink was prepared by the printers themselves.

author: F.A. Janssen

Copy, composition, printing (printing presses, printing ink) and correction