Letterpress Printing

We have a letterpress area where we demonstrate letterpress printing and explain to our visitors the history of letterpress printing and the links to the John Dickinson Mills, Bryan Donkin who developed the Fourdrinier paper making machine and letterpress printing pioneer, and the neighbouring town of Watford where printing used to be a major industry.


In this area are our Adana T/P48 treadle platen press, Sofadi Showcard Press and Adana 8×5, Kelsey and Squintani Model No2 table top presses.




John Dickinson had print shops in the mills which mainly produced printed packaging and printed paper products such as scrap albums. In addition there was research into printing on the papers produced and examples of printing bound into copies of the monthly trade publication, The British Printer. One of the old presses, an Albion may be seen in Watford Museum.



This is one of the inserts to The British Printer which we think was printed using rubber plates.







Bryan Donkin worked with Richard Bacon, a  printer in Norwich, to patent the first rotary printing press which was the first to use composition rollers and an ink duct. Unfortunately there were a number of technical problems and it is believed only three were built.


The patent of 1813 had four print surfaces but this has six.
The press required a man and a boy to operate it.






Following the demise of letterpress printing in the early 1970s printing presses and type were scrapped, wooden type cases and type burned, and letterpress courses dropped by colleges and universities.

Now letterpress printing is going through a resurgence resulting in the introduction of courses to colleges and universities studying the development of the book looking at papermaking, letterpress printing and bookbinding. We regularly receive enquiries about letterpress printing and offer a short course. Click on the Learn button at the top to see what courses we offer.