A Very Cool Patent Model Press

Patent Model Press. Source: https://americanhistory.si.edu/collections/search/object/nmah_998708

One of the best ideas for a standing press I’ve seen. The adjustable bottom platen solves a lot of problems for modern binders and conservators, that often are working on only one book at a time. It would alleviate the need to add heavy wood packing materials, and the lower platen could be positioned at a comfortable work height.

According to the patent description, “This patent model demonstrates an invention for a bookbinders standing press which was granted patent number 30243. The press has a platen, or upper follower, lowered in the usual way by an iron screw, and a bed, or lower follower, that was raised by a rack and pinion.” Patent date 2 October 1860, Pelletreau, Maltby K.

The ratchet would allow for tremendous pressure with short swings of the press pin, and were not uncommon for heavy duty presses in the 19th century.

Were any ever made? If so, I want one!

There are around 400 printing and binding patent models in the Smithsonian’s Graphic Arts Collection.



Copy Press Mounted on a Safe

Last week, I blogged about a scene from a movie depicting a copy press on top of a safe, and wondered if it was a way they were actually used in offices.  Darryn Schneider of DAS Bookbinding in Australia sent me this wonderful image he found from the State Library of Victoria. Bingo! Well, at least there is one documented example….

Copy press on top of a safe. Interior of  a railway office, ca. 1901-1940.  State Library of Victoria. http://handle.slv.vic.gov.au/10381/38847

A Copy Press in Use? Or a Prop?

A still from Billy Wilder’s 1951 “Ace in the Hole”

Many — most? — bookbinders use a letterpress copy press for quick and light pressing needs, often called a “nip”. These presses were originally used in offices, for duplicating letters and other memoranda. Intriguingly, there are alternative uses for them.

They often have little daylight, which is the distance between the platens when fully open, and the thread pitch allows them to speedily move up and down. Because of this, they don’t generate a ton of pressure. Rhodes and Streeter have written a wonderfully comprehensive book about them.(1)

But apart from some advertising (and possibly some photos?), we don’t really know a lot about how these were used and installed in an office. They are often quite ornate, since they were presumably on display.

This is why the still from Wilder’s movie (which is a great and relevant movie to our current time, btw) interests me.  It makes a lot of sense to mount it on top of a safe, since they are both extremely heavy and there is a lot of torque when twisting the wheel. And the height of the tightening wheel looks to be a very comfortable chest height.  But is it a reflection of actual placement or just a prop?


1. Barbara Rhodes and William Wells Streeter. Before Photocopying: The Art and History of Mechanical Copying 1780 – 1938 (New Castle, DE: Oak Knoll Press and Northampton, Massachusetts: Heraldry Bindery, 1999)

Ron Lieberman sent an image of a gorgeous press stand he has.


One of the book presses at THE FAMILY ALBUM
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