Leonard Bailey’s Copy Press

It is a surprise when a well know name from one area of toolmaking suddenly appears in a different context. Leonard Bailey is best known for his many improvements to woodworking hand planes; in fact the modern metal plane made by virtually all companies is due to Bailey. Eventually he sold his business to Stanley, who often gets credit for his work. Patrick Leach’s Blood and Gore is a great site for Stanley info, BTW. Bailey was also the inventor of several copy presses and by 1903 had nineteen patents related to typing, copying, and pressing.

It is indicative of the popularity and demand for copy presses at the time, that someone like Bailey would devote sustained attention to them over at least a twenty year peroid. But was this really, as the advertising below proclaims, “the only perfect copy press”? It is certainly “elegant and ornamental”, with enough pin striping to pimp out any Victorian office.

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New Britain Directory, 1882-3. Price, Lee & Co. (The Winterthur Library F104 N53a 1882), 280.

The top part of the press is an adjustable wringer which was used to partially dry the blotting pad before making a copy in a book. The drawer at the base stored the blotting pad. The double action Acme screw (coarse and fine) allows the press to rapidly rise and fall and provide lots of pressure. There are several actual photos of this machine in Rhodes and Streeter’s Before Photocopying, 229-231. Unlike most copy presses, this one can generate sufficient pressure to use as a nipping press. Almost perfection for a bookbinder, if you can live with the minuscule amount of daylight.

A Cool Press

Luke Herbert. The Engineer’s & Mechanics Encyclopedia, Vol. 2 , 1849 (p. 333)

The above press won a prize for it because it demonstrates the five mechanical powers of a simple machine: the wheel and axle, lever, wedge, inclined plane, and pulley. Sometimes a screw is also considered a sixth basic function, although it is essentially an inclined plane wrapped around a cylinder. Herbert’s article on presses also illustrates a number of high tech screw presses used by bookbinders from this time. The state of the art information contained within this book is reflected by its binding: my 1840 edition is in a caoutchouc binding, which was invented in 1836.

Alternative Uses for a Book Press

Buster Keaton & Fatty Arbuckle, The Bell Boy, 1918

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The Three Stooges, Disorder in the Court, 1936

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For information on the use, history and dating of copy presses, see Rhodes, Barbara and William Streeter, Before Photocopying: The Art & History of Mechanical Copying 1780-1938. New Castle, DE: Oak Knoll Press and Northhampton, Mass: Heraldry Bindery, 1999.

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