The study, treatment, reproduction and use of an 18th century printing press

Mark Kutney

Abstract

In 1950 the American Type Founders and the Rochester Institute of Technology presented the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation with an eighteenth century Dutch printing press for use in the reconstructed Williamsburg Printing Office. At that time documentation in the A.T.F.library supported the press being used by Issac De Winter in Middleburg, Holland in 1780 to print the The Courant, despite it being of a form known as the “English Common Press”. The press exhibits a square wooden hose typical of this form rather than the Blaeu type used in Holland from the 16th century on. In order for the press to be functional several missing parts were constructed in 1950 by Colonial Williamsburg, and for the next forty years the press was used daily by CW’s historic trades people in the interpretation of 18th century printing practices.

In 1990 the press was removed from use, accessioned into the collection and placed in storage. In 1995 the Newseum in Arlington, Virginia contacted CW about borrowing the press and the commissioning of the construction of an appropriate reproduction. The contract specified that CW’s trades people in the historic area should make the reproduction. Colonial Williamsburg’s curators, historic trades people, and conservators took this opportunity to closely study the CW press, as well as the small number of known presses from the same period, in order to ensure the accuracy of the prototype for the reproduction. In addition, a second reproduction was constructed for use in the Williamsburg Printing Office.

This presentation will examine the problematic history of the CW press, a comparative examination of other 18th century presses, the treatment of the CW press and the construction of the reproduction presses.