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Letters, Invention of Letters, Arrangement of Letters, Writing Materials, Papyrus, Herculaneum Manuscripts, Parchment, Paper, Instruments, Ink, Copying Machines, Printing Types, Cases, Sizes, Composing, Imposing, Signatures, Correcting the Press, Press Work, Printing Press, Stereotyping, Machine Printing. History.

Letters.--The arts of writing and printing, although comparatively simple in their processes, are superior to most other arts in the importance of their consequences. Before the invention of letters, the growth of knowledge was opposed by insurmountable obstacles. Tradition, which was the earliest mode of transmitting knowledge, depended upon the memory and the will of individuals, and was of course uncertain of continuance. The principal adventitious aids brought to the assistance of traditionary knowledge, were the erecting of monuments, the celebration of periodical days or years, the use of poetry, a language more captivating and more easily remembered than mere narration of facts; and finally, an approach to written characters in symbolical drawings and hieroglyphic sketches.[1] All these methods, however, have failed in the object for which they were intended. The ancient founders of many stupendous structures have not been able to convey to us their names, and the productions of the earliest sages and poets can never be appreciated from acquaintance. History must have remained uncertain and fabulous, and science been left in perpetual infancy, had it not been for the invention of written characters.

Invention of Letters.--The credit of the first introduction of letters, was claimed by the Egyptians and Phoenicians, Jews, Chinese, and other nations. Their origin is extremely ancient, and of course preceded all authentic history which was not inspired. If we believe Pliny, sixteen characters of the Grecian alphabet were introduced by Cadmus, the Phoenician, fifteen hundred years before Christ. Four more were added by Palamedes, during the Trojan war, and four afterwards by Simonides. It is not probable, however, that the Greek was the oldest alphabet. Mr. Astle considers the Phoenicians as having the strongest claim to be considered the first inventors of letters.

Arrangement of Letters.--The mode of arranging letters has been subject to considerable variation, some nations having written in perpendicular lines, others, from right to left, and others, in lines alternately reversed, as in the bustrophedon of the ancient Greeks.[2] The mode of writing from left to right, now generally pursued, is the most natural; because the hand, as it advances in this direction, leaves constantly uncovered that portion of the page upon which writing has been made.

[1] The recent investigations of M. Champollion have led to the discovery that a great part of the hieroglyphic characters upon the antiquities of Egypt are in reality the letters of an alphabet; and considerable progress was made by him, in deciphering their import.

[2] The bustrophedon was disused by the Greeks about four hundred and fifty years before the Christian era; but a similar method appears to have been in use, among the Irish, at a much later period. The following example of the Greek bustrophedon is from an inscription on a marble in the national museum at Paris.

[Greek transliterated:


em decalp sullyH
Aristocydes designed me.

Writing Materials.--The most ancient materials employed for writing, appear to have been the surfaces of stones and bricks. The ten commandments were written upon stone, and the arrow-headed alphabet, as it is called, belonging to an extinct language, is only known to us by the pages of inscriptions which remain on the Babylonian bricks. After these, plates of metal, of various kinds, were employed. The Romans wrote upon tables of brass thinly coated with wax, using an iron pencil with a sharp point denominated Stylus. Lead was also used by them; and at the siege of Modena, a correspondence was carried on by Decimus Brutus, and the consul Hirtius, upon plates of lead. Pausanias mentions books of Hesiod, and Pliny speaks of public records, inscribed on the same material. A less durable, but more cheap receptacle for written characters, was found in the leaves of trees, and their inner bark, denominated liber by the Latins. These were used for the more temporary or perishable writings.[1]

Papyrus.--As the literature of antiquity advanced, it became necessary to find a material adapted for works of magnitude, which, besides permanency and enlarged size, should have a fineness of texture sufficient to permit a large surface to be folded into a compact form. A species of reed, growing in Egypt, was found capable of being manufactured into a substance of this sort. Sheets and rolls were prepared from it of the finest texture, and of any dimensions, and it became the receptacle on which a great part of the ancient manuscripts were written. This was the celebrated Egyptian papyrus. The discovery of its manufacture, though it afforded a substance far inferior to modern paper, was nevertheless a great auxiliary to ancient learning, and became the means of a much more extensive multiplication of manuscripts than could have taken place had it remained unknown. The papyrus was an aquatic reed growing on the banks of the Nile.[1] The manufacture of paper was performed by divesting this reed of its outer covering, and then carefully separating the internal membranes or laminas by the point of a needle or knife.[2] These laminæ were spread parallel to each other on a table, having their edges in contact, in sufficient numbers to form a sheet. A second stratum was then laid, with the strips crossing those of the first at right angles. The whole was moistened with water, and subjected to pressure between two polished surfaces. Upon drying, the mass was found agglutinated into a smooth and uniform sheet. The adhesion of the strips of papyrus together was doubtless owing to the glutinous juice of the reed, though the Romans, who were ignorant of the Egyptian mode of manufacturing it, attributed this effect to a peculiar quality in the waters of the Nile. The most delicate paper, which was made from the inner membranes or tunics of the reed, was rendered extremely white, and polished by rubbing it with a shell, or tooth of an animal.

[1] Pliny says that tables of wood were in use for writing before the time of Homer. In the Slonian library at Oxford, there are some specimens of ancient Arabic writing on boards about two feet long and six inches wide.

The edicts of the Roman Senate were written on tablets of ivory, thence denominated libri elephantini.

According to Pliny, the most ancient mode of writing, was upon the leaves of palm trees, afterward upon the inner bark of trees. This method is still common in Tanjore, and some other parts of the East Indies, where the Palmyra leaf is used.

The old Egyptians frequently wrote on linen, and specimens of this kind are sometimes found enclosed in the garments or swathing clothes of mummies.

Herculaneum Manuscripts.--The papyrus continued in use as late as the tenth or twelfth century, when it was superseded by parchment and cotton paper. A few ancient manuscripts written on it are preserved as curiosities, in different libraries of Europe, though they are less numerous than those of parchment and vellum. The most interesting collection of papyri is undoubtedly that found at Herculaneum, and was probably buried with that city in an eruption of Vesuvius, which happened during the reign of Titus. In the excavations which the moderns have made into the earth which covers that city, these rolls of papyri, nearly seventeen hundred in number, were found in a house, the roof and floors of which had been crushed in by the substances ejected from the volcano. The rolls were found in a state so near to decomposition that the least violence causes them to break and crumble; their color is so nearly black that the characters are distinguishable from the paper only by a slight shade of difference; and the whole roll is cemented together, so as not to be separable into layers without great difficulty. This state has been supposed to be produced by the carbonization, or converting into coal, of the papyri, by the heat of the ashes and lava, in which they were buried. Sir Humphrey Davy, however, has given a different opinion of the state of these manuscripts. He supposes that their present condition is not the result of carbonization or of heat applied to them, but is the consequence of their remaining for so many ages under ground, until the vegetable matter of which they are composed, has undergone a spontaneous change, and become converted into a substance analogous to peat, or Bovey coal. This conclusion is the result of chemical examination, and is likewise inferred from the fact that some specimens of gilding, and of vermilion, which remained on the walls of the apartment, were not changed in color, which could not have been the case, had the heat been sufficient to convert vegetable matter into charcoal.

[1] Cyperus papyrus. L.

[2] The delicate substance now imported from India under the name of rice paper, is a cellular membrane of the Artocarpus incisifolia, or bread-fruit tree.--Brewster's Journal, iii. 136.

About ninety of these manuscripts have been unrolled by a very tedious process, which consists in glueing pieces of goldbeaters' skin to the outside of the rolls, and suffering them to dry on. They are then gradually raised by means of screws, lifting with them a layer of the papyrus, which is copied and the process renewed. Several days, in this way, are requisite for a single page. Sir Humphrey Davy supposed a more expeditious way might be adopted, by subjecting the rolls to the action of a chemical solvent, capable of destroying the adhesion of the folds to each other. He supposes that of the manuscripts which remain, not more than from eighty to one hundred and twenty are in a state to be unrolled, the rest being too much defaced, by crushing or otherwise, to render it probable they will ever be deciphered.

Parchment.--Next to the papyrus, the skins of animals, in the form of parchment and vellum, were extensively used for writing, by the ancients, from a remote period. When Eumenes, or Attalus, attempted to found a library at Pergamus, two hundred years before Christ, which should rival the famous Alexandrian library, one of the Ptolemies, then king of Egypt, jealous of his success, made a decree prohibiting the exportation of papyrus. The inhabitants of Pergamus set about manufacturing parchment as a substitute, and formed their library principally of manuscripts on this material; whence it was known among the Latins by the name of Pergamena. The term membrana was also applied by them to parchment.

Paper.--Paper like that used at the present day, composed of flexible fibres reduced to a pulp by minute division, and cemented into sheets by means of size or glue, began to be known in the East in the beginning of the tenth century. It was first composed of cotton or silk, and called bombycina, and was not made from linen rags until the fourteenth century. Coarse brown paper was first manufactured in England, in 1588; writing and printing paper in that country not till 1690, previously to which, it was imported from the continent.

Instruments.--While writing was practised upon hard substances, as stone and metal, a hard metallic point was the instrument with which letters were formed. The stylus, which the Romans employed for writing on brass tablets covered with wax, was acute at one end for writing, and flattened or blunt at the other, for erasing what was written. For writing in colored fluids, or ink, the calamus was used, a reed sharpened at the point, and split like our pens. Quills were not introduced till the fourth or sixth century.[1]

[1] The earliest notice of the use of quills, is by an anonymous author of the life of Constantius, who says that Theodoric, the Ostrogothic king of Rome, was so illiterate, and so dull of intellect, that, during the ten years of his reign, he could not learn four letters to sign at the bottom of his edicts; so that they were cut for him in a plate of gold, through which he traced the letters with a quill. One of the oldest certain notices of the use of quills, is by Isidore, who died in 636.

Some of the eastern nations still write with reeds, canes, and bamboos, instead of quills. The Chinese write with small brushes like camels' hair pencils.

Inks.--The ink of the ancients consisted of a carbonaceous substance, such as lampblack, soot, or pulverized coal, united with a viscid or gummy liquid. The black liquor of the cuttle fish (Sepia) was sometimes employed. Colored inks of vermilion, red lead, and purple, were also used. The eastern emperors signed their edicts with red ink, the use of which was prohibited to others, under pain of death.

Modern ink is essentially a tanno-gallate of iron suspended by mucilage. It may be made from salts of iron, and infusions of various astringent vegetables. But as many products of this kind are apt to fade by time, it is not safe to trust to any which have not had the testimony of long experience in their favor. The best materials are the nutgall and sulphate of iron, with gum arabic. Other ingredients are sometimes added, such as logwood, sulphate of copper, and sugar. When ink fades, it is commonly from the fugitive nature of the gallic acid and tannin; and it may be revived by moistening the page with a fresh infusion of galls. When ink grows thin from freezing, or dilution, so that its particles subside, they may again be suspended, by agitating it with sugar, or gum. If writing with common ink has been obliterated by chlorine, it may be again rendered legible, by the vapor, or solution, of sulphuret of ammonia. Indelible ink is produced by writing with dissolved nitrate of silver on a surface impregnated with carbonate of soda.

Copying Machines.--Various modes have been devised, for making extemporaneous copies of written pages. Dr. Franklin's method consisted in covering the writing, while yet moist, with fine powdered emery; and afterwards passing the sheet through a press, in contact with a plate of pewter, or copper; which thus became marked with the letters, so as to yield impressions, as in the common mode of copperplate printing. Mr. Watt's copying machine consists of a press, in which a thin, bibulous paper, previously moistened, is forced into close contact with the page, while newly written. A part of the ink, sufficient to produce legible characters, is thus transferred to the thin paper. The writing is of course reversed, but the thinness of the paper permits it to be read on the opposite side, which restores the order of the letters. Mr. Hawkins's polygraph is a machine carrying two or more pens in different places, which are so connected as to pursue a similar path with each other, and execute two or more copies at once. Lithography likewise offers a ready method of multiplying copies.


The art of printing, as it is now practised, by the composition of movable types, is so simple and obvious in its principles, that it is truly wonderful the process was not earlier known. The ancients many times made near approaches to the discovery, but, by some singular fatality, they were kept from its profitable use. Arts far more curious, and sciences far more difficult, were known, and carried to perfection, by the patient industry of the ingenious and enterprising in former times. But this art, which was to give permanency to all the rest, and which now seems to be at the root of all human knowledge, was never in useful operation in Europe until three or four centuries ago.

Types.--Printing at the present day is executed with movable types, which are oblong square pieces of metal, each bearing a letter in relief at one extremity. The metal of which they are made, is an alloy, which consists essentially of lead and antimony. The lead is selected in preference to other metals, because it is fusible at a low temperature, and retains accurately the shape it receives from the mould. But as lead alone is too soft to sustain the friction and pressure to which it is liable in use, about a fifth part of antimony is added. This gives it a superior hardness when cast; and as this alloy has the property of shrinking less than most other metals as it cools, the type receives all the sharpness and finish, which it can acquire, by filling every part of the mould. In making types, the letter is first cut by an artist upon the end of a steel punch, answering to the shape of the intended type. This punch is driven into a piece of copper, which forms the matrix or bottom of the mould intended to produce the letter. As many varieties of punches must be made of steel, as there are sizes and species of characters required. In casting, the types are formed with great rapidity, owing to the quickness with which the metal cools. An expert operator will cast two or three thousand types in a day. Some machines have been introduced, for casting types, which operate with much greater rapidity. The characters upon types are of course reversed, so that in arranging them for the press, the compositor, or printer who sets the types, begins at the right hand of each line.

Case.--Before the types are applied to use, they are arranged in the cells or compartments of a long wooden receptacle, called a case; each species of letter, character, or space, by itself. In arranging the compartments, the collections of letters do not succeed each other in alphabetical order, nor are they all of equal size. Those letters which occur most frequently in printing, are required in greater numbers. They are therefore made to occupy the largest compartments, and are placed nearest to the compositor. Thus the letter e, which is of frequent occurrence, fills a large compartment, and is near the compositor, while the letter x, which occurs much less frequently, is provided in small numbers, and placed at the extremity of the case. In a bill or collection of types of the size called pica, weighing in all 800 pounds, the number of the letter e is 12000; of t, 9000; of a, 8500; of i, n, o, and s, 8000 each; of c, there are 3000; of b, 1600; k, 800; x, 400; z, 200. This is for the English language. In other languages, the comparative frequency must be different.

Sizes.--Different names are given to the various sizes of types, of which the following are most employed in book printing.

English,     abcdefghijklmnopqrst
Pica,        abcdefghijklmnopqrstuv
Small Pica,  abcdefghijklmnopqrstuvwxy
Long Primer, abcdefghijklmnopqrstuvwxyz
Bourgeois,   abcdefghijklmnopqrstuvwxyz
Brevier,     abcdefghijklmnopqrstuvwxyz
Minion,      abcdefghijklmnopqrstuvwxyz
Nonpareil,   abcdefghijklmnopqrstuvwxyz
Pearl,       abcdefghijklmnopqrstuvwxyz
Diamond,     abcdefghijklmnopqrstuvwxyz

Composing.--The compositor is first provided with an instrument called the composing stick. This is a plate, commonly of iron or brass, surrounded with ledges, one of which is movable, so that the length of the lines may be adjusted to the width of the page. The compositor selects from their places the letters, successively, to constitute the first word, which are arranged in an inverted order from that in which they are to appear on the printed page, beginning at the right. At the end of each word, a space is inserted, to produce a separation between this word and the next following. The spaces, of which there are various kinds, differently named from their width, are blunt types, bearing no letter on their extremities. In printing, they do not come up to the surface, and of course yield no impression. As the beauty of the page depends upon the evenness of the margin produced by the equality of the lines, these spaces are used to swell out the shorter lines and bring them to an equality with the rest. When one line is finished, the printer shifts the rule from below it to the top, and commences setting the types for a second line. The rule is a thin brass, tin, or iron, plate, used to make the types slide easily, and not catch upon the line below them. At the end of a paragraph, the line is spaced out with quadrats, which are spaces of a large size.

The quickness with which an expert compositor advances in his work, is greater than would appear possible from a first consideration of the subject. The familiarity with the situations of the letters and their arrangement, produced by long habit, is such, that to select the types and place them, does not require a thought to be bestowed on the process. It is only necessary to perceive the meaning of each word, and the putting it together follows as mechanically as writing. It is even possible for a printer to compose in the dark, for the exact situation of each letter in the case before him being known, and the upper side of each being known by notches in the type, they can be selected and arranged by the sense of feeling alone.

Imposing.--When a sufficient number of lines, as six or eight, are formed in the composing stick, they are emptied into another instrument called the galley, which is a flat board or plate, partly or wholly surrounded by a rim. In this galley, the types are accumulated, generally in the form of long columns, which are afterwards divided into pages, each page being tied together with a string to prevent the types from falling asunder. When a sufficient number of pages are completed to constitute what is called a form, or, in other words, to fill one side of a sheet, they are arranged upon an imposing stone, and strongly locked up, or wedged together, in an iron frame, denominated a chase, to prepare them for the press.

Signatures.--A sheet intended for a folio, has two pages on a side, and will form two leaves. A quarto has four; an octavo, eight; a duodecimo, twelve, &c. These pages are so arranged in the form, that in the impression they will assume their true order, after the sheet is folded. The sheets are marked at the bottom of certain pages with successive numbers, or capital letters; the object of which is, to afford the necessary instructions for the order of folding and gathering them. These are called signatures.

Correcting the Press.--The first impression taken from the types is called a proof. This is carefully read over, and the errors and inaccuracies marked. To correct them, the wedges or quoins are knocked out, so as to loosen the types; the erroneous letters are drawn out, and the proper ones substituted, and the whole is again wedged into the frame.

Many of the errors of the press, which remain uncorrected in books, arise from a want of understanding between the author, or correcter, and the printer, in the characters used in correction. It is not enough that the author should detect these errors and note them in the margin. He must express, by intelligible marks, how these defects are to be altered; and unless he uses such marks as are employed by printers themselves, his attempts at correctness will be defeated. Every person who has occasion to appear in print, should first know how to correct the press.[1]

The following signs for correcting the press, are employed by printers themselves.

When a wrong letter is discovered, a line is drawn
through it, and the true letter is written in the margin,

To be, or not to be, that in the question.                   s
 **            This letter ^ is struck through with a diagonal slash ** 

If a letter is found to be omitted, a caret is placed
under its place, and the letter written in the margin,

To be, or not to be, tht is the question.                    a

If a superfluous letter is detected, it is crossed
out, and a character which stands for dele, (blot out
or expunge,) introduced in the margin.

To be, or not too, that is the question.                  [*dele]
**  This letter ^ is struck-through with a dash **

If two words are improperly joined together, a
character indicating a space, is used.

To be, or not tobe, that is the question.                    #

If words are placed too far apart, a horizontal
parenthesis is placed over and between them, and a
perpendicular parenthesis in the margin, thus:

To be, or not  to be, that is the question.                ( )

[1] If the error is confined to a letter or word, it is easily corrected. But if it involves the addition or erasure of a sentence or a number of lines, the correction is more difficult. The whole form must be deranged, and as the adding or expunging of lines affects the length of the page, it must be adjusted at the expense of the next following page; so that all the subsequent pages may be disturbed, before the necessary correctness is obtained. An author who corrects the press for his own works, will very much abridge the labor of the printer, if, in all cases of an erased word, he will substitute another of nearly the same length in its neighborhood, or, if a new word is added, by striking out one in the paragraph which can be better spared.

If syllables of the same word are improperly separated,
they are joined by a horizontal parenthesis.

To be, or not to be, that is the ques  tion.                 /\
                                     \/                      \/

When words are found to be transposed, they
are connected by a curved line, and the letters tr.
(transpose) written in the margin.

To be, or not to be, /is\ that/ the question.        tr.

When a letter is inverted, it is expressed by a
character of this sort in the margin:

To be, or not to be, that is the qu*stion.                  [*Symbol]

Marks of punctuation are generally placed before              |
a short stroke, thus:                                        ,|

The apostrophe and mark of quotation are marked              '|
as in the margin:                                           --|

The period and hyphen are enclosed in circles,
thus:                                                     [*Symbol]

Words intended to be printed in italics, are
marked beneath with a single line; if in small
capitals, with two lines; and if in large capitals, with
three. Thus, a line marked in this manner,

Oh thou, in Hellas deemed of heavenly birth,
========    ______           --------

would be printed thus:--

OH THOU, in HELLAS deemed of heavenly birth.

In correcting with these marks, the abbreviations, Ital., Rom., Caps., &c, should also be written in the margin.

Corrections themselves sometimes require to be corrected. Thus, if a word has been improperly altered, and it is afterwards thought best to retain it, dots are placed beneath, and the word stet (let it stand) written in the margin.

When lines are crooked, or letters have been disturbed from their places, or blemishes appear, it is sufficient to call the attention of the printer, by a dash of the pen, at the place.

Press Work.--After the sheet is corrected and revised, it is then ready for the press, to which it is accordingly transferred. The ink is first applied over the whole surface of the types; the paper, previously moistened, is then laid down upon them, the whole is passed under the press, and the paper being brought into forcible contact with the types, receives from their surface the ink necessary for a distinct impression. Printers' ink is composed chiefly of lampblack and oil inspissated by boiling and burning. Oil is necessary, that the ink may not dry during the operation, and it is reduced by boiling, to prevent it from spreading on the paper. It is applied to the types by large elastic balls made of leather and stuffed with wool, or by elastic rollers, like those used in printing machines.

Printing Press.--The common or old printing press, derives its power from a screw, which is turned by a lever, and acts perpendicularly on the platten, or level part, which transmits the pressure. Various improvements have been made in the printing press, by Lord Stanhope, and other inventors, in most of which a cast-iron frame is substituted for a wooden one, being more inflexible; and a combination of levers is used, so arranged as to cause the platten to descend with decreasing rapidity, and consequently with increasing force, till it exerts the greatest power at the moment of contact of the paper with the types.

Stereotyping.--In stereotype printing, instead of movable types, blocks or plates are used, each containing all the characters requisite to form a page. The process of stereotyping is simple. A page of any work proposed to be stereotyped, is set up in the usual manner with movable types. From this page, when corrected, a mould in plaster is taken off, and from this mould, a plate of type-metal is cast, having all the characters in relief, and being a fac-simile of the original page. From this plate, the printing is executed, and there must be, of course, as many plates cast, as there are pages in the book to be printed. It will thus be seen, from the accounts already given, that the stereotyped letter press constitutes the sixth time that the character has been formed, viz., 1, in the steel punch; 2, in the matrix; 3, in the movable type; 4, in the plaster cast; 5, in the stereotyped character; and 6, in the printed page.

The plaster used for forming the moulds is pulverized gypsum, dried by heat, and mixed with water; to which is added a little whiting to diminish the tendency of the plaster to shrink and crack. After the form of types has been slightly oiled, and surrounded with a metal frame, fluid plaster is applied over the surface with a brush or roller, so as to fill every cavity of the letters. A quantity of plaster mixed with water to the consistence of cream, is then poured on the type, and the superfluous part scraped off. When the plaster has become hard, it is lifted off by the frame, and detached from it. It is then baked to dryness in an oven, and when quite hot, it is placed in an iron box or casting pot, which has also been heated in an oven. The box is now plunged into a large pot of melted type-metal, and kept about ten minutes under the surface, in order that the weight of the metal may force it into all the finer parts of the letters. The whole is then cooled, the mould broken and washed off, and the back of the plate turned smooth in a lathe, or planed by a machine. The earlier stereotype founders, as Didot and others, formed their moulds with a soft metal, or a metal at the point of congelation, instead of plaster.

Stereotype printing is chiefly useful for standard and classical works, for which there is a regular demand, and of which the successive editions require no alteration. It is now executed with such increased economy, as to be applicable to works even of less durability. A saving, both of time and interest, is made by the circumstance that the types are immediately dispensed with, and that it is not necessary to strike off larger editions than the call from time to time justifies.

Machine Printing.--Printing by machinery, is one of the latest achievements of art, having had its origin within the present century. It has produced a very great improvement in the expedition with which work is executed, and is now extensively applied to the printing of newspapers and even of books. Various machines are already introduced into use, most of which perform the processes of inking the types, conveying the paper, and giving the impression. For distributing the ink on the types, elastic cylinders are employed, called inking rollers, made of a composition of glue and treacle, which combines the properties of smoothness, elasticity, and sufficient durability. These transmit the ink to the types by rolling over their surface. The impression is performed in most of the English machines, by large cylinders which revolve upon the types, having the sheet of paper confined to their surface by bands of tape. The types are arranged in some machines in the common flat form; in others, the characters are placed in a convex form upon the surface of cylinders. To produce the latter effect, Mr. Nicholson proposed to cast the body of the types with a tapering or wedge form, like the stones of an arch, but Mr. Cowper has produced the same object more expeditiously, by curving stereotype plates into the required shape. Messrs. Donkin and Bacon placed their types on the four sides of a revolving prism, while the ink was applied by a roller which rose and fell with the irregularities of the prism, and the sheet was wrapped on another prism so formed as to meet the surfaces of the first. A common printing press gives about two hundred and fifty impressions per hour, whereas of the 'Times,' a London newspaper, printed by Applegath and Cowper's machine, it is stated that four thousand per hour are printed on one side. The first working machine which printed by steam, was erected by Mr. Koenig, in 1814.

In most of the presses used in this country, the impressions are made by a flat surface or platten, instead of a cylinder, so that cleaner and better impressions are supposed to be obtained from it than from most other machines. Printing by machinery has now become common, and various modifications of the original machines are in use.

History.--The art of printing was first carried into successful operation, a little before the middle of the fifteenth century. The honor of having given birth to the invention, is claimed by the cities of Haerlem, Mentz, and Strasburgh, in each of which the art was successfully practised at an early period. The best authors, however, agree in considering that the original inventor of printing was Laurentius, otherwise called Coster, of Haerlem, who made his first attempt in 1430, with separate wooden types. He died ten years after, having printed the 'Horarium,' the 'Speculum Belgicum,' and two different editions of Donatus, which were the first books. After his death, printing was carried on at Mentz, by John Gensfleisch, who had possessed himself of some of Laurentius's types, and who, like his master, printed in wood. This man, with the assistance of his brother, who is usually called Guttenberg, afterward invented cut metal types, with which was printed the earliest edition of the Bible. This edition appeared in 1450, having taken seven or eight years for its completion.

Guttenberg used none but wooden or cut metal types. The art received its consummation soon after, from Peter Schoeffer, who invented the mode of casting types in matrices. The celebrated Faustus, who has often been considered as the inventor of printing, was in partnership with the persons already mentioned, and furnished funds to defray the expenses of the enterprise, the processes being kept secret. The well-known tale of the practice of necromancy, by Faustus, was owing to his carrying a parcel of his Bibles to Paris, and offering them for sale as manuscripts. The French, finding so great a number of books resembling each other exactly, and more so than it was possible for any chirographer to have made them, concluded there was witchcraft in the case, and, by inditing Faustus as a conjuror, compelled him to disclose the secret in his own defence.

After the invention of printing with fusible types, it spread rapidly into many of the cities of Europe, and was practised at an early period at Tours, Rome, and Venice. It was first carried on in England by Caxton and Corsellis, about 1470, and the earliest press was established at Oxford.

It is remarkable that this important art, after becoming once established, underwent no essential improvement for a period of more than three hundred years. Having remained stationary for three centuries, it has received a fresh impulse within the last few years, by the invention of stereotyping, and of printing by machinery.

Although printing with movable types is exclusively a modern art, yet there are some steps in the discovery, which have claim to greater antiquity. The Chinese have printed with their characters for more than nine hundred years; but as the nature of this character requires that much should be expressed by a single figure, they are obliged to cut each character, with all its complications, in a block of wood, so that their method resembles a limited kind of stereotype printing.

Among the relics of ancient Rome, there have been found letters, cut in brass and raised above the surface, exactly like our printing types. Some of these contain the names of individuals, and, from their shape and appendages, were evidently used for the purpose of signature, the letters being small, smooth, and even, while the ground beneath them is unequal and rough, so that they must have been employed, not for impressions into soft substances, but for printing with colored liquids, on a surface like parchment or paper. Had the individuals, whose names were thus printed, been visited with the thought that by separating the letters, they might print the name of another, it is probable that the art would have been at once discovered, and that the dark ages might never have happened.

WORKS OF REFERENCE.--ASTLE, on the Origin and Progress of Writing, 4to. London, 1803;--FRY'S Pantographia, 4to. London, 1799;--TOWNLEY'S Illustrations of Biblical Literature, 1821;--STOWER'S Printers' Grammar, 8vo. London, 1808;--THOMAS'S History of Printing, 8vo. Worcester, U.S. 1810;--MEERMAN, Origines Typographicæ Hagæ, 1765;--COWPER, in Brande's Journal of Science, 1828;--HANSARD'S Typographia, large 8vo. 1825;--ADAMS'S Typographia, Philadelphia, 12mo. 1837.

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