A Small Printing Office

Machine Room at T A Constable (from ECP)
Machine Room at T A Constable (from ECP)

Big type founders used to supply ‘complete printing offices’ described in great detail in their catalogues. They might include hundreds of pounds of type for a newspaper set completely by hand.

Smaller concerns have more modest needs; and the requirements for a printing office for the current small printer aren’t dramatically different from those of fifty years ago. This list is adapted from both Printing for Pleasure by John Ryder and other booklets on small printing.

A Small Press

Ryder suggests Adana machines (especially the Adana QH), or Model presses. Rollers will be needed


The widespread advice is to choose one face and stick with it.  Once you have a settled view of the type you want, the recommedations are —

  • From Printing for Pleasure
    • Two ‘card founts’ of 12pt, 18pt and 24pt Roman (for 12pt, this would be around 20A 32a)
    • One ‘card fount’ of 12pt, 18pt and 24pt Italic (at 12pt, this would be around 10A 16a)
  • From Basic Printing: Letterpress for the Beginner by the BPS
    • 2kg (c. 9A 18a) of 18pt Bold
    • 2kg (c. 20A 40a) of 12pt Bold
    • 2kg (or 4kg of finances allow) of 12pt Roman
    • 2kg of 12pt Italic
    • 1kg (c. 22A 44a) of 8pt Roman

Other things from type founders that are needed are —

  • Spacing (c. 1/2kg per size)
  • Quads
  • Hair spaces
  • Leads
  • Borders:

Other Items

  • Furniture: aluminium, plastic (Resalite) or wood — 2 or 3 times are area of the chase of the machine
  • Quoins: expanding metal.  May also need narrow margin quoins
  • Printing rules (brass or from the type founder)
  • Reglet


  • Composing stick
  • Bodkin
  • Tweezers
  • Planing block
  • Typescale
  • Imposing surface
  • Lead cutter
  • Ink knife
  • Hand rollers


  • Type cases and cabinets
  • Galleys