The Wharfedale is one of a spe­cial fam­i­ly of press­es-the ‘stop cylin­der’ press­es. The forme moves back­wards and for­wards on a flat-bed, and the impres­sion is made by a rotat­ing cylin­der. Paper is gripped on the cylin­der. In com­mon with proof­ing press­es, the force of the impres­sion is deliv­ered in a thin strip (just where the cylin­der hits the forme). This allows for a greater pre­ci­sion of impres­sion.

The press has a long his­to­ry: in 1830 William Daw­son, a join­er from Otley in West York­shire, made a ‘rul­ing machine’ from wood. This expo­sure to print­ers led to more work sup­ply­ing print­ers. Across the UK in Ulver­ston, Stephen Soul­by patent­ed a print­ing machine where the cylin­der rolled over a sta­tion­ary forme. He called the press the ‘Ulver­ston­ian’ but had lit­tle suc­cess with it and was point­ed in the direc­tion of Daw­son in Otley. I assume Daw­son devel­oped Soulby’s ideas with him. Nick Smith has pro­vid­ed the image below, show­ing a rare illus­tra­tion of the Ulver­ston­ian: it looks to show an ink cylin­der (with rid­ers) and impres­sion cylin­der.


In 1855 the first machine was sent from Otley-on the banks of the riv­er Wharfe — at a cost of £60 and was capa­ble of pro­duc­ing 500 impres­sions per hour. At that time twen­ty men were employed in this work.

By 1911 between two and three thou­sand men were engaged in build­ing this type of press along the Wharfe at dif­fer­ent works: Daw­sons, Payne, Folds and so on. Wharfedales were claimed to deliv­er between two and three thou­sand impres­sions per hour, but those that have used them com­mer­cial­ly tell me that 1,500 impres­sions per hour was a prac­ti­cal max­i­mum.

The press­es should give accu­rate reg­is­tra­tion and were used for mag­a­zine and news­pa­per work because of this and their vast print­able area.

Dur­ing the ear­ly part of 2007, Ken McWhan of Scar­bor­ough wound up his print­ing works where a Wharfedale had been used for over sev­en­ty years to pro­duce posters. This was report­ed as the clo­sure of one of the last exclu­sive let­ter­press print­ers in York­shire, if not the UK.

Mr Justin Knopp has re-homed an 1888 Demy Wharfedale press and record­ed its move­ment on YouTube. You can fol­low Justin’s progress through his Typore­tum Blog.