A spe­cial fam­ily of presses for the lar­ger prin­ted page

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.