The King of sup­pli­ers for the hobby printer

The ‘Adana Agency’ was foun­ded in 1922 in Twick­en­ham by Don­ald Affleck Aspin­all. Adana was dis­tin­guished by cater­ing for the hobby let­ter­press print­er, at a time when some sup­pli­ers did not approve of the hobby print­er. The type founder Caslon stated that ‘We are not among those who are alarmed at the increase in ama­teur print­ing in this coun­try, though we will not encour­age it.’

The first offi­cial Adana machines were advert­ised in Novem­ber 1922 in the Exchange and Mart. The machine was a devel­op­ment on the Par­lour Presses of the late Vic­tori­an peri­od, and retailed for 45/- (£2.25).

Over its life, Adana made dif­fer­ent types of machines — the unique flat­bed machines (like the Adana QH or Adana HQ); treadle and powered presses; and their fam­ous lever presses. Adana also sup­plied spe­cial­ist show card presses (for dis­play boards); and sun­dries for the ama­teur printer.

Adana cast its own type from 1925 and used four Mono­type Casters and two Super­type casters. Aspin­all, who had no form­al engin­eer­ing or busi­ness train­ing, has a num­ber of pat­ents, includ­ing one for Adana’s wire gauge pins

As well as being used for hobby print­ers, Adana presses found their way into oth­er spheres — edu­ca­tion, occu­pa­tion­al health and light industry. A fleet of Adanas was used by the Leeds Per­man­ent Build­ing Soci­ety to over-print pass books. Their most well-known machine is prob­ably the Adana Eight-Five.

At its height, the firm had agents across the globe; and branch offices in Lon­don and Manchester.

In 1996, after chan­ging hands many times, Adana was absorbed into Caslon. That firm still sells some Adana sup­plies, but the last new machine was sold in 1999 by their agent in Japan.

Outline Timeline

Nov 1922 Don­ald Aspin­all places first adverts in the Exchange and Mart for print­ing machines
Mid 1920s Adana moved to Church Street, Twickenham
Jul 1925 Reports of type being cast by three Mono­type machines at Church Street with 50 tons of type in stock
1927 Pop­u­lar Print­ing launched as a peri­od­ic­al by Adana. 36-divi­sion cases launched by Adana: dis­con­tin­ued in 1994
Sum­mer 1928 Adana’s wire guage pin inven­ted. A request is made for cus­tom­ers to make sug­ges­tions for Adana blocks with the prom­ise that they would be re-drawn professionally
Sum­mer 1939 The firm (run as a sole pro­pri­et­or by Aspin­all) hits fin­an­cial dif­fi­culties: cred­it­ors meet
1940 Adana Agency acquired by Fre­d­er­ick Ayers
Apr 1946 Adana (Print­ing Machines) Lim­ited formed
1948 Print­craft magazine lists 16 dis­trib­ut­ors around the globe
1950 New shop opens at Greys Inn Road, London
Mar 1959 One of Ayers sub­si­di­ar­ies — Ayers Jardine — launches the ‘Show­card’ machine for small busi­nesses to print dis­play cards for shops
1961 Begin­ners Guide to Design in Print­ing pub­lished by Adana
Early 1970s Plaspoint — a plastic replace­ment for leads is intro­duced, but leads to some com­plaints because it had a tend­ency to slip from the forme
1980 Type no longer cast by Adana, and sup­plied by Yend­all (Risca­type) until they were wound up in 1984. Type then sup­plied by Star­type of Birstall
1987 Greys Inn Road shop closes
10 Aug 1990 Adana (Print­ing Machines) Lim­ited wound up good­will sold to Caslon
Apr 1993 Adana Lim­ited goes into vol­un­tary liquidation
1999 Last new Adana machine (8 x 5) sold by Adana’s agent in Japan

More Information

Bob Richard­son has writ­ten an excel­lent book The Adana con­nec­tion detail­ing both the firm and her machines. It was pub­lished by the Brit­ish Print­ing Soci­ety, and may still be avail­able from them.