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Thomas Bensley Prints the First Complete Book on Koenig's Steam-Powered Press

1817

The first complete book ever printed on a machine press was Blumenbach's The Institutions of Physiology, Translated from the Latin of the Third and Last Edition by John Elliotson, printed in London in 1817 by Bensley and Son. At the end of Elliotson's preface on p. iii there is the following postscript:

"P.S. The volume may be considered a typographical curiosity, being the first book ever printed by machinery. It is executed by Messrs. Bensley and Son's patent machine, which prints both sides of the sheet by one operation, at the rate of 900 an hour, and is the only one of the kind ever constructed."

Besides inventing the machine press, Koenig also revolutionized the inking process. Prior to the development of the printing machine type had been inked by hand, using leather balls which needed frequent cleaning and renewal. In the printing machine the ink was held in a central reservoir, and after preparation between a system of rollers it was passed over the surface of the type metal by a final final roller. This eliminated the laborious process of hand-inking.

 

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