Portrait of Andrew Ure, engraved by William G. Jackman.

Portrait of Andrew Ure, engraved by William G. Jackman.


Ure's article is particularly helpful in explaining the ways the different early printing machines applied ink and directed the paper around the cyclinders.

This enlargement shows a boy driving a single cylinder machine by means of a separate hand-crank mechanism connected by a belt. Ure

This enlargement shows a boy driving a single cylinder machine by means of a separate hand-crank mechanism connected by a belt. Ure's book is the only place I have seen an image of this particular human power arrangement.


Ure's image of a double-cylinder machine driven by a Maudslay table steam engine was probably reproduced from Timperly's book issued the same year. The diagrams on the right illustrate the complex paper path. Regarding the steam engine, Ure adds a detail that I have not seen elsewhere:

"Motion is given to the whole system of apparatus by a strap from a steam engine going round a pulley placed at the end of axle at the back of the frame; one single machine may be driven by the power of two men acting upon a fly-wheel. In Messrs. Clowes' establishment in Stamford-street, two five-horse engines actuate nineteen of the above described machines."


Ure's comparative cost analysis of machine papermaking versus traditional methods is one of the best that I have seen.

Detail map of London, England, United Kingdom Overview map of London, England, United Kingdom

A: London, England, United Kingdom

Andrew Ure Publishes Outstanding Illustrated Accounts of Machine Printing & Machine Papermaking

Ure's Dictionary and Supplement original cloth bindings

Original cloth bindings on the first edition of Ure's Dictionary and its first Supplement (1844). The supplement dealt with patents in industrial processes that Ure considered significant.

In his A Dictionary of Arts, Manufactures, and Mines pp. 1038-1046 Scottish physician, chemist and science and technology writer Andrew Ure provided one of the most detailed and best illustrated accounts of the history, design, and operation of the new printing machines. Elsewhere in his encyclopedia he provided an outstanding account of papermaking by machine, among hundreds of other subjects. For most of my long lifetime with books I never had occasion to review 19th encyclopedias of technology; study of the history of the 19th century technologies that led to the first mass media provided the opportunity to begin to fill this void in my reading.

The first edition of Ure's Dictionary consists of 1334 pages, densely set in type that is uncomfortably small. The work also includes 1240 wood engravings, typically in outline. My impression, that will have to be confirmed, is that Ure updated this work with supplements rather attempting the very complex process of revising the extremely long complicated text. 

The three features of Ure's work that stand out are the unusally wide range of technological processes about which Ure has included articles, the unusually clear way that the technical drawings are presented and captioned, and the elevated, elegant language that Ure employs in this technical manual.

For example, Ure begins his long, and in my opinion, brilliant article on "Printing Machine" as follows:

"In reviewing those great eras of national industry, when the productive arts, after a long period of irksome vassalage, have suddenly achieved some new conquest over the inertia of matter, the contemplative mind cannot fail to be struck with the insignificant part which the academical philosopher has generally played in such memorable events.

"Engrossed with barren syllogisms, or equational theorems, often little better than than truisms in diguise, he nevertheless believes in the perfection of his attainments, and disdains to soil his hands with those handicraft operations at which all improvements the arts must necessarily begin. He does not deem a manufacture worthy of his regard, till it has worked out its own grandeur and independence with patient labour and consummate skill. In this spirit the men of speculative science neglected for 60 years the steam engine of Newcomen, till the artisan Watt transformed it into an automatic prodigy; they have never deigned to illustrate by dynamical investigations the factory mechanisms of Arkwright, yet nothing in the whole compass of art deserves it so well; and though perfectly aware that resolvency is the leading law in the system of the universe, they have never thought of showing the workman that this was the true principle of every automatic machine.

"These remarks seem to be particularly applicable to book-printing, an art invented for the honour of learning and the glory of the learned, though they have done nothing for its advancement; yet by the overruling bounty of Providence it has eventually served as the great teacher and guardian of the whole family of man.

"It has been justly observed by Mr. Cowper, in his ingenious lecture, that no improvement had been introduced in this important art from its invention till the year 1798, a period of 350 years. In Dr. Dibdin's interesting account of printing, in the Bibliographical Decameron, may be seen representations of the early printing-presses, which exactly resemble the wooden presses in use at the present day. A new era has, however, now arrived, when the demands for prompt circulation of political intelligence require powers of printing newspapers beyond the reach of the most expeditious hand presswork." (pp. 1032-33).

I have reproduced the most interesting and unusual of Ure's illustrations of printing machines as they appear within the densely set type of his book.

Ure's articles on papermaking, covering all aspects of the process from traditional "hand" processes to the papermaking machines, are more extensive than his articles on printing, occupying pp. 918-941. Of those I have reproduced his comparative cost analyses showing the savings in paper production cost gained through the use of papermaking machines.

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