Senior Engineering Design Project

This working model of an early modern printing press was created by Bucknell student engineers as a Senior Design Project in 2001 in response to a joint request from Special Collections and Professor Ann Tlusty of the History department. The press makes it easier to demonstrate early modern printing methods to students. The photos and technical information below were provided as a resource to the engineers during the project.

To learn more about the project,
click here

For technical information about Gutenberg's 15th-century engineering problem, click here

Doris Dysinger demonstrates
early modern printing in
Special Collections


Bucknell's Model Press Design goes to the
Folger Shakespeare Library!

*See more here*
*press release*

To zoom in on photos, click on size description listed to its right.

The following pictures are provided in no particular order.
Some (such as those related to casting type and paper-making)
are only here for general historical interest rather than for any specific technical value.



1. Casting type, before 1850

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2. "Johannes Gutenberg"

This is someone's guess - there is no actual record of what Gutenberg looked like.

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3. A reproduction of a Gutenberg-style press from the Museum der Universitaet Munster

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4 4. Reproduction of a set of type by Daniel Stempel in Frankfurt. Original typeface was photocopied on wood and then reamed out, the molds reproduced with bronze in a sandcasting process, and the type cast by hand. The picture on top shows type setting in frames during the 18th century. x4 x6 x9 x12

5. Printing Press of Erhardt Buttmann, d. 1559. Illumination from Hausbuch der medelschen Zwoelfbruderstiftun, Nuremberg, Vol. 2.

The "Spindel" press, using a screw or spindel to press the paper onto the typeface, was a development of earlier instruments that used the same principle to press grapes and olives, and eventually also to make paper. Gutenberg's greatest challenge was to find a way to keep the turning motion of the spindel from affecting the print at the moment of contact (see further details, above)

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6 6. 17th-century printer's shop (copper engraving, Bernhard Malinckrot, Cologne 1640) x4 x6 x9 x12

7. Printing Press, from Diderot's Encyclopedia

This picture can also be seen in the original in Bucknell's Special Collections. Here it is possible to see the spindle moving through a square wooden sleeve or socket (or Buechse, D), which can also be moved up and down. The press plate (Tiegel) was attached to the underside of this socket.

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8 8. A more modern press by Abraham Reese, London, 1820 x4 x6 x9 x12

9. Printing Device of Dirk van der Borne, 1514

The Printing Device identified the printer's shop in which a book was produced. This one shows a typesetter (behind left), journeyman or "Ballenmeister" (front left), the Master Printer (at the press), and a proof-reader with sheets (behind, right).

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10 10. Preparing in for printing. Copper engraving, 1570. x4 x6 x9 x12
11 11. A page from Gutenberg's bible, 1452-55 (a fine facsimile of this can be viewed in Bucknell's Special Collections). Note the hand-painted illuminations. Early books or "incunabula" (books printed "in the cradle" of printing, or before 1501) were usually very expensive. x4 x6 x9 x12

12. Drawing of a printing press by Pieter Saenredam, 1628


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13 13. Casting type, woodcut from Jost Amman's Staendebuch, Nuremberg 1568 x4 x6 x9 x12
14 14. Casting type, engraving from Jan Luyken's Spiegel van het menschlyk, 1694. The man is casting the type, and the woman is filing them smooth on a whet-stone. x4 x6 x9 x12

15. Inking plates, copper engraving, 1762

The "Ballenmeister" had to pay close attention to an even distribution of ink without any smears.

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16 16. Type-casting equipment in an Antwerp printing house. x4 x6 x9 x12
17 17. Instructions for typesetting in order to print in folio format. The pairs represent both sides of the paper - page numbers at the top indicate how to order the pages in order to create a book section of four folded sheets (16 pages). x4 x6 x9 x12

18. Stamping coins, from Der Weisskunig (the print was made in the 16th century, but not printed until the 18th). This is the same method used to stamp molds for casting type.

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19. Playing card, the "Deuce of Druckerballen" (Jost Amman's Spielkartenbuch, Nuremberg 1562)

The Druckerballen, made of leather stuffed with wool or horsehair and with wooden handles, were used to ink the typeface. Normally two were used at once, one in each hand. The playing card shows two printer's journeymen at a press, with a stalk of wheat and a large wine glass in the background (possibly to symbolize good fortune - the wine glass is cylindrical and covered with bumps or nubs).

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20. Printing of a page in folio format.

Note the journeyman at the middle of the press, applying ink with Druckerballen. Type is being set in the background. (copper engraving, 1668)

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21. Printing press parts (18th century)

The screw or "spindel" shown here is of iron

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22 22. Reconstruction of the earliest type casting equipment (described in a book from 1840) x4 x6 x9 x12
23 23. This reconstuction of a Gutenberg-style press is in the Gutenberg museum in Mainz (Gutenberg Musem). This model is based on drawings from between 1499 and 1548 - the actual press used by Gutenberg was never drawn, so we don't know exactly what it looked like. x4 x6 x9 x12

24. "Drinking Party in a Printing Shop," Jacques Albert Senave, 1758-1829

Although the painting is from the early 19th century, it depicts a larger17th-century style printing shop, with a row of presses .

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25. Paper-making, prob. 16th century

Paper was made from rags that were reduced to a meal and then spread on forms, pressed and air-dried

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26. Papermaking, woodcut by Jost Amann, 1564

The "press" in the background is for pressing paper, not printing

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27 27. This press from the St. Bride Printing Museum in London, England is of a sort common in the eighteenth century, but the lever mechanism is from the early nineteenth century. x4   x9  

28. This image from a "Dance of Death" cycle (1499) is the oldest known image of a Gutenberg-style press

(Mattheus Huss, Lyon, 1499)

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29   x4   x6  
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