Movable Type Exhibition 2015

The Albion and Platen Presses

The Albion Press is an early cast-iron hand-printing press. It was first designed in 1820 by Richard Whittaker Cope and later manufactured by Hopkinson Cope and other licensees until the 1930s. It was the third cast-iron press to be invented after the Stanhope and Colombian presses, and was the most popular press of its era because its toggle system made it easy to use.

Albions were used for book printing up until the 1850s. At that point they were superseded by newer and faster printers such as the platen press and the cylinder press. This Albion would have been used mostly used for ‘jobbing’ – small print jobs like pamphlets, cards, circulars, bill headers, etc.

This press came into the Museum collection from the Oamaru Mail. Originally it was imported directly into Melbourne, and may have been used by the Melbourne Age and then the Otago Daily Times before arriving in Oamaru in the 1860s. We are carrying out research in the hope of confirming this story.

Albion Presses are popular with artists and artisans for the creation of original and fine art work, similar to the works on display from the Forrester Gallery collection. We would like to see this press in operation again. What do you think?

Check out the YouTube film showing a similar Albion Press in operation -


A platen press is a general name for presses that worked by pressing the paper up against the inked up type. This press was operated by a treadle and flywheel which moved rollers up and down vertically to ink the type and then press each sheet of paper against the type.

This press was known as ‘the pressman’s favourite’ because it was easy and quick to set up and use. It was designed by Chandler & Price in Cleveland Ohio and made from 1887 to 1965. It dominated the printing industry up until the 1950s when offset printing became widespread.

This press came from Brackens Print – a printing firm that still operates in Oamaru today. We don’t know when it was first imported into New Zealand, but it would have been used as a general jobbing press.

Platen presses are used by some artisan printers who continue to do jobbing work – small print runs of envelopes and cards etc.

Check out the YouTube film of a Chandler & Price in action -

Morgan Bennet