Printing Equipment at the Alembic Press

The Alembic Press is housed in a 70ft long stone barn, one bay having the printing and binding equipment and another bay the typecasting equipment.

Farley and typeframes

The above photo shows the main composing area, with a run of five type frames along the back wall, and a small Farley cylinder proof press in the immediate foreground, alongside another run of type frames (with a sloping random). At the top can be seen the mezzanine which houses the binding department. In the far right is the (far too dark) outline of the Albion hand press. Out of sight to the right are the Vandercook No.4 cylinder proof press, the Peerless Cropper treadle platen, and the Arab treadle platen.

Albion and ArabThis other photo is taken from the opposite end, and shows the 1866 Hopkinson & Cope Improved Albion in the foreground, and the Arab (a little too dark) in the background. Between the two can be seen a red Adana 8x5 table-top platen and a black metal Harrild inking (braying) table. The Vandercook is out of the picture to the left, and the Peerless is hidden by a pillar, which has several shelves of inks around it.

Some of the presses which are used by the Alembic Press

Arab (Foolscap Folio)The Press used the Arab for many of its books, until the Vandercook was purchased. The Arab is a very smooth running and well-engineered machine, manufactured by Josiah Wade in Halifax. Ours has a motor drive and an ink duct, although we normally only use the foot treadle, and have never yet needed to use the ink duct. The press takes up some 4 sq ft of floor space, and has a chase size of 13 x 9 ins (bed size 15 x 10 ins). Our machine is serial 3814WD and dates from c1935.
Arab Advert in British Printer 1890
Arabs were made from 1872 until 1959 and the illustration on the right shows the Arab as advertised in the British Printer in 1890. It is viewed from the motor drive side, and is shown without a safety guard (which was a later fitting).

Sadly, for us, our Arab has now (in 2008) moved on to a new owner, as we were making progressively less use of it, and more of the Vandercook, and needed the space.

As well as the Arab passing on, the Peerless has also now moved to a new owner. It was a nice little press to look at, but we never managed to make any real use of it, so was rather wasted with us.

Sigwalt No.4One of our other presses is the Sigwalt table-top platen, operated by a single side lever, and shown in the photo on the left. We have been unable to date our press, or indeed fully confirm that it is a Sigwalt. However it is stamped 4 on the bed, and matches illustrations of a Sigwalt Model 4. It weighs approx 128 lbs and has a bed size of 9 x 6½ ins and inner chase size of 7½ x 5 ins. It is proving to be a very easy press to use for small jobs, needing far less impression adjustment than the equivalent Adana 8 x 5 press.A party of Adanas An assortment of Adana presses can be seen in the photo on the right, which shows Adanas out for a picnic with the Maidenhead branch of the British Printing Society. In the centre is our Horizontal Quarto (now also gone to a new home), at the right back is one of our 8x5 presses, and in front of that is our 5x3 press.

We also have an Adana HS3, but this is still being repaired. It has a slightly larger chase than the 8x5, and is in many ways a much more robust machine, although much the same size as an 8x5.

Vandercook No.4And then there is our workhorse, the Vandercook No.4

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The Alembic Press

A Fine Press creating and printing limited edition books by traditional letterpress.

This page was written by David Bolton and last updated 16 October 2008.