Men of Invention and Industry/Chapter VII
"Intellect and industry are never incompatible. There is more wisdom, and will be more benefit, in combining them than scholars like to believe, or than the common world imagine. Life has time enough for both, and its happiness will be increased by the union." — SHARON TURNER.
"I have beheld with most respect the man Who knew himself, and knew the ways before him, And from among them chose considerately, With a clear foresight, not a blindfold courage; And, having chosen, with a steadfast mind Pursued his purpose." HENRY TAYLOR — Philip van Artevelde.
The late John Walter, who adopted Koenig's steam printing press in printing The Times, was virtually the inventor of the modern newspaper. The first John Walter, his father, learnt the art of printing in the office of Dodsley, the proprietor of the 'Annual Register.' He afterwards pursued the profession of an underwriter, but his fortunes were literally shipwrecked by the capture of a fleet of merchantmen by a French squadron. Compelled by this loss to return to his trade, he succeeded in obtaining the publication of 'Lloyd's List,' as well as the printing of the Board of Customs. He also established himself as a publisher and bookseller at No. 8, Charing Cross. But his principal achievement was in founding The Times newspaper.
The Daily Universal Register was started on the 1st of January, 1785, and was described in the heading as "printed logographically." The type had still to be composed, letter by letter, each placed alongside of its predecessor by human fingers. Mr. Walter's invention consisted in using stereotyped words and parts of words instead of separate metal letters, by which a certain saving of time and labour was effected. The name of the 'Register' did not suit, there being many other publications bearing a similar title. Accordingly, it was re-named The Times, and the first number was issued from Printing House Square on the 1st of January, 1788.
The Times was at first a very meagre publication. It was not much bigger than a number of the old 'Penny Magazine,' containing a single short leader on some current topic, without any pretensions to excellence; some driblets of news spread out in large type; half a column of foreign intelligence, with a column of facetious paragraphs under the heading of "The Cuckoo;" while the rest of each number consisted of advertisements. Notwithstanding the comparative innocence of the contents of the early numbers of the paper, certain passages which appeared in it on two occasions subjected the publisher to imprisonment in Newgate. The extent of the offence, on one occasion, consisted in the publication of a short paragraph intimating that their Royal Highnesses the Prince of Wales and the Duke of York had "so demeaned themselves as to incur the just disapprobation of his Majesty!" For such slight offences were printers sent to gaol in those days.
Although the first Mr. Walter was a man of considerable business ability, his exertions were probably too much divided amongst a variety of pursuits to enable him to devote that exclusive attention to The Times which was necessary to ensure its success. He possibly regarded it, as other publishers of newspapers then did, mainly as a means of obtaining a profitable business in job-printing. Hence, in the elder Walter's hands, the paper was not only unprofitable in itself, but its maintenance became a source of gradually increasing expenditure; and the proprietor seriously contemplated its discontinuance.
At this juncture, John Walter, junior, who had been taken into the business as a partner, entreated his father to entrust him with the sole conduct of the paper, and to give it "one more trial." This was at the beginning of 1803. The new editor and conductor was then only twenty-seven years of age. He had been trained to the manual work of a printer "at case," and passed through nearly every department in the office, literary and mechanical. But in the first place, he had received a very liberal education, first at Merchant Taylors' School, and afterwards at Trinity College, Oxford, where he pursued his classical studies with much success. He was thus a man of well-cultured mind; he had been thoroughly disciplined to work; he was, moreover, a man of tact and energy, full of expedients, and possessed by a passion for business. His father, urged by the young man's entreaties, at length consented, although not without misgivings, to resign into his hands the entire future control of The Times.
Young Walter proceeded forthwith to remodel the establishment, and to introduce improvements into every department, as far as the scanty capital at his command would admit. Before he assumed the direction, The Times did not seek to guide opinion or to exercise political influence. It was a scanty newspaper — nothing more, Any political matters referred to were usually introduced in "Letters to the Editor," in the form in which Junius's Letters first appeared in the Public Advertiser. The comments on political affairs by the Editor were meagre and brief, and confined to a mere statement of supposed facts.
Mr. Walter, very much to the dismay of his father, struck out an entirely new course. He boldly stated his views on public affairs, bringing his strong and original judgment to bear upon the political and social topics of the day. He carefully watched and closely studied public opinion, and discussed general questions in all their bearings. He thus invented the modern Leading Article. The adoption of an independent line of politics necessarily led him to canvass freely, and occasionally to condemn, the measures of the Government. Thus, he had only been about a year in office as editor, when the Sidmouth Administration was succeeded by that of Mr. Pitt, under whom Lord Melville undertook the unfortunate Catamaran expedition. His Lordship's malpractices in the Navy Department had also been brought to light by the Commissioners of Naval Inquiry. On both these topics Mr. Walter spoke out freely in terms of reprobation; and the result was, that the printing for the Customs and the Government advertisements were at once removed from The Times office.
Two years later Mr. Pitt died, and an Administration succeeded which contained a portion of the political chiefs whom the editor had formerly supported on his undertaking the management of the paper. He was invited by one of them to state the injustice which had been done to him by the loss of the Customs printing, and a memorial to the Treasury was submitted for his signature, with a view to its recovery. But believing that the reparation of the injury in this manner was likely to be considered as a favour, entitling those who granted it to a certain degree of influence over the politics of the journal, Walter refused to sign it, or to have any concern in presenting the memorial. He did more; he wrote to those from whom the restoration of the employment was expected to come, disavowing all connection with the proceeding. The matter then dropped, and the Customs printing was never restored to the office.
This course was so unprecedented, and, as his father thought, was so very wrong-headed, that young Walter had for some time considerable difficulty in holding his ground and maintaining the independent position he had assumed. But with great tenacity of purpose he held on his course undismayed. He was a man who looked far ahead, — not so much taking into account the results at the end of each day or of each year, but how the plan he had laid down for conducting the paper would work out in the long run. And events proved that the high-minded course he had pursued with so much firmness of purpose was the wisest course after all.
Another feature in the management which showed clear-sightedness and business acuteness, was the pains which the Editor took to ensure greater celerity of information and dispatch in printing. The expense which he incurred in carrying out these objects excited the serious displeasure of his father, who regarded them as acts of juvenile folly and extravagance. Another circumstance strongly roused the old man's wrath. It appears that in those days the insertion of theatrical puffs formed a considerable source of newspaper income; and yet young Walter determined at once to abolish them. It is not a little remarkable that these earliest acts of Mr. Walter — which so clearly marked his enterprise and high-mindedness — should have been made the subject of painful comments in his father's will.
Notwithstanding this serious opposition from within, the power and influence of the paper visibly and rapidly grew. The new Editor concentrated in the columns of his paper a range of information such as had never before been attempted, or indeed thought possible. His vigilant eye was directed to every detail of his business. He greatly improved the reporting of public meetings, the money market, and other intelligence, — aiming at greater fulness and accuracy. In the department of criticism his labours were unwearied. He sought to elevate the character of the paper, and rendered it more dignified by insisting that it should be impartial. He thus conferred the greatest public service upon literature, the drama, and the fine arts, by protecting them against the evil influences of venal panegyric on the one hand, and of prejudiced hostility on the other.
But the most remarkable feature of The Times that which emphatically commended it to public support and ensured its commercial success — was its department of foreign intelligence. At the time that Walter undertook the management of the journal, Europe was a vast theatre of war; and in the conduct of commercial affairs — not to speak of political movements — it was of the most vital importance that early information should be obtained of affairs on the Continent. The Editor resolved to become himself the purveyor of foreign intelligence, and at great expense he despatched his agents in all directions, even in the track of armies; while others were employed, under various disguises and by means of sundry pretexts, in many parts of the Continent. These agents collected information, and despatched it to London, often at considerable risks, for publication in The Times, where it usually appeared long in advance of the government despatches.
The late Mr. Pryme, in his 'Autobiographic Recollections,' mentions a visit which he paid to Mr. Walter at his seat at Bearwood. "He described to me," says Mr.Pryme, "the cause of the large extension in the circulation of The Times. He was the first to establish a foreign correspondent. This was Henry Crabb Robinson, at a salary of 300L. a year.... Mr. Walter also established local reporters, instead of copying from the country papers. His father doubted the wisdom of such a large expenditure, but the son prophesied a gradual and certain success, which has actually been realised."
Mr. Robinson has described in his Diary the manner in which he became connected with the foreign correspondence. "In January, 1807," he says, "I received, through my friend J.D. Collier, a proposal from Mr. Walter that I should take up my residence at Altona, and become The Times correspondent. I was to receive from the editor of the 'Hamburger Correspondenten' all the public documents at his disposal, and was to have the benefit also of a mass of information, of which the restraints of the German Press did not permit him to avail himself. The honorarium I was to receive was ample with my habits of life. I gladly accepted the offer, and never repented having done so. My acquaintance with Mr. Walter ripened into friendship, and lasted as long as he lived."
Mr. Robinson was forced to leave Germany by the Battle of Friedland and the Treaty of Tilsit, which resulted in the naval coalition against England. Returning to London, he became foreign editor of The Times until the following year, when he proceeded to Spain as foreign correspondent. Mr. Walter had also an agent in the track of the army in the unfortunate Walcheren expedition; and The Times announced the capitulation of Flushing forty-eight hours before the news had arrived by any other channel. By this prompt method of communicating public intelligence, the practice, which had previously existed, of systematically retarding the publication of foreign news by officials at the General Post Office, who made gain by selling them to the Lombard Street brokers, was effectually extinguished.
This circumstance, as well as the independent course which Mr. Walter adopted in the discussion of foreign politics, explains in some measure the opposition which he had to encounter in the transmission of his despatches. As early as the year 1805, when he had come into collision with the Government and lost the Customs printing, The Times despatches were regularly stopped at the outports, whilst those for the Ministerial journals were allowed to proceed. This might have crushed a weaker man, but it did not crush Walter. Of course he expostulated. He was informed at the Home Secretary's office that he might be permitted to receive his foreign papers as a favour. But as this implied the expectation of a favour from him in return, the proposal was rejected; and, determined not to be baffled, he employed special couriers, at great cost, for the purpose of obtaining the earliest transmission of foreign intelligence.
These important qualities — enterprise, energy, business tact, and public spirit —sufficiently account for his remarkable success. To these, however, must be added another of no small importance-- discernment and knowledge of character. Though himself the head and front of his enterprise, it was necessary that he should secure the services and co-operation of men of first-rate ability; and in the selection of such men his judgment was almost unerring. By his discernment and munificence, he collected round him some of the ablest writers of the age. These were frequently revealed to him in the communications of correspondents — the author of the letters signed "Vetus" being thus selected to write in the leading columns of the Paper. But Walter himself was the soul of The Times. It was he who gave the tone to its articles, directed its influence, and superintended its entire conduct with unremitting vigilance.
Even in conducting the mechanical arrangements of the paper —a business of no small difficulty —he had often occasion to exercise promptness and boldness of decision in cases of emergency. Printers in those days were a rather refractory class of work men, and not unfrequently took advantage of their position to impose hard terms on their employers, especially in the daily press, where everything must be promptly done within a very limited time. Thus on one occasion, in 1810, the pressmen made a sudden demand upon the proprietor for an increase of wages, and insisted upon a uniform rate being paid to all hands, whether good or bad. Walter was at first disposed to make concessions to the men; but having been privately informed that a combination was already entered into by the compositors, as well as by the pressmen, to leave his employment suddenly, under circumstances that would have stopped the publication of the paper, and inflicted on him the most serious injury, he determined to run all risks, rather than submit to what now appeared to him in the light of an extortion.
The strike took place on a Saturday morning, when suddenly, and without notice, all the hands turned out. Mr. Walter had only a few hours' notice of it, but he had already resolved upon his course. He collected apprentices from half a dozen different quarters, and a few inferior workmen, who were glad to obtain employment on any terms. He himself stript to his shirt-sleeves, and went to work with the rest; and for the next six-and-thirty hours he was incessantly employed at case and at press. On the Monday morning, the conspirators, who had assembled to triumph over his ruin, to their inexpressible amazement saw The Times issue from the publishing office at the usual hour, affording a memorable example of what one man's resolute energy may accomplish in a moment of difficulty.
The journal continued to appear with regularity, though the printers employed at the office lived in a state of daily peril. The conspirators, finding themselves baffled, resolved upon trying another game. They contrived to have two of the men employed by Walter as compositors apprehended as deserters from the Royal Navy. The men were taken before the magistrate; but the charge was only sustained by the testimony of clumsy, perjured witnesses, and fell to the ground. The turn-outs next proceeded to assault the new hands, when Mr. Walter resolved to throw around them the protection of the law. By the advice of counsel, he had twenty-one of the conspirators apprehended and tried, and nineteen of them were found guilty and condemned to various periods of imprisonment. From that moment combination was at an end in Printing House Square.
Mr. Walter's greatest achievement was his successful application of steam power to newspaper printing. Although he had greatly improved the mechanical arrangements after he took command of the paper, the rate at which the copies could be printed off remained almost stationary. It took a very long time indeed to throw off, by the hand-labour of pressmen, the three or four thousand copies which then constituted the ordinary circulation of The Times. On the occasion of any event of great public interest being reported in the paper, it was found almost impossible to meet the demand for copies. Only about 300 copies could be printed in the hour, with one man to ink the types and another to work the press, while the labour was very severe. Thus it took a long time to get out the daily impression, and very often the evening papers were out before The Times had half supplied the demand.
Mr. Walter could not brook the tedium of this irksome and laborious process. To increase the number of impressions, he resorted to various expedients. The type was set up in duplicate, and even in triplicate; several Stanhope presses were kept constantly at work; and still the insatiable demands of the newsmen on certain occasions could not be met. Thus the question was early forced upon his consideration, whether he could not devise machinery for the purpose of expediting the production of newspapers. Instead of 300 impressions an hour, he wanted from 1500 to 2000. Although such a speed as this seemed quite as chimerical as propelling a ship through the water against wind and tide at fifteen miles an hour, or running a locomotive on a railway at fifty, yet Mr. Walter was impressed with the conviction that a much more rapid printing of newspapers was feasible than by the slow hand-labour process; and he endeavoured to induce several ingenious mechanical contrivers to take up and work out his idea.
The principle of producing impressions by means of a cylinder, and of inking the types by means of a roller, was not new. We have seen, in the preceding memoir, that as early as 1790 William Nicholson had patented such a method, but his scheme had never been brought into practical operation. Mr. Walter endeavoured to enlist Marc Isambard Brunel — one of the cleverest inventors of the day — in his proposed method of rapid printing by machinery; but after labouring over a variety of plans for a considerable time, Brunel finally gave up the printing machine, unable to make anything of it. Mr. Walter next tried Thomas Martyn, an ingenious young compositor, who had a scheme for a self-acting machine for working the printing press. He was supplied with the necessary funds to enable him to prosecute his idea; but Mr. Walter's father was opposed to the scheme, and when the funds became exhausted, this scheme also fell to the ground.
As years passed on, and the circulation of the paper increased, the necessity for some more expeditious method of printing became still more urgent. Although Mr. Walter had declined to enter into an arrangement with Bensley in 1809, before Koenig had completed his invention of printing by cylinders, it was different five years later, when Koenig's printing machine was actually at work. In the preceding memoir, the circumstances connected with the adoption of the invention by Mr. Walter are fully related; as well as the announcement made in The Times on the 29th of November, 1814 — the day on which the first newspaper printed by steam was given to the world.
But Koenig's printing machine was but the beginning of a great new branch of industry. After he had left this country in disgust, it remained for others to perfect the invention; although the ingenious German was entitled to the greatest credit for having made the first satisfactory beginning. Great inventions are not brought forth at a heat. They are begun by one man, improved by another, and perfected by a whole host of mechanical inventors. Numerous patents were taken out for the mechanical improvement of printing. Donkin and Bacon contrived a machine in 1813, in which the types were placed on a revolving prism. One of them was made for the University of Cambridge, but it was found too complicated; the inking was defective; and the project was abandoned.
In 1816, Mr. Cowper obtained a patent (No.3974) entitled," A Method of Printing Paper for Paper Hangings, and Other Purposes."
The principal feature of this invention consisted in the curving or bending of stereotype plates for the purpose of being printed in that form. A number of machines for printing in two colours, in exact register, was made for the Bank of England, and four millions of One Pound notes were printed before the Bank Directors determined to abolish their further issue. The regular mode of producing stereotype plates, from plaster of Paris moulds, took so much time, that they could not then be used for newspaper printing.
Two years later, in 1818, Mr. Cowper invented and patented (No. 4194) his great improvements in printing. It may be mentioned that he was then himself a printer, in partnership with Mr. Applegath, his brother-in-law. His invention consisted in the perfect distribution of the ink, by giving end motion to the rollers, so as to get a distribution crossways, as well as lengthways. This principle is at the very foundation of good printing, and has been adopted in every machine since made. The very first experiment proved that the principle was right. Mr. Cowper was asked by Mr. Walter to alter Koenig's machine at The Times office, so as to obtain good distribution. He adopted two of Nicholson's single cylinders and flat formes of type. Two "drums" were placed betwixt the cylinders to ensure accuracy in the register, — over and under which the sheet was conveyed in it s progress from one cylinder to the other, — the sheet being at all times firmly held between two tapes, which bound it to the cylinders and drums. This is commonly called, in the trade, a "perfecting machine;" that is, it printed the paper on both sides simultaneously, and is still much used for "book-work," whilst single cylinder machines are often used for provincial newspapers.
After this, Mr. Cowper designed the four cylinder machine for The Times, — by means of which from 4000 to 5000 sheets could be printed from one forme in the hour. In 1823, Mr. Applegath invented an improvement in the inking apparatus, by placing the distributing rollers at an angle across the distributing table, instead of forcing them endways by other means.
Mr. Walter continued to devote the same unremitting attention to his business as before. He looked into all the details, was familiar with every department, and, on an emergency, was willing to lend a hand in any work requiring more than ordinary despatch. Thus, it is related of him that, in the spring of 1833, shortly after his return to Parliament as Member for Berkshire, he was at The Times office one day, when an express arrived from Paris, bringing the speech of the King of the French on the opening of the Chambers. The express arrived at 10 A.M., after the day's impression of the paper had been published, and the editors and compositors had left the office. It was important that the speech should be published at once; and Mr. Walter immediately set to work upon it. He first translated the document; then, assisted by one compositor, he took his place at the type-case, and set it up. To the amazement of one of the staff, who dropped in about noon, he "found Mr. Walter, M.P. for Berks, working in his shirt-sleeves!" The speech was set and printed, and the second edition was in the City by one o'clock. Had he not "turned to" as he did, the whole expense of the express service would have been lost. And it is probable that there was not another man in the whole establishment who could have performed the double work — intellectual and physical — which he that day executed with his own head and hands.
Such an incident curiously illustrates his eminent success in life. It was simply the result of persevering diligence, which shrank from no effort and neglected no detail; as well as of prudence allied to boldness, but certainly not "of chance;" and, above all, of highminded integrity and unimpeachable honesty. It is perhaps unnecessary to add more as to the merits of Mr. Walter as a man of enterprise in business, or as a public man and a Member of Parliament. The great work of his life was the development of his journal, the history of which forms the best monument to his merits and his powers.
The progressive improvement of steam printing machinery was not affected by Mr. Walter's death, which occurred in 1847. He had given it an impulse which it never lost. In 1846 Mr. Applegath patented certain important improvements in the steam press. The general disposition of his new machine was that of a vertical cylinder 200 inches in circumference, holding on it the type and distributing surfaces, and surrounded alternately by inking rollers and pressing cylinders. Mr. Applegath estimated in his specification that in his new vertical system the machine, with eight cylinders, would print about 10,000 sheets per hour. The new printing press came into use in 1848, and completely justified the anticipations of its projector.
Applegath's machine, though successfully employed at The Times office, did not come into general use. It was, to a large extent, superseded by the invention of Richard M. Hoe, of New York. Hoe's process consisted in placing the types upon a horizontal cylinder, against which the sheets were pressed by exterior and smaller cylinders. The types were arranged in segments of a circle, each segment forming a frame that could be fixed on the cylinder. These printing machines were made with from two to ten subsidiary cylinders. The first presses sent by Messrs. Hoe & Co. to this country were for Lloyd's Weekly Newspaper, and were of the six-cylinder size. These were followed by two ten-cylinder machines, ordered by the present Mr. Walter, for The Times. Other English newspaper proprietors — both in London and the provinces — were supplied with the machines, as many as thirty-five having been imported from America between 1856 and 1862. It may be mentioned that the two ten-cylinder Hoes made for The Times were driven at the rate of thirty-two revolutions per minute, which gives a printing rate of 19,200 per hour, or about 16,000 including stoppages.
Much of the ingenuity exercised both in the Applegath and Hoe Machines was directed to the "chase," which had to hold securely upon its curved face the mass of movable type required to form a page. And now the enterprise of the proprietor of The Times again came to the front. The change effected in the art of newspaper-printing, by the process of stereotypes, is scarcely inferior to that by which the late Mr. Walter applied steam-power to the printing press, and certainly equal to that by which the rotary press superseded the reciprocatory action of the flat machine.
Stereotyping has a curious history. Many attempts were made to obtain solid printing-surfaces by transfer from similar surfaces, composed, in the first place, of movable types. The first who really succeeded was one Ged, an Edinburgh goldsmith, who, after a series of difficult experiments, arrived at a knowledge of the art of stereotyping. The first method employed was to pour liquid stucco, of the consistency of cream, over the types; and this, when solid, gave a perfect mould. Into this the molten metal was poured, and a plate was produced, accurately resembling the page of type. As long ago as 1730, Ged obtained a privilege from the University of Cambridge for printing Bibles and Prayer-books after this method. But the workmen were dead against it, as they thought it would destroy their trade. The compositors and the pressmen purposely battered the letters in the absence of their employers. In consequence of this interference Ged was ruined, and died in poverty.
The art had, however, been born, and could not be kept down. It was revived in France, in Germany, and in America. Fifty years after the discovery of Ged, Tilloch and Foulis, of Glasgow, patented a similar invention, without knowing anything of what Ged had done; and after great labour and many experiments, they produced plates, the impressions from which could not be distinguished from those taken from the types from which they were cast. Some years afterwards, Lord Stanhope, to whom the art of printing is much indebted, greatly improved the art of stereotyping, though it was still quite inapplicable to newspaper printing. The merit of this latter invention is due to the enterprise of the present proprietor of The Times.
Mr. Walter began his experiments, aided by an ingenious Italian founder named Dellagana, early in 1856. It was ascertained that when papier-mache matrices were rapidly dried and placed in a mould, separate columns might be cast in them with stereotype metal, type high, planed flat, and finished with sufficient speed to get up the duplicate of a forme of four pages fitted for printing. Steps were taken to adapt these type-high columns to the Applegath Presses, then worked with polygonal chases. When the Hoe machines were introduced, instead of dealing with the separate columns, the papier-mache matrix was taken from the whole page at one operation, by roller-presses constructed for the purpose. The impression taken off in this manner is as perfect as if it had been made in the finest wax. The matrix is rapidly dried on heating surfaces, and then accurately adjusted in a casting machine curved to the exact circumference of the main drum of the printing press, and fitted with a terra-cotta top to secure a casting of uniform thickness. On pouring stereotype metal into this mould, a curved plate was obtained, which, after undergoing a certain amount of trimming at two machines, could be taken to press and set to work within twenty-five minutes from the time at which the process began.
Besides the great advantages obtained from uniform sets of the plates, which might be printed on different machines at the rate of 50,000 impressions an hour, or such additional number as might be required, there is this other great advantage, that there is no wear and tear of type in the curved chases by obstructive friction; and that the fount, instead of wearing out in two years, might last for twenty; for the plates, after doing their work for one day, are melted down into a new impression for the next day's printing. At the same time, the original type-page, safe from injury, can be made to yield any number of copies that may be required by the exigencies of the circulation. It will be sufficiently obvious that by the multiplication of stereotype plates and printing machines, there is practically no limit to the number of copies of a newspaper that may be printed within the time which the process now usually occupies.
This new method of newspaper stereotyping was originally employed on the cylinders of the Applegath and Hoe Presses. But it is equally applicable to those of the Walter Press, a brief description of which we now subjoin. As the construction of the first steam newspaper machine was due to the enterprise of the late Mr. Walter, so the construction of this last and most improved machine is due in like manner to the enterprise of his son. The new Walter Press is not, like Applegath and Cowper's, and Hoe's, the improvement of an existing arrangement, but an almost entirely original invention.
In the Reports of the Jurors on the "Plate, Letterpress, and other modes of Printing," at the International Exhibition of 1862, the following passage occurs: — "It is incumbent on the reporters to point out that, excellent and surprising as are the results achieved by the Hoe and Applegath Machines, they cannot be considered satisfactory while those machines themselves are so liable to stoppages in working. No true mechanic can contrast the immense American ten-cylinder presses of The Times with the simple calico-printing machine, without feeling that the latter furnishes the true type to which the mechanism for newspaper printing should as much as possible approximate."
On this principle, so clearly put forward, the Inventors of the Walter Press proceeded in the contrivance of the new machine. It is true that William Nicholson, in his patent of 1790, prefigured the possibility of printing on "paper, linen, cotton, woollen, and other articles," by means of type fixed on the outer surface of a revolving cylinder; but no steps were taken to carry his views into effect. Sir Rowland Hill also, before he became connected with Post Office reform, revived the contrivance of Nicholson, and referred to it in his patent of 1835 (No. 6762); and he also proposed to use continuous rolls of paper, which Fourdrinier and Donkin had made practicable by their invention of the paper-making machine about the year 1804; but both Nicholson's and Hill's patents remained a dead letter.
It may be easy to conceive a printing machine, or even to make a model of one; but to construct an actual working printing press, that must be sure and unfailing in its operations, is a matter surrounded with difficulties. At every step fresh contrivances have to be introduced; they have to be tried again and again; perhaps they are eventually thrown aside to give place to new arrangements. Thus the head of the inventor is kept in a state of constant turmoil. Sometimes the whole machine has to be remodelled from beginning to end. One step is gained by degrees, then another; and at last, after years of labour, the new invention comes before the world in the form of a practical working machine.
In 1862 Mr. Walter began in The Times office, with tools and machinery of his own, experiments for constructing a perfecting press which should print the paper from rolls of paper instead of from sheets. Like his father, Mr. Walter possessed an excellent discrimination of character, and selected the best men to aid him in his important undertaking. Numerous difficulties had, of course, to be surmounted. Plans were varied from time to time; new methods were tried, altered, and improved, simplification being aimed at throughout. Six long years passed in this pursuit of the possible. At length the clear light dawned. In 1868 Mr. Walter ventured to order the construction of three machines on the pattern of the first complete one which had been made. By the end of 1869 these were finished and placed in a room by themselves; and a fourth was afterwards added. There the printing of The Times is now done, in less than half the time it previously occupied, and with one-fifth the number of hands.
The most remarkable feature in the Walter Press is its wonderful simplicity of construction. Simplicity of arrangement is always the beau idéal of the mechanical engineer. This printing press is not only simple, but accurate, compact, rapid, and economical. While each of the ten-feeder Hoe Machines occupies a large and lofty room, and requires eighteen men to feed and work it, the new Walter Machine occupies a space of only about l4 feet by 5, or less than any newspaper machine yet introduced; and it requires only three lads to take away, with half the attention of an overseer, who easily superintends two of the machines while at work. The Hoe Machine turns out 7000 impressions printed on both sides in the hour, whereas the Walter Machine turns out 12,000 impressions completed in the same time.
The new Walter Press does not in the least resemble any existing printing machine, unless it be the calendering machine which furnished its type. At the printing end it looks like a collection of small cylinders or rollers. The first thing to be observed is the continuous roll of paper four miles long, tightly mounted on a reel, which, when the machine is going, flies round with immense rapidity. The web of paper taken up by the first roller is led into a series of small hollow cylinders filled with water and steam, perforated with thousands of minute holes. By this means the paper is properly damped before the process of printing is begun. The roll of paper, drawn by nipping rollers, next flies through to the cylinder on which the stereotype plates are fixed, so as to form the four pages of the ordinary sheet of The Times; there it is lightly pressed against the type and printed; then it passes downwards round another cylinder covered with cloth, and reversed; next to the second type-covered roller, where it takes the impression exactly on the other side of the remaining four pages. It next reaches one of the most ingenious contrivances of the invention — the cutting machinery, by means of which the paper is divided by a quick knife into the 5500 sheets of which the entire web consists. The tapes hurry the now completely printed newspaper up an inclined plane, from which the divided sheets are showered down in a continuous stream by an oscillating frame, where they are met by two boys, who adjust the sheets as they fall. The reel of four miles long is printed and divided into newspapers complete in about twenty-five minutes.
The machine is almost entirely self-acting, from the pumping-up of the ink into the ink-box out of the cistern below stairs, to the registering of the numbers as they are printed in the manager's room above. It is always difficult to describe a machine in words. Nothing but a series of sections and diagrams could give the reader an idea of the construction of this unrivalled instrument. The time to see it and wonder at it is when the press is in full work. And even then you can see but little of its construction, for the cylinders are wheeling round with immense velocity. The rapidity with which the machine works may be inferred from the fact that the printing cylinders (round which the stereotyped plates are fixed), while making their impressions on the paper, travel at the surprising speed of 200 revolutions a minute, or at the rate of about nine miles an hour!
Contrast this speed with the former slowness. Go back to the beginning of the century. Before the year 1814 the turn-out of newspapers was only about 300 single impressions in an hour — that is, impressions printed on only one side of the paper. Koenig by his invention increased the issue to 1100 impressions. Applegath and Cowper by their four-cylinder machine increased the issue to 4000, and by the eight-cylinder machine to 10,000 an hour. But these were only impressions printed on one side of the paper. The first perfecting press— that is, printing simultaneously the paper on both sides — was the Walter, the speed of which has been raised to 12,000, though, if necessary, it can produce excellent work at the rate of 17,000 complete copies of an eight-page paper per hour. Then, with the new method of stereotyping — by means of which the plates can be infinitely multiplied and by the aid of additional machines, the supply of additional impressions is absolutely unlimited.
The Walter Press is not a monopoly. It is manufactured at The Times office, and is supplied to all comers. Among the other daily papers printed by its means in this country are the Daily News, the Scotsman, and the Birmingham Daily Post. The first Walter Press was sent to America in 1872, where it was employed to print the Missouri Republican at St. Louis, the leading newspaper of the Mississippi Valley. An engineer and a skilled workman from The Times office accompanied the machinery. On arriving at St. Louis — the materials were unpacked, lowered into the machine-room, where they were erected and ready for work in the short space of five days.
The Walter Press was an object of great interest at the Centennial Exhibition held at Philadelphia in 1876, where it was shown printing the New Fork Times one of the most influential journals in America. The press was surrounded with crowds of visitors intently watching its perfect and regular action, "like a thing of life." The New York Times said of it: "The Walter Press is the most perfect printing press yet known to man; invented by the most powerful journal of the Old World, and adopted as the very best press to be had for its purposes by the most influential journal of the New World.... It is an honour to Great Britain to have such an exhibit in her display, and a lasting benefit to the printing business, especially to newspapers.... The first printing press run by steam was erected in the year 1814 in the office of The Times by the father of him who is the present proprietor of that world-famous journal. The machine of 1814 was described in The Times of the 29th November in that year, and the account given of it closed in these words: 'The whole of these complicated acts is performed with such a velocity and simultaneonsness of movement that no less than 1100 sheets are impressed in one hour.' Mirabile dictu! And the Walter Press of to-day can run off 17,000 copies an hour printed on both sides. This is not bad work for one man's lifetime."
It is unnecessary to say more about this marvellous machine. Its completion forms the crown of the industry which it represents, and of the enterprise of the journal which it prints.
Footnotes for Chapter VII.
 ^ Diary, Reminiscences, and Correspondence of Henry Crabb Robinson, Barrister-at-Law, F.S.A., i. 231.
 ^ After the appearance of my article on the Koenig and Walter Presses in Macmillan's Magazine for December, 1869, I received the following letter from Sir Rowland Hill:-
"Hampstead" January 5th, 1870.
"My dear sir,
"In your very interesting article in Macmillan's Magazine on the subject of the printing machine, you have unconsciously done me some injustice. To convince yourself of this, you have only to read the enclosed paper. The case, however, will be strengthened when I tell you that as far back as the year 1856, that is, seven years after the expiry of my patent, I pointed out to Mr. Mowbray Morris, the manager of The Times, the fitness of my machine for the printing of that journal, and the fact that serious difficulties to its adoption had been removed. I also, at his request, furnished him with a copy of the document with which I now trouble you. Feeling sure that you would like to know the truth on any subject of which you may treat, I should be glad to explain the matter more fully, and for this purpose will, with your permission, call upon you at any time you may do me the favour to appoint. "Faithfully yours,
On further enquiry I obtained the Patent No. 6762; but found that nothing practical had ever come of it. The pamphlet enclosed by Sir Rowland Hill in the above letter is entitled 'The Rotary Printing Machine.' It is very clever and ingenious, like everything he did. But it was still left for some one else to work out the invention into a practical working printing-press. The subject is fully referred to in the 'Life of Sir Rowland Hill' (i. 224,525). In his final word on the subject, Sir Rowland "gladly admits the enormous difficulty of bringing a complex machine into practical use," a difficulty, he says, which "has been most successfully overcome by the patentees of the Walter Press."