is it really necessary for newspapers, printed and read one day, and then generally thrown away the next. But for finely printed works this preparation is essential; the actual results vary with the operator, both as regards quality and, what is very important to the employer, in the length of time taken. Some men labour more at it than others, and it is considered that a press is only really paying while it is actually running.
The system of making-ready employed now is quite different from that in use when it was necessary to dampen paper before it could be satisfactorily printed. It was then customary to print with a good deal of packing, usually consisting of a thick blanket together with several thicknesses of paper, all of which intervened between the printing and the impression surface, whether the latter was flat or cylindrical. There was much in favour of this system, because a good firm impression could be obtained, and the “nutmeg-grater” effect on the reverse, when the impression was too heavy, could, after the sheets were dry, be removed by cold-pressing in a hydraulic press. It is still the best method for obtaining first-rate results in fine work, where hand-made or other rough paper is used. But the demand for cheap literature required quicker means of production, and the introduction of process blocks, especially those made by the half-tone process, necessitated the use of smooth paper and a faster drying ink, both of which are to be deplored, because to calender the paper to the degree requisite for this kind of printing practically means destroying its natural surface, and in rendering the ink quicker in drying the pigment undoubtedly suffers. On the other hand, there has been a compensating advantage in the fact that improved machinery has been demanded for this class of work, and the British manufacturer has been stimulated by the American manufacturers, who have taken the initiative in the change of methods in printing. Cylinders are now turned so truly and ground to such a nicety that very little packing is required between type and sheet to be impressed, so that a new system of making-ready, termed “hard-packing,” has been resorted to. The fact that the iron impression cylinder was nearer the type forbade the large amount of soft-packing formerly used, besides which process blocks, whether line or half-tone, could not be rendered properly by a soft impression. Although less packing is necessary, greater care is required in preparing type or blocks for printing by this new method.
The method in making-ready ordinary plain formes is as follows. The type-forme is placed on the coffin or bed of the press and fixed into its proper position—the precise position being regulated by the exact size of the sheet of paper on which the work is to be printed. The cylinder is first dressed with a fine and thin calico drawn tightly over and fastened securely, which serves as a base on which to fasten sheets. A sheet of some hard paper, such as manila, is then placed over it to form, as it were, a foundation.
The printer next proceeds to pull a sheet, without ink, to test the impression. We take it that the machine has already been regulated by means of the impression screws at the respective ends of the cylinder for all-round or average work, and that any inequality of impression can be remedied by adding or taking away from the sheets on the cylinder. Now, supposing the forme to be dealt with consists of thirty-two pages to be printed on quad crown paper, measuring 40 × 30 in., on a suitable size of single cylinder machine of the Wharfedale class, it would be found, although both the machine and type were fairly new (that is, not much worn), that there was some amount of inequality in the impression given to the whole sheet. This is easily detected by examining the sheet the reversed side in a strong side-light. Although the greater part may be fairly even, some pages, or portions of pages, would show up too strongly, the impress almost cutting through the paper, while in other portions the impression would be so faint that it could hardly be seen. These differences of impression are called respectively “high” and “low.” All these difficulties have to be rectified by the printer either overlaying or cutting away pieces in this first trial sheet. If the “set” of the cylinder is about correct, and the impression sheet has been taken with neither too many nor too few sheets on the cylinder, it will be a matter rather of overlaying, or “patching up,” than of cutting away from this trial sheet. As soon as this first sheet has been levelled up it is fixed on to the cylinder to its exact position, so that it will register or correspond with the type when the press is running, and another trial sheet is struck off, which is treated precisely in the same manner, and is then fastened up on the cylinder on top of the first sheet. It may even be necessary for fine printing to repeat this a third time, especially if the forme includes blocks of any kind. When this preparation is completed, the whole is covered up by a somewhat stouter sheet, which forms a protection to the whole making-ready, but which can easily be lifted should it be necessary to give any finishing touches to it before beginning to run.
If the forme to be printed consists of both type and blocks mixed, a somewhat different treatment has to be employed in order to put the blocks into a relative position with the type for printing. This is done by the usual trial impression sheet, and, as blocks are found to vary much in height and are generally low as compared with type, this deficiency has to be remedied by underlaying the blocks so that they are brought to the height of the type, or a shade higher. This is usually done by pasting layers of thickish paper, or even thin cards, underneath the blocks. This must be carefully done so as to make them stand squarely and firmly on their base, in order that they may not rock and give a slur in printing. After underlaying, and to emphasize the respective degrees of light and shade in the illustrations, a separate and careful overlaying is required for the blocks before anything is done to the main forme. This is particularly necessary if the blocks are woodcuts, or electrotypes of woodcuts, which require a different cutting of perhaps three different thicknesses, all on thin hard paper, to give their full effect. But with half-tone process illustrations very little overlaying is required, provided the blocks have been brought up to the proper height by underlay in, in the first instance—the various tones being already in the block itself—and it is little more than a matter of sharp, hard impression to give full effect to these, if both paper and ink are suitable. For line process blocks a still different treatment in making-ready is desirable, so as to get rid of the hard edges which are nearly always found in this kind of block. Here too it is essential that the preliminary underlaying be done with extreme care if good work is desired. The originals and the engraver's proofs are of great assistance to the workman in bringing out the details of an illustration when he is preparing it for printing. In rotary printing from the curved stereotype plate and from the endless web of paper much can be done to assist the printer if good stereotype plates are supplied to him, and, if the forme contains any illustrations, both the artist and the engraver can help him if they keep in mind the particular character of illustration which they are preparing for the press. The artist can accentuate the high lights or solids in the original drawing or photograph, and the stereotype can emphasize points in the picture by thickening the plate in the parts necessary to stand out.
The past generation has seen many improvements in printing machinery, all tending to an increased production, and generally to Recent Developments. the betterment of the work turned out. This is particularly true of three-colour printing (see Process), which for commercial purposes has been brought to a high degree of perfection. Only what may be fairly considered as representative presses have been dealt with in this article, but there are many others, some of which have been most ingeniously constructed for special purposes. Process engraving has practically superseded wood engraving, and the new processes have brought new conditions, requiring a different making-ready, paper and ink. Some of these altered conditions are to be regretted. For instance, it is unfortunate that the quality and surface of papers have to be sacrificed to the demands for cheap literature, and this especially applies to illustrated work.
The introduction of the auto plate is of great advantage to those using rotary presses, because it allows the production of a large number of duplicate stereotype plates of satisfactory quality speedily. This is all important in a newspaper office, where the margin of time between the caseroom and machine department is usually so limited, for it permits several machines being quickly equipped with duplicate sets of the same pages.
Power is another matter that is changing fast. Electricity is supplanting both steam and gas, and is being installed in most large printing-houses, including newspaper offices. Suction gas is being tried in some offices as a supplanter of electricity and is said to be much cheaper as a power producer. The independent system of motors is generally adopted, because it is found more economical and better for driving purposes, besides dispensing with the overhead shafting and belting, always unsightly, and dangerous to the workpeople. Speeds can be regulated to a nicety for each separate machine, and any machine can be set in motion by pressing a button.
A printing-house of average size, which makes book printing a speciality, consists of many departments under the supreme control The Management of a Printing-house. of a general manager. His deputy may be said to be the works manager, who is responsible for all work being produced in a proper manner by the different departments. The progress of the work is as follows. The MS., or “copy” as it is called, is handed, with all instructions, to the overseer of the caseroom, who gives it out to the compositors in instalments as they finish the work already in hand. Formerly the greater bulk of composition was done on the piece-work system, but as machine composition has largely superseded hand labour for the more ordinary class of work, piece-work is declining, and there is a greater tendency to have the work done on “establishment” (“'stab”), i.e. fixed weekly wages. When the copy is in type a proof is struck off and sent to the reading closet, where the corrector of the press (see Proof-Reading), with the aid of a reading-boy, will compare it with the original MS. or copy, and mark all errors on the proof, so that they may be amended by the compositor at his own cost before it is dispatched to the author or customer, who in turn revises or corrects it for the general improvement of the work. The proof is then returned to the printer, and if these corrections are at all heavy, another proof, called the “revise,” is submitted, together with the first marked one, so that the author may see that his emendations have been made. This may even be repeated, but when finally corrected the proof is marked “press”