Saturday, January 17, 2009

I've got a book press!

I've been coveting this book press in the local antique shop for several years now. Book presses are quite expensive. I got quite excited when they were having a sale the other day, and yes, it was discounted, but still expensive enough for me to still be 'thinking about it.' Not any more! T bought it for me today! Yee haar! It's old (obviously), filthy and rusty, but the screw still works perfectly.
An hour and a half later it looks this good! I can't believe how well it came up! I'm so pleased with it. Some wet and dry sandpaper, oil and a lot of elbow grease and doesn't it look grand?!
It is missing the top plate for pressing books. I've been told the plate it has on is an embossing plate. As you can see, it's round and about 6 inches in diameter. It has a concave surface on the base. If you know what it is for I'd love to find out.
The badge says 'Edward Dunlop and Co, Importers, Sydney.' I know absolutely nothing about book presses, so if you have knowledge please let know.
The base was an interesting find, with it's regal lion emblem, and the letter 'D'. For Dunlop?
I haven't had a chance to try it yet, but I will be posting about it when I do! At this stage I plan to use it with a loose wooden plate on top of the book, under the round embossing plate. At some stage I'd like to get a metal one made to fit.


melanie said...

wow!! And just last night I was wondering about your equipment!

This is really cool :)

Carol said...

Very nice press, Jan and you cleaned it up beautifully. I have one that's not nearly so nice. If you don't get any advice about it, though I'm sure you will, leave me a message on my blog and I'll email you the name of someone who may know.

SCB said...

Cool book press, Jan! I'm looking forward to what you do next... Sara x

Chrisy said...

...tis truly a thing of beauty! so pleased you could clean it up and give it a good home...look forward to seeing how it goes...

Ange said...

Ooooh pretty! Cant wait to see it in action!!

Jan Allsopp said...

Thanks everyone. I got in touch with someone in the UK who has been very helpful. Apparently I don't need the top plate at all which is great. I just use what I have with boards top and bottom of the book. I'm constantly working on my technique in rebinding my old books, so this should get an improvement in the glueing phase which I've wanted. I was also advised to keep it polished with bees wax. So far all I've used it for has been flattening a coaster I crocheted. I must say it was nice and effective! (yes, I like to knit and crochet in front of the telly at night. Tragic I know.)

planettreasures said...

It came up beautifully, Jan.
And it seems very versatile, you can flatten crochet too!???

creativesundries said...

Wow--that is really cool! Lucky you!!

helena said...

oh my gosh!! this is so cool!!! every book/paper lover wants a book press lol! and such a pretty vintage one too!

So gorgeous...argh i'm envious!! i can't wait to see what you make from it:)

janey said...

Wow that's sweet. I've been looking longingly at some of those on ebay. You really did a great job at cleaning it up.

Nestor said...


I bought a near identical press today, I found your blog whilst trying to research it a bit.
I was suprised to find the lion emblem in the casting under the base. I think the D you refer to is actually the size, mine has a B (I'm sure it's a B not a D).

Jan Allsopp said...

Hi Nestor,
I am told it is "D" for Edwards Dunlop and that the company still exists today
I was also given the following info:

"You seem to have made a wonderful job cleaning up the press and it will serve you well. Not sure what you will be using it for but if it is to be used in book binding than you have all you need. A top plate as you call it, is not necessary. If you place your book signatures between TWO boards of suitable dimensions, (Large enough to cover both sides of your book and overlap by about ¼ inch and one inch thick – plywood is best) then it will produce more than enough pressure for your purposes.

"If you install a top pressure plate then it becomes a copying press. This was a method of taking copies of documents using a carbon style paper.

"I suggest that at present it is an embossing or perhaps a validating Press. A female die is placed in the round holder you show on the end of the screw. Its counterpart, the male die, is placed under on the bottom platen. This was usually held in place with a plate that had a suitable hole in it to take the male die. Documents to be validated, or sealed, had a red blank seal stuck on them and were then placed in the press so that when the balls were spun, the female die descended and made an embossed impression into the red seal. Originally, seals were applied with sealing wax that was soft through being heated and the seal was impressed into the wax. This type of press just mechanised the process. You may find that the large balls can unscrew and they were often made of brass. This allowed larger, heavier balls to be used to give a better impression. The balls were spun rather than used to apply pressure.

"These presses tend to be very over engineered and very heavy. Usually of cast iron. The seals would have been made of a phosphor bronze material as they had to withstand a lot of use.

"Even today this type of press is still used and there is a home model which will emboss addresses into private letterheads. You can probably find them in any good stationers, at least in the UK.

"To return to your book press, if that is how it will be used, I find it a good idea to have a number of pairs of boards to use with different sized books. What you do when the book is clamped is uncertain, but I tend to use them solely to provide pressure to the book when it is being glued up. For this it is a mistake to apply too much pressure. This just squeezes all the adhesive out and means there is a glue starvation where it is most needed.

I couldn't see what size you have but would suggest that it is really an embossing press with multiple uses.

Anyway, Jan, you have a piece of equipment that will serve you well. You have already shewn your ability to give it TLC so keep it up, Keep it clean and use a wax furniture polish (or even beeswax if you can persuade the bees to part with some, just give them the honey back) and buff it with a small shoebrush."

Nestor said...


Thanks for the info, I stand corrected on the 'D' it was just something I read on another site, but having had a second look at mine I think you're right it could well be a D, if a little 'gothic' in style. My press is a lot less elaborate in the detailing, probably a later more utilitarian version.
It makes for an excellent relief printing press for small lino cuts and wood blocks too.

Here's a link to picture of mine if you're interested:


Jan Allsopp said...

It is a lovely press Nestor. there is something about them that makes them more than just their utilitarian selves, isn't there.

Bec Clarke said...

That is beautiful!!! Lucky you. I will have to keep my eyes open!!

Ray said...

Jan - I have just become the proud owner of a book press courtesy of a sale at one of our local bric a brac shops. It has some rust and is suitably endowed with streaks of glue. I am interested in how you went about your restoration. Could you please advise on what type of oil you used with the wet and dry sandpaper. One other post I read used oven black which may be difficult to get hold of in my part of the world (Darwin) but a thought for the future. Appreciate your help with this