The American Impact on Periodical Printing in the United Kingdom, 1875-1890

Michael Knies
University of Scranton

The modern periodical, glossy and well-illustrated, was created by a
combination of improvements in printing technology during the second
half of the 19th century, primarily between 1875 and 1890. American
type founders produced a variety of fancy typefaces designed for job
and magazine printing. These typefaces created a shockwave amongst
printers in the US and the UK. They could not have been created and
effectively printed without a series of innovations: electrotyping,
calendered and coated paper, and hard-packing of printing press. The
innovation of electrotyping allowed type designers to cut punches with
delicate lines that would not survive being driven into a matrix. The
resulting type would have a short lifespan due to the fragility of the
lines. However, the punch could be electrotyped creating a matrix from
which the fonts of delicate typefaces could be easily replicated. The
intricate electrotyped lines printed better on dry-calendered and
clay-coated papers, whose surfaces were harder and smoother than the
traditional damp papers, which absorbed more ink and would blur the
lines of delicate faces. American printers also used the technique of
hard-packing the cylinder of the printing press for high quality
printing work. Hard-packing meant covering the cylinder with a glazed
board instead of a woolen blanket. In the 1880s, fancy American faces
“invaded” the UK, causing excitement and consternation amongst
printers, since most were unable to print them properly. British
magazines were often printed on rougher paper that needed to be
dampened before printing, making the printing of fine-lined typefaces
(as well as later illustration processes such as photogravure)
impossible. British printers did not widely adopt the coated and
calendered paper and hard-packing techniques necessary to effectively
utilize the new imported faces and newly-developed illustration
processes until the mid-to-late 1880s. This presentation will discuss
the printing innovations that made the modern periodical possible and
their reception in the United Kingdom.

Newspapers and Periodicals in Britain and Ireland from 1800 to 1900