Cast Iron Copy Press

Hello. I have a cast iron copy press with a logo on the bottom…Quality D. Is anyone able to help me find out more?

image: copy press.jpg

copy press.jpg

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Oak Knoll published a book on Copy Presses in 1999 - unfortunately it’s out of print, but you may be able to find it through a Library. Written by Barbara Rhodes and William Streeter

“Before Photocopying: The Art and History of Mechanical Copying 1780-1938”

Thanks Bill, I will follow this up

As practically all banks, law offices, big businesses, etc. all needed copying presses for their business a century or more ago, there were probably hundreds of manufacturers making them. There is a great variety of styles, although the basic format remains the same. Look on the museum size here to see some of the styles.

Most however were plain and utilitarian. Because they are a very simple mechanism it was relatively easy for many companies to produce them.


According to the book “Before Photocopying” this is probably an English copying press. On page 318 a very similar press is shown with the comment that “this generic style press has a metal ‘Patrick Ritchie, Oakfield Edinburgh’ label on the yoke.” If your press has a lion logo on the base as well as the “Quality D” then the same or similar is also shown on page 318, “one of a group of presses that have a common look but were made by different manufacturers.”

Your press probably could have been made any time from around the 1860s to the early 1900s. On American-made presses, the straight handle seems to have been generally phased out in favor of a wheel beginning in the 1860s, but it looks like English press makers kept the straight (or ball-end) handle rather than changing to a wheel.

Hi, I have the same Bookpress, with very little knowledge of it, could you tell me if you managed to find out anymore information.

I have one very much like this too. I always thought it was called a book press.

What’s the difference? How is it used as a copy press? With type and hand inking?

Thank you!

These presses in their origins have nothing to do with letterpress printing (although, ironically, they’re the only kind of machine which may properly be called a “letterpress”). They are “letter copying presses” (alternatively, though less commonly, “letterpresses”) used for making copies of handwritten correspondence. There’s a good writeup on them at the Early Office Museum:

I’ve scanned a circa 1909 stationery company catalog which has a page listing these letter copying presses and their accessories; see:

They look a lot like a bookbinder’s “standing press,” but my understanding (not being a bookbinder) is that a true standing press is a much more substantial affair.

David M.

I had a copying press which I used as a nipping press when I was doing bookbinding — basically to set the glue into the cover material and board after the case had been glued up, and to set the glue again after the book had been cased in. I also used it as a standing press because I didn’t have a separate standing press, which is where the books are clamped lightly to allow the glue to dry without warping the boards. The platens on these presses aren’t really strong enough to print any very large area with — maybe 3x3 inches. They’ll either warp or break.


They didn’t need much pressure, as the transfer came from the dampened ink wicking into the copy tissue. Think of a glorified blotter, where you then read the copy from the verso of the tissue.

There is also a very good explanation in “Personal Impressions” ( a review of which can be found here: ).