Frederick Ullmer Ltd. Albion Handpress

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    Just a quick photo of my Imperial octavo Albion handpress, manufactured in the early 1980s by the resurrected Frederick Ullmer Ltd, London. Only a handfull of these presses were made. This press was of necessity a complete and total restoration. The castings were pretty good, but all the finish work was incredibly poor, and the press had to be totally reconstructed. I was lucky to have access to several machinists who were willing to lend a hand (and their precision machinery) to repair the ill-fitting parts. I finished the rough castings by hand, and stripped and repainted it, adding the pinstriping and accent painting as well. Now it is a decent little press.

    lannadelarosa, Robert Clerebaut, and 1 other people added this photo to their favorites.

    1. otisluxton 72 months ago | reply

      a green albion! never seen one of them before. nice restoration job though. :)

    2. Acme Art and Design [deleted] 59 months ago | reply

      Wow -- very cool. What size is this press?

    3. typesticker 59 months ago | reply

      From the manufacturers literature: The Albion press is made of cast iron and weighs 154 lbs. (70 kgs.). Bed size 13" x 8 1/2" (33 x 21.5 cms.); Platen size 11 3/4" x 7 1/2" (30 x 19 cms.). It is only 29 1/2" (75 cms.) in height, with a length of 26 1/2" (67 cms.), and a width of 16 3/4" (42 cms.), so that it will stand on almost any workshop bench or table.

    4. Printmonkey 52 months ago | reply

      Blimey ! didn't know they made Albions that small - I thought they were all at least 6 feet high !

    5. bromleyart 34 months ago | reply

      I have one of these that I bought in about 1987. I imported it to Sydney Australia at that time. It was in storage for 20 years while I was in the UK and now it sits in my studio in sub-tropical Australia with my other Albion, a Harrild and sons Albion. These small Frederick Ullmer presses were numbered. It is engraved in the brass finial at the top and also on the other side to the one shown in your photo.

    6. typesticker 34 months ago | reply

      Curious as to the number of your press? I have spoken with other owners, and there doesn't seem to be any kind of order to the numbering system. Is your press workable? When I acquired mine it was not, and just this week I noticed another flaw in mine which will have to be remedied.

    7. bromleyart 33 months ago | reply

      Just noticed this reply. Yes, mine works fine. I just transported it to an art gallery in Coffs Harbour, (north coast NSW Australia) to give printmaking workshop and it was a big hit.
      You are right that they are a bit badly finished. Bare steel surfaces not finished correctly, black paint where it shouldn't be, and the gold lining is disappearing.

    8. bromleyart 31 months ago | reply

      I don't know how to add photos here but here goes with the html code. It's a letter from the Frederick Ullmer company dated November 1988 giving an insight into how small the company was.

      Frederick Ullmer Letter-low res

    9. bromleyart 31 months ago | reply

      Also, I'm going to a meeting about printing here in rural Australia at a the Coffs Harbour Gallery. They have been gifted hundreds of old printers blocks. Very few are engraved on to the wood. Most of them seem to be a reproduction, sometimes scaled down of wood engravings but in metal. Some wooden blocks have no relief at all but seem to hold a tonal image photo etched into the surface. Does anyone know how very fine scaled down wood engravings were transferred to a metal block and how tonal images were made?.
      Also, I was told Tenniel's line drawings were turned into wood engravings and then printed from a metal copy of one of these prints. I find that hard to believe. A gallery in London was or is selling some Alice in Wonderland illustrations printed from the original wooden blocks. Has anyone heard of this?

    10. typesticker 31 months ago | reply

      Thanks for posting the letter; it's clear that they were not making much money from the manufacture and sale of Albion presses, or I expect from any letterpress items at that time. It is interesting that the £1,319.00 of 1987 is equal to £3872.73 today. In 1915 they sold for a whopping £8, which in today's money is worth $670.68 USD.

      The printing of the Alice blocks happened a number of years ago, the exact date escapes me. It was regular practice to take an engraved illustration, make a wax mold of it, and use the wax matrix to grow a copper electrotype shell, which was then backed with lead and mounted to a block of wood. Even the blocks for Rockwell Kent's prints were processed in this manner. The electrotyping process was invented in the 1830s and went hand-in-hand with the growth of the wood engraving industry. Many copies of a single block could be made very cheaply, and used for book, newspaper and catalogue work by printers in the provinces. I have some blocks that have such perfect reproduction that the gouge marks made by the engraver can be seen clearly. I also have a hardware catalogue with nearly 10,000 wood-engravings reproduced in this manner that was issued by a Louisville, Kentucky wholesaler in the 1960s.

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