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Imperial Arming Press

Started by Autospacer, December 04, 2013, 09:10:38 AM

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I am hoping someone has a few decent photos of a Harrild & Sons Imperial Arming Press. Our museum has one and it was made at the Fleet Works, Farringdon Street, London. One the impression handle it has a date of 1887 stamped on it. It was during the process of cleaning off the old paintwork that we found the date. This model has the chase on a veed length of steel. The chase is placed upside down in the platen (for want of a better term). There was a heating mechanism of some kind above this in the steel framework directly on top of the platen.
The bed of the press is missing something as I note several screwed holes in the top edge of it. These can be seen in the photo. I'd like to know how this machine was originally heated and what the screw holes were all about.
Thanks for any assistance.

Dave Hughes

Nice looking press, Autospacer.

Let's hope someone has a decent photo or can shed light on the missing parts, etc.

Early speculation on Twitter points at a hot foil press heated by town gas.

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Dave Hughes

Thank's very much John, I think that has told us all we need to know about this press.
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The earlier models of these machines (1700's), made from wood, were used for to gold-stamp customer's Coats of Arms on books. Hence my term "Arming Press", which I guess in my ignorance is synonymous with Foiling Press". Google American Bookbinders Museum for more info on these. Unfortunately, not much detail on the site of the actual mechanical set-ups which is what I really wanted.
I watched the video posted here. Excellent restoration and improvement. Have seen it previously. That machine is much smaller than ours and does not have the steel sliding feed-board.


As mentioned, the American Bookbinders Museum here in San Francisco has an Imperial arming press. In addition to gas, they could be brought to blocking temperatures using heated irons placed into the cavities. They've gotten another handpress that can do both printing and foiling. The arming press does not use tympan or frisket, but it is a feature of the combination press. Platen on both is smaller than used on a printing iron handpress.
The Museum has relocated and is in the middle of setting up exhibits, but here's the website:
The showings of the collection that were on their previous website aren't back up, but there is a slideshow at the home page and the Imperial is one of the images.

Tim James

The press  you are talking about is an "improved  self inking Arming Press" . In the  Harrild & Sons Illustrated Catalogue of July 1892 page E 21 it states  "Self-inking Arming Presses. This press is similar to the ordinary Arming Press, with the addition of facilities for printing book covers with ink. The table is worked on ribs, and is propelled backward and forwards - as in the Albion Press. The distribution of ink is effected by a revolving disc with ink fountain. Gas and water fittings complete:"

First image is Harrild catalogue w self inking press. Second image shows inking press on top and old style Harrild (without feed table) on bottom. Third and fourth image show The American Bookbinders Museum's "Imperial press" with the same  sliding bed and, I assume,  the same missing ink fountain.
     I am in agreement with the earlier post as to how this press was used when  printing  with gold and I might assume the binder would let the press cool and then come back and print with ink.  However, I am not going to presume to tell a bunch of letterpress printers anything about printing. Tim James 


Hi Tim,

I am indebted to you for the information and photos you have provided. It looks like at last some of the pieces of our jig-saw are finally fitting together. However, I am now totally intrigued with this new information of an inking mechanism. I am guessing also that the "water" fittings were used to effect some sort of temperature control in the process? Some answers but more questions. Cheers, Terry

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