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Acquiring a vintage Albion Press, 2012

I obtained this Albion press very recently through a friend.  One evening in the pub he happened to mention his sister who many years ago he remembered using an old hand press to print small woodcuts.  He didn't recall too much about it but at one point said that when using it, ".... she went like this".  At that pointr he stood up and gestered the pulling of a lever in the very distinctive way that could only mean it was an Albion press (towards his body, as if pulling at an oar).  My attention was grabbed!

Later I presssed him about it and he told me he was sure the press was still in the family somewhere eventually tracking it down to the corner of a relative's barn in Surrey.  It was suggested through the family that for a  small sum I could have it and maybe we could have a day out and travel down together to collect it.  This (right) is what we found - an 1865 Albion press!!

The Albion is for relief printing woodcut or linocut blocks and is a model of early hand printing press originally designed and manufactured in London by Richard Whittaker Cope from around 1820 onwards. They were used mainly for commercial book printing until the middle of the nineteenth century, and thereafter chiefly for proofing, jobbing work and by small private printers.

After Cope's death in 1828, Albion presses were manufactured by his heirs and members of the Hopkinson family.  They traded initially as 'Jonathan and Jeremiah Barrett' and later as 'Hopkinson and Cope'.  They improved the design and from the 1850s onwards Albion presses were manufactured under licence by other firms. 

An Albion press works by a simple toggle action, unlike the complex lever-mechanism of the more cumbersome Columbian and Stanhope presses. The toggle-action, and the distinctive shape and 'crown' finial, make it instantly recognizable.  Albion presses have been the favourite of fine art printmakers for many decades because of the quality of its engineering which makes it so easy and such a joy to use.  It will take a while to get used to but hope I can get some prints from it one day!



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