Mechanical typographic press

Philippe Denis PierresCirca 1785

Musée des arts et métiers

Musée des arts et métiers

The printer Philippe Denis Pierres was renowned for the quality of the books he produced. He strove to perfect the tools of his trade, and at Benjamin Franklin’s request printed a translation of the Constitution of the United States. In 1784 he presented Louis XVI with a new type of printing press. According to Charles Joseph Panckoucke, ‘The King, having examined all its parts with the greatest attention, designed to print on this small model himself and, delighted by the easiness and beauty of this trial, ordered for his amusement an identical model, whose inventor had the honour of paying tribute to His Majesty.’ The mechanism used to exert pressure reduces the operator’s fatigue. Pierres, appointed ‘first printer ordinary to the King’, constructed his presses himself, either full-scale or as models. In 1807 Claude Pierre Molard recommended the purchase of two fixed carriage presses in the Pierres’ printing works, considering this ‘useful for the progress of the art’. The presence of a mechanical excentric lever press and a fixed carriage press in the Conservatoire was documented in 1818 in Armonville’s Répertoire des arts et manufactures.

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  • Title: Mechanical typographic press
  • Creator: Philippe Denis Pierres
  • Date: Circa 1785
  • Date Created: Circa 1785
  • Location: France
  • Physical Dimensions: 1:6 scale model
  • Provenance: Musée des arts et métiers
  • Contributor: Author: Marie-Sophie Corcy. English translation: David Wharry
  • Inventory number: Inv. 00469
  • Credits: © Musée des arts et métiers-Cnam/photo Pascal Faligot