Josiah Warren, “Reduction in the Cost of Printing Apparatus” (1830)



(I have received the following from my friend, Mr. Warren, for insertion in the Free Enquirer. The sheet from which it is copied, and which affords a specimen of the results obtained, is very tolerably printed, and seems go confirm the anticipation of the writer.)


It is well known, by those who have considered the subject, that printing is a power that governs the destinies of mankind: and therefore, those who can control the Printing Press can control their fellow creatures.

While men continue the practice of interfering with the persons and property of each other, it is to be expected that each in his own defense, will make use of all the means within his control, to increase his own power, and to diminish that of others.

At this time, 1830, the means of printing are so expensive, that the great mass of the people are almost totally deprived of their use—while the wealthy few (by their capital or influence,) wield this mighty engine, to increase their own power, and to weaken that of others: and while the ignorance of mankind shall permit them to disregard the happiness of each other, and to limit their mutual encroachment only by their power; it appears that the equality of power, will be the only guarantee for the enjoyment of Equal Rights.

The fundamental importance of these considerations, induces the subscriber to make known, in the most effectual manner, the results of a series of experiments, instituted with the hope of bringing the printing press equality within the reach of all.

Preparations for casting types have been made with the expense of about twenty days labor, with the use of white-smiths’ tools, and about five dollars in money. In this department, labor and money expenses have been diminished, in many particulars; the most important of which is, the substituting matrices of lead—stamped with types—instead of matrices of copper, stamped with steel punches; whereby, the difficult and expensive business of cutting said punches is avoided: and the casting of types, which is now monopolized by monied capital, can be effected by almost any person of common intelligence, without apprenticeship, and without dependence on capital.

A printing press has been constructed of a stone platform, and a roller of sufficient weight to give the impression, supported at the ends by bearers which keep it at a proper height above the types, to admit the paper and clothing between. The necessary cost of this press, is about five days simple labor: while it requires an experienced workman, to make the common press, and it costs from two, to three hundred dollars.

Labor and expense have been diminished in other particulars, which cannot easily be described here: it may suffice to say, that the materials employed in printing this communication, can be manufactured for about twenty five dollars—twice the size, for about thirty, and three times this size, for thirty five, and in a similar proportion, as the size increases: while the common printing establishment costs from about four hundred, to two thousand dollars.

The existence of an absurd custom (giving the power of monopoly by patents) renders it necessary to state, that any person is at liberty to make use of these simple (yet important) improvements; and any additional information will be freely given.

Preparations are now making to supply those who prefer to purchase these materials, rather than make them. They will be manufactured and sold upon the principle of labor for labor, of which, notice will be given through the medium of “The Free Enquirer” a paper devoted to the great interests of mankind—conducted in New York by Frances Wright, and it. D. Owen.

It may be useful to inform those who are unacquainted with the fact, that the art of using types, may be acquired by females or children, in a few hours.

N. B. All communications (for obvious reasons) must be post paid.

This sheet* was printed with the apparatus above alluded to. Josiah Warren.

Cincinnati, Jan. 10, 1830.

* The sheet from which we copy. R. D. O

Josiah Warren, “Reduction in the Cost of Printing Apparatus,” The Free Enquirer 2, no. 20 (March 13, 1830): 157.

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Independent scholar, translator and archivist.