Printing presses in great numbers and in a great variety of forms have been in use for a long time, but those small presses which were originally used soon alter the discovery of printing, bore very little resemblance to the magnificent power-presses of the present day, but writing or printing machines, for printing one copy, as distinguished from printing presses, are of modern date. The first one patented in the United States, is what is denominated the Manifold Letter Writer, the object of which, as its name indicates, is to multiply the number ot copies, by once writing the original ; it consisted in the use of cams operated by a series of keys whereby a horizontal lever, which held several pens or pencils placed transversely across it, was moved in a direction to form letters upon the paper, a number of sheets corresponding to the number of pencils, being clamped in suitable frames to hold them forthe purpose. The process of writing by this machine was a very slow one, but when one copy was complete, a duplicate was also at hand. Another machine for accomplishing the same purpose was patented in 1850 by ?. T. Eddy, of Boston, although the object was accomplished in a manner entirely different, and the alphabet a printed instead of a written one. This machine prints anything desired by the operator, in Roman letters, upon striking certain finger keys corresponding to the letters used—the operation of this machine, in the hands of a good performer, is about as apid as that of House's Printing Telegraph, and nearly as rapid as the execution of writing by an ordinary penman. This machine is exceedingly expensive and quite complex, lor which reason, probably, it has not been extensively used. Another machine has been patented, denominated the Phonetic Reporting Machine, designed to report speeches by working changes upon a small number ol keys and type, to make a variety of letters or characters. A machine which shall fully accomplish this object, is needed, as our reporters are seldom if ever able to get a full report, particularly from rapid speakers ; if all the fingers and thumbs could be brought to aid in making characters so that several characters could be made at the same time, greater speed might be obtained. We noticed one article in the " Randolph Whig," a few days since, stating that the inventor of this Reporting Machine had one in operation in that place, and that from appearances writing might be performed very rapidly upon it. The patent lor this machine was obtained through our aid ; we think it will prove successful. Engravings of it will probably appear in the Scientific American after a short time. Engravings and a description of a printing apparatus, invented by Mr. Jones, of Rochester, were presented to our readers in No. 34, this volume,—the structure and form of which are therefore understood; it is not complex, and, like Mr. Eddy's, prints the Roman letters. These constitute all the machines of this class of any notoriety, which have been brought to any practical perfection. The pen is a very ready transcriber of ideas, and whether it will ever be superseded by machinery, remains yet to be determined. The future may be " big with wonders," great inventions and results do not surprise us, unless the modus operandi are unphilosophical or too mysterious for our credulity, in such cases we invariably take the defensive until the improvement appears in a tangible form. Our readers are pretty well aware that masked, mysterious, theoretical phenomena do not obtain encouragement from the Scientific American,—things should show for themselves.
This article was originally published with the title "Printing Machines"