Koenig, Friedrich

SUBJECT AREA: Paper and printing
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b. 17 April 1774 Eisleben, Thuringia, Germany
d. 17 January 1833 Oberzell, near Würzburg, Germany
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German inventor of the machine printing press.
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Koenig became a printer and bookseller. Around 1800 he was among those who conceived the idea of mechanizing the hand printing press, which apart from minor details had survived virtually unchanged through the first three and a half centuries of printing. In 1803, in Sühl, Saxony, he designed a press in which the flat forme, carrying the type, was mechanically inked and passed to and from the platen. Whether this ma-chine was ever constructed is not known, but Koenig found little support for his ideas because of lack of technical and financial resources. So, in 1806, he went to England and was introduced to Thomas Bensley, a book printer off Fleet Street in London. Bensley agreed to support Koenig and brought in two other printers to help finance Koenig's experiments. Another German, Andreas Bauer, an engineer, assisted Koenig and became largely responsible for the practical execution of Koenig's plans.
In 1810 they patented a press which was steam-driven but still used a platen. It was set to work in Bensley's office the following year but did not prove to be satisfactory. Koenig redesigned it, and in October 1811 he obtained a patent for a steam-driven press on an entirely new principle. In place of the platen, the paper was fixed around a hollow rotating cylinder, which impressed the paper on to the inked forme. In Bensley's office it was used for book printing, but its increased speed over the hand press appealed to newspaper proprietors and John Walter II of The Times asked Koenig to make a double-cylinder machine, so that the return stroke of the forme would be productive. A further patent was taken out in 1813 and the new machine was made ready to print the 29 November 1814 issue—in secrecy, behind closed doors, to forestall opposition from the pressmen working the hand presses. An important feature of the machine was that the inking rollers were not of the traditional leather or skin but a composite material made from glue, molasses and some soda. The inking could not have been achieved satisfactorily with the old materials. The editorial of that historic issue proclaimed, 'Our Journal of this day presents to the public the practical result of the greatest improvement connected with printing, since the discovery of the art itself Koenig's machine press could make 1,200 impressions an hour compared to 200 with the hand press; further improvements raised this figure to 1,500–2,000. Koenig's last English patent was in 1814 for an improved cylinder machine and a perfecting machine, which printed both sides of the paper. The steam-driven perfecting press was printing books in Bensley's office in February 1816. Koenig and Bauer wanted by that time to manufacture machine presses for other customers, but Bensley, now the principal shareholder, insisted that they should make machines for his benefit only. Finding this restriction intolerable, Koenig and Bauer returned to Germany: they became partners in a factory at Oberzell, near Würzburg, in 1817 and the firm of Koenig and Bauer flourishes there to this day.
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Further Reading
J.Moran, 1973, Printing Presses, London: Faber \& Faber.
T.Goebel, 1956, Friedrich Koenig und die Erfindung der Schnellpresse, Würzburg.
LRD

Biographical history of technology. - Taylor & Francis e-Librar. . 2005.

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