1891 Golding Official No 4 Printing Press

This table top printing press, serial number 1161, was part of a batch of presses numbered 1140 to 1164 that were finished at the Golding factory on 30th June 1891 and has been dated from factory records.  It is a hand-fed and hand-operated letterpress printing press, i.e. a printing press that prints from lead printers’ type onto a flat surface.  The item to be printed is placed on the platen on the left of the press and the type sits vertically opposite.  The round disc is covered with ink.  On pulling the handle down, rubber rollers go up over the ink disc and on return spread the ink over the printers’ type.  When the handle is pulled all the way down, the platen pushes the paper against the printers’ type and an impression is made.  On release the press opens, the rollers move down over the type, inking it for the next impression, the printed paper removed and a fresh sheet inserted.  The process is then repeated.

Golding No.4 Printing Press

Western Australian Provenance:

The early history of this particular press is unknown.  According to the donor of the press, it was part of the equipment fitted into the State Ship M.V. Koojarra.

MV Koorjarra

The M.V. Koorjarra was built by the New South Wales State dockyard in Newcastle.   With a gross tonnage of 2959 tons, she was launched on 15 January 1956 and delivered eight months later to the Western Australian State Shipping Service.  The Koojarra provide good quality accommodation for 60 passengers in cabins located in the superstructure, all having a porthole.  Koojarra was the first Australian-built ship to have air conditioning installed.  The photograph was taken at Fremantle at the commencement of her maiden voyage in September that year.

Competition from Associated Steamships, a consortium formed by the Adelaide Steamship Company and McIlwraith, McEacharn, and increasing operating costs resulted in the State Shipping Service terminating their round-Australia service in July 1969.  The W.A. coastal passenger trade was also declining and the Koojarra was withdrawn in December 1970 and put up for sale.  Purchased by Robin Dredging (Pte) Ltd, of Singapore, the vessel was towed there and lay unused at anchor until March 1977 which it was on-sold to Pakistani shipbreakers and towed to Gadani Beach in February 1978.

MV Koodjarra at Dock

Golding Presses:

The Golding Company was started by William Golding in 1869 as The Printer Manufacturing Co in Boston, U.S.A. producing small seals, rubber stamps, hand type holders, printed and stamped labels.  It is understood that a catalogue of the period advised “we have Printing Presses and Outfits from $20 upwards.”  At this stage, the Company sold equipment manufactured by others.

The first press built by the Company appears to have been a Pearl model that closely resembled a model patented on 2 December 1873 (Patent No 145,101) and appeared on the cover of Golding’s 1874 catalogue.

Goldings Catalogue

Over the following years the Company expanded its range of equipment and presses.  The best-known products were the Pearl, the Official, and the Golding Jobber presses.  Others included the Fairhaven country newspaper cylinder press; the Little Giant rule and Lead Cutter and a complete line of printers’ equipment and supplies.  It is noted that the Company never manufactured printers’ type but sold that manufactured by major foundries.

Golding presses and other equipment are reputed to be distinctive in their mechanical sophistication and elegance of form.  By the end of the 19th century the company, now named Golding Manufacturing Co,” was selling its presses around the world.

William Golding died on 21 August 1916 and the company was sold two years later to the American Type Founders Co.  Presses continued to be made through to 1927 when production ceased and the Golding inventory taken over by the Thomson National Company.  By now Golding was located in Franklin, MA and the Thomson National Company continues to use these Golding premises today (2020).

The Golding Official No 4 Table Top Printing Press

Golding made a number of different sized Official printing presses and numbered them accordingly.  All measurements are shown in Imperial sizes with the sign “indicating inches.

Official No. 1 = 3” x 4 ½ “

Official No. 2 = 4” x 6”

Official No. 3 = 5” x 7 ½”

Official No. 4 = 6” x 9” – this is the size of the press shown

Official No. 6 = 8 ¼” x 12 ½”

Official No. 7 = 10” x 15”

Two further presses were made and generally known as “map” presses.  In these the platen does not move but the bed moves down to the platen, thus enabling small areas of print to be printed on large sheets of paper.

The Golding Official No. 9 with a 6” x 9” chase looks similar to the Official No. 4 at first glance but moves in the manner described above.

The Golding Official No. 12 with a 8 ¼” x 12 ½” chase and was a larger version of the No. 9

They further made an unusual map press with a flywheel which they called the Imprinter, but with the same 8 ¼” x 12 ½” chase size.

This Press:

According to Mr Laughton (son of the former chief steward of the M.V. Koojarra) this press was used to print menus for the ship’s dining rooms.  When the ship was taken out of the service in 1972 the press was sold to the Chief Steward Laughton who had been the only person allowed to use it.  His title included official designation as “Ship’s Printer”. Mr Laughton was ten years younger than the press.

 On Mr Laughton’s demise the press was passed on by his son to the current owner who has returned it to working condition.

This Press was some 65 years old by the time the M.V. Koojarra in which it was used was built.  Its provenance prior to installation in the ship is unknown.


Saxe, Stephen O., A Brief History of Golding & Co., Printing History No 6, American Printing History Assoc., 1981 as detailed https://handsetpress.org/golding/

Letterpress Commons https://letterpresscommons.com/press/official-no-4/

Laughton, Mr (Jnr), personal reminiscences, c 1995

Plowman, Peter; Coast to Coast: the Great Australian Coastal Liners, Rosenberg Publishing, NSW, 2007

State Library of Western Australia https://www.slwa.wa.gov.au/images/816b_c10/013626d.jpg

Author:                Geoff Moor B.AppSc (Rec), PHF