Tympan Packing & overlays

I am researching on printing techniques during the 1860’s with an Hopkinson & Cope No.1579, d. 1845. This press has produced the first postage stamps for Greece. What I am looking for is the following:
1. This should have been a double tympan press. Am I right to suppose that the inner tympan did the overlay blanket work, consisting of a hard fabric or skin (swan?) round up, able to carry the ‘packing’?
2. In addition to the inner tympan overlay, for stamp printing during this period in France and Greece, an additional overlay technique called ‘Decoupage’ or ‘Misse en train’ was used. This technique applied a second ovelay consisting of scissored cut portions of the design of the stamp which required a very light impression. This overlay was a sandwich of pasted together essays. The crucial question is the setting of the overlays and the paper. Where was this second overlay placed? Was it inside the inner tympan, was it attached outside the inner tympan? The paper to receive the impression, was it attached to the outer typman or to the inner tympan, or directly laid upon the printing plate? How were the paper and the decoupage overlay attached? I need to find out the correct line out.
Also the coloured inks used, where they applied with a roller or with ink balls? The printing plate was a cast bronze surface printing plate, bearing 150 bronze coining press cold strucked Hermes head cliches affixed on a raised bed 203mm x 368mm, which was placed on a flat base measuring 215mm x 380mm. Did the printer used a paper frame around the the raised bed?
If someone can help me on this, I would be grateful.

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Wow. Don’t have a clue where you can go to find out what you need on this.

Best I can do with this one is tell you that rollers were first used as inking devices on printing presses in 1812. Assuming printers were as conservative then as they are now I’d think likely ink balls were used.

Do you have the Rummonds books on hand presses? They might provide something, especially the volumes that deal with 19th century practices. Easy to find.


Further note on this. Ink balls were likely used by “fine printers” into the mid-1930s. Last reference I have is 1933. “In 1933, printing historian Paul Johnston lamented that the ‘modern’ mechanical use of rollers to ink a form had irrevocably invalidated the virtue of, and the skills required for, ‘hand press printing’ by dispensing with the difficult, but more touch-sensitive, ink balls.” So likely ink balls:



This book will give you much of the information you seek:


and this book will give you references and text taken from printing manuals that relate to iron handpresses:




Thank you for your input. Paul also recommended Rummonds book. I will get it from Amazon.



Thank you for your book recommendations. I will buy them both.


Having used both ink balls and rollers myself, I would think that by 1860 most printers with any balls (double entendre intended) would have set them on the shelf and switched to rollers for critical work.

Since the printer was using multiple image carriers produced by molding or casting, it can be assumed that they had contact with some of the newest technology, and would have taken advantage of rollers to improve the image produced.

Of course, from one country to another, there may have been traditions which would come into play with the guilds or unions which could have had an impact on the procedures used, and usually these organizations were committed to maintaining the status quo. The skills required for inking with balls would have been held as one fo the things that differentiated a journeyman from a flunky, although inking was generally a duty performed by a leeser employee in the shop.

John Henry


Thank you for your comment.

There is an 1860 Greek translation of Louis Fiquier ‘Les grandes inventions anciennes et moderne’ that backs your theory as the author ilustrates an ink-table , showing how the roller is inked and then how the die is inked via the roller.