Printing speed of various press types…

My wife and I volunteer with the .918 Club doing printing demonstration on a C & P 8 x 12 and a model of a wood common press at the Lancaster Heritage Center in Lancaster, PA.

We have visitors from all over the world and I was hoping some of you could help me with the speed of printing on various types of historical presses.

How many impressions an hour could …

Gutenberg print on his press (I know this is a guess)?

Ben Franklin print on his wood common press?

someone print on an iron handpress (with inker and printer)?

someone who was good feed on a C & P?

Then, how many sorts in an hour could a compositor who was pretty fast accurately compose with handset metal type under the best of circumstances?

Any sense, of how error free the compositor would be?

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I read in a letterpress book recently that a team of two workers could print on an iron hand press 250 impressions in an hour. I’m still looking to purchase an iron hand press, to test the numbers! On my C&P 8x12 OS, I can run around 500-700 impressions an hour. A friend of mine showed me 1000 in 57 minutes. Cool


I just timed my 10 x 15 C&P and can hand feed 1100 and hour with only about 5-10 misfeeds. I have no clue about the other items in question.

To put it in perspective it took me months and months to get to that speed. It took printing every 4th cycle or more to begin. I thought that I was doing good with every other cycle when I hit that milestone. Being able to hit every impression now makes the projects move pretty quickly.


I hope to one day be able to feed 500 an hour… right now I am at about 250 with 1 or 2 mistakes. I have only done full runs on the press about 4 times so I guess I am doing alright with the speed so far.

1000 an hour would be awesome


This has been discussed on the Letpress forum. The last part of your question intrigues me. I had the same curiosity and found the answer in a book about 19th century type setting. The Swifts: Printers in the Age of Typesetting Races by Walker Rumble. The various newspapers used to have contest between their fastest composition men and women. One page shows a full page that one of them set. In 7 pt type, in under an hour with only 3 typos. Those were because of bad distribution in the case, a letter being in the wrong compartment, not because the type setter picked up the wrong letter. These people were so fast that their hands were moving constantly. They got paid by the line so it is no wonder that they got so fast. If you get a chance, read the book.