Shaky promo film tells the letterpress newspaper story well

Mar 09, 2020 at 07:20 pm by Staff

Images and film of the days of linos and letterpress are becoming increasingly rare.

Not new, but this 1973 video - which surfaced on Dave Hughes' Metaltype website is one of the more complete representations of the newspaper production process.

It comes from the Brighton Argus, an evening newspaper in the south of England, and covers editorial and advertising functions, as well as text and headline typesetting, page make-up, and moulding flong from which to cast the letterpress plates for rotary printing. Visit the Metaltype site at

It brings personal memories for me on two levels - as a reporter on the News, Portsmouth, which used to compete for readers in border areas - and when I returned in 1968, directly from that to help my mother run a family newspaper in north Kent.

Linotype and Ludlow machines, part of our stock-in-trade, are well represented and explained in the film, despite its fuzzy images and stretchy sound. So too is the means of casting the semicircular printing plates, similar to those we used on the Victory-Kidder rotary letterpress my father had bought and dismantled from a Bristol evening paper, not long before suffering the heart attacks which preceded his death.

Archaic and built in the 1930s, it was nonetheless the fastest newspaper press for miles around, and we were proud to print work for several of our neighbours on it. One long-run job - a weekly classified newspaper called the Kent Advertizer - was collected by the customer using a low-loader, for which he had no tarps or ropes; the following morning's job was to recover copies which had blown off the truck and were papering fences and marshland for miles around as if a snowstorm had gone through.

It fell to me in 1977 to scrap the Victory press, its bronze bearings making a financial contribution towards our installation of a four-unit Goss Community and move the paper into web-offset That's a story the Brighton Argus has to tell... with a 1990 version of the promotional message featuring phototypesetting and paper paste-up. Constant change, but never fast enough.

Peter Coleman


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