The term ‘Common Press’ refers to a relief printing press made substantially in wood but with a heavy metal screw used in its impression mechanism. It appeared near the end of the fifteenth century and continued in use with only minor changes until the introduction of the iron press at the end of the eighteenth century.
Having got a taste for press building through the Senefelder project, I began looking for an opportunity to find out more about the common press and was fortunate to find a second hand copy of ‘The Common Press’2 published by The Merrion Press 1978. This remarkable book contains a description and detailed drawings of the Franklin Press in the Smithsonian together with advice on its construction. I am a believer in ‘learning by making’ but the expense of embarking on such an enterprise without a customer in mind was not on. Instead I decided to have a go at building a quarter scale model of the Franklin press. The drawings in the book were quarter scale which made this an obvious choice.