This week in 1856

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Welcome to the first issue of The Engineer (1856) - .PDF file.

Our first issue gets caught up in a revolution then under way in printing technologies

With the last print edition of The Engineer now on the shelves it seems fitting in this regular archive slot to return to the very first edition of the magazine in 1856.

In the introduction to the readers, the editor sets out the vision and scope of the publication, something to bear in mind as we go fully digital.

‘Every new moon is witness to the advent of some invention, some happy discovery, or successful application, some change at least, which like more fuel, becomes new incitement to fresh efforts.

‘There is, therefore, no want of scope under the title we have assumed; and so long as it is the bent of inventive genius to press continually forward, never satisfied with what it has accomplished.

‘That an organ of this wide capacity is demanded by the expanded state of the industrial arts, does not admit of doubt. Progress is too rapid to allow the practical man to wait till the information he is in search of shall have found its way into a treatise. it must be caught as it springs — caught in the nascent state.

‘Never has communication of thought been more free, more rapid, so highly characteristic of a deep-laid civilisation.’

In that very first issue of the magazine appears a review of a technology that has served us so well for 156 years, but must finally now be reaching the end of its useful life-span.

The piece describes an ‘Improved Printing Machine’, the invention of Mr TJ Perry, of the Lozells, Birmingham.

‘Mr Perry states that this machine will throw off from twenty-five to thirty-five thousand perfected copies per hour, without damaging the letter.

‘That we doubt: one-fourth of that number, however, would be desirable to accomplish. A machine which would work off a newspaper the size of the Times would occupy a space of about 7 feet by 5 and 6 feet high. For printing calicoes the blocks would be large or small according to design, and arranged parallel to each other, as the underside would not require printing, and of course a different arrangement is necessary than for letter-press printing.’