Technological Advances: The Time Of Industrial Revolution

Topics: Printing Press

Melyssa Rolon-Hansen

History continues to show the advances and leaps people took to lead in social and economic changes. The Industrial Revolution, which is believed to have started in England between the 1760s and 1940s, is another pivotal point in time where big changes were being made that profoundly changed the nature of visual communications. The following are examples of inventors and their inventions in the fields of typography, photography, and printing that paved those changes in visual communications.


Like many advances in technology, one will always find a way to improve it based on the needs of the community and the available resources.

The Industrial Revolution was a booming period of inventions, discoveries, and advancements. It was during these times that trade and commerce expanded with an increase in mass production. Here are some inventors and their inventions that generated a shift in typographic communication.

Let’s begin with Thomas Cotterell, who began the trend of sand casting large and bold letters.

He displayed these bold letters as early as 1765 and created a specimen book that displayed a typeface as high as 12 lines of pica, which is around 2 inches tall (Megg’s).

Cotterell sand casts bold letters.

The introduction of the fat-roman typeface was brought in around 1803 by London-type founder Robert Thorne, who is a student and successor of Cotterell. A fat-face type is a roman face whose contrast and weight have been increased by expanding the thickness of the heavy strokes (Megg’s).

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This face type was in response to new sources of commercial printing, which proved to be successful and altered the appearance of advertising during this time (Kennard).

During the Industrial Revolution, there was a boom in advances to increase production. Another innovator was Ottmar Mergenthaler, who perfected the linotype machine on the 3rd of July 1886 (Megg’s). Many inventors had struggled to create the machine that could compose metal type and Charles T. Moore, an inventor, had given Mergenthaler a faulty “writing machine” where Mergenthaler was able to overcome its defects and simplify it greatly (Iles).  This machine allowed a whole line to be cast. With this, an increase in printing was achieved but also a mass in production. The linotype also affected how typefaces were being produced and designed.

1883 Linotype by Ottmar Mergenthaler of Baltimore.


By 1839 Photography had been invented at least three times by men with distinctly different backgrounds, values, and motivations. But the concept of a camera has been around since 1665, the only element that needed to be made was a way to make the image projected to be capable of permanently being captured (Megg’s).

The Frenchman who produced the first photograph was Joseph Nicéphore Niépce, a lithographic printer. His production was a result of seeking an automatic way of transferring drawings onto printing plates, without the need for the artist’s hand. Through experimentation with several light-sensitive compounds on various photosensitive emulsions such as paper, stone, glass, and metal his first success resulted in “negative” images (Davis). Around 1826 Niépce expanded on his discovery by putting one of his pewter plates and coating it with asphalt, a mineral resin known to harden on exposure to light. A view of the back of his window was produced that was minutely detailed and permanent, with faint tones, he called this process heliography.

View from the Window at Le Gras by Joseph Nicéphore Niépce.

Louis-Jacques Mandé Daguerre was the man who introduced Photography to the world. This Parisian was a theatrical performer and painter. He also had been researching the photographic process, similar to Niépce. Through exchanges of letters they met and shared ideas until Niépce passed from a stroke in 1833 (Megg’s). In 1839 Daguerre perfected the process, which was the first commercially successful process in the history of photography, where accurate, detailed, and sharp prints were produced on highly polished silver-plated copper sheets, which were then sensitized by placing it, silver side down, over a container of iodine crystals. Placing the exposed plate over a dish of heated mercury formed the visible image (Megg’s). This became known as Daguerreotype.

The daguerreotype was very expensive, mostly the wealthy could afford to have their pictures taken. But it was also used to record many other things such as antiquities, still lives, natural phenomena, and, events (Administrator).

In England, not too far behind the other inventors, William Henry Fox Talbot pioneered a process that formed the base for photography and photographing printing plates (Megg’s). Talbot was an educated man from Cambridge – a scientist, classical scholar, botanist, mathematician, and linguist. Around 1834, he also started his research on the problem of photography. In a matter of a year, he was successful in creating permanent photographic images in the camera obscure using paper sensitized with a solution of silver chloride and fixed in a bath of potassium iodide, which later on was replaced by a solution of common table salt (Davis).

Though each inventor had their reasons to pursue the world of photography as a challenge, each one developed different ways to transfer and process images without the need for artists’ hands, just an understanding of chemicals and science.


Gutenberg brought us where we are today with his invention of the printing press in 1463. This helped establish a quicker process towards printing books and an increase in literacy rates. The Industrial Revolution altered printing by applying metal parts to the hand press, increasing its efficiency, as well as the size of its impressions (Megg’s).

In 1800 Charles Stanhope produced an all-cast iron printing press capable of printing 250 copies per hour, this was his first successful prototype that required ninety percent less force but allowed more than double the area for printing (Darby).]

The Cast-Iron printed press with compound levels that could withstand the pressed of repeated prints (A History).

Friedrich Koenig, a German inventor, set the next step by converting printing into a high-speed factory operation. He took his plans to England and presented them to London printers and was able to receive the funding in 1807 and obtain the patent for his press in 1810 (Megg’s). The Steam-powered press was capable of printing 400 sheets per hour, compared to Stanhope’s 250 per hour. But the steam press was not just about its speed but much more about the decrease in physical labor. In 1814 it was sold to The Times of London which made it possible to enhance production and employ masses to operate the machines.

The Industrial Revolution was truly a time to advance in proficiency and production. Richard March Hoe, an American Inventor, was the first to successfully manufacture the rotary printing press. His family had a factory established for the production of printing presses in New York City, Richard becomes head of the firm when his father passed in 1827. Richard revolutionized the printing process, by fixing the type on the outside of the revolving cylinder press. The contact with the cylinder only took a fraction of the force and sped the process in production being able to produce 8,000 sheets per hour on one side.  The model developed into the Hoe rotary or “lightning” press and was patented in 1847 (Britannica).

In conclusion, the Industrial Revolution was time for innovators to experiment, expand, and change the way visual media could be shared with the rest of the world. With these fast-paced advances in the fields of typography, photography, and printing and the need to bring something new into the next century, people were able to create and establish a foundation that artists have have this day it is still being used or has been further expanded on.

Work Cited

  1. A History of the World – Object: Cast-iron printing press. (n.d.). Retrieved February 24, 2019, from
  2. Administrator. (n.d.). Daguerreobase. Retrieved from 17 partners from 13 different European countries are working together: institutions, private collectors, and photograph conservators.
  3. Britannica, T. E. (2018, September 08). Richard March Hoe. Retrieved February 22, 2019, from
  4. Darby, A. (2012, September 14). Industrial Revolution: The Printing Press. Retrieved February 22, 2019, from
  5. Davis, K. F., & Aspinwall, J. L. (2007). The origins of American photography 1839-1885: From daguerreotype to dry-plate: The Hallmark Photographic Collection at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art. Kansas City, Mo: Hall Family Foundation.
  6. Iles, G. (1912). Leading American inventors. New York, H. Holt, and company.
  7. Kennard, J. (2014, January 03). The Story of Our Friend, the Fat Face. Retrieved February 22, 2019, from
  8. Megg’s, P. B., & Purvis, A. W. (2016). Megg’s History of Graphic Design, 6th Edition. John Wiley & Sons.

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Technological Advances: The Time Of Industrial Revolution. (2022, Aug 08). Retrieved from

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