Bookbinders Lying Press and Plough.
What may be the first image of a lying press is in the baggage of a travelling binder in an early 14th-century
manuscript. The lying press has not changed in basic design right through to the present day.
With the lying press and plough (and its accessory backing boards, cutting boards, gilding boards, tub) the
binder could press pages flat before sewing, hammer-back the sewn book, trim book edges and boards, and gild
The large lying press could fill in for the similar but much smaller finishing press, and be used when gluing
and lining the spine, or when titling and gold-tooling the book. The lying press even became the binder's workbench
in large 19th century shops.
Here is an engraving of the lying press and plough.
The plough’s two cheeks are connected by a screw and guide bars, the book is held edge up in the press and the
binder stands at one end, the plough is pushed forward cutting just a few pages and then pulled back, the screw is
turned to move the cheeks closer together to cut a few more, and the plough is again pushed forward and pulled
back. This is repeated until the entire edge has been trimmed.
Several of you wanted to know more precisely how the press and plough worked, so I made the drawing below which
I hope makes its operation clearer.
As you turn the handle the blade of the plough moves across the book edge. With practice it is possible to get a
smoother edge with the plough than with a guillotine.
Someone asked about the plough blade, here is an example of a typical plough blade.
There have been attempts at improving the way the plough blade cuts, blade design has been improved and slight
variations will be met.
There is a modern plough with a circular blade but this is rarer than the normal design.
There do seem to be quite a few people who worry because they do not have a method of trimming
book edges and think they must have a small guillotine, which probably costs at least £1000 second hand, when
in fact a plough & press will happily do the job.
It’s true; you can spend a £1000… or much more on a lying press and plough if you go for an antique press, such
as the one shown on the left.
Fortunately there are contemporary presses and ploughs such as those illustrated on the left and
below. These are precision made by a small team in Cumbria, in the north of England. Made from furniture grade
beech, they come with a no quibble guarantee
A large press and plough is currently listed at about £260.00 this includes shipping within the UK. Please
inquire for shipping to the USA and other parts of the world
If you don’t feel you need the large press you can opt for one of several smaller press’s.
You would need a wooden stand, called a “tub” upon which to rest the lying press. This can be floor standing or
bench mounted. Bench mounted is £85.00 Floor standing is £135.00
The blade on this particular plough is very easy to sharpen, instructions come with the plough.
You can see this equipment here.
The Lying Press & Plough are two of the most ancient items of bookbinding equipment. The press has many
other uses apart from being used with the plough to trim books, there are many occasions when the press will prove
useful, and when not in use, a cover can be made for it which will give you an extra work surface.
EVERY MONTH I SEND OUT THE BOOKBINDERS DIGEST. WHICH AIMS TO BRING YOU
INTERESTING ITEMS CONCERNING THE WORLD OF BOOKBINDING AND RELATED CRAFTS. IF YOU WOULD CARE TO SUBSCRIBE PLEASE
JUST MAIL ME PUTTING "EDEN" IN THE SUBJECT LINE.