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Offset Lithography

(Fr.: offset; rotocalcographie; rotocalcogravure; calco; impression lithographique offset)

A planographic process, which is merely indirect lithography or photolithographic transfer process, whereby the lithographic image is first transferred to a rubber roller and then to the paper. Kocher and Houssiau, in 1867, and Pelaz & Huguenet, in 1870, seem to have been the first to conceive the offset principle.

The process was first applied by metal decorators, ca. 1875, who found it difficult to print directly from the stone to the metal. That year, Robert Barclay (of Barclay & Fry) was granted an English patent for a press that used an intermediate cylinder with a surface of specially treated cardboard for transferring the inked design to the sheet metal. Soon thereafter, a rubber-blanket was substituted for the cardboard and such presses were successully made in England around 1880.

It was found later (independently by Alfred F. and Charles Harris, and by Ira W. Rubel) in 1906, that an indirect impression in printing upon book papers and other uncoated or rough papers had definite advantages, and this principle was adapted to general lithographic printing. On September 4th, 1908, at the Derby Hotel, Bury, Lancashire, Ira Washington Rubel, considered by many to be the inventor of the offset lithographic press, passed away. A native of Chicago and educated as a barrister, he was at heart a mechanic and his first Rotary Off-set Lithographic Press was the outcome of his interest in printing and lithography.

Offset lithography is often called “litho,” “offset,” “offset litho,” “photo-litho” and “photo-litho offset.”

The first color half-tone offset impressions in England were made by Geo. Mann & Co., and a specimen was published in the Penrose Annual Process Year Book for 1909-1910. There were five printings, red, yellow, blue, flesh and a neutral tint. (Nadeau, Encyclopedia, p. xxx.).

First color offset published in England, in the Penrose Annual, Vol 15, 1909-10 First color offset published in England, in the Penrose Annual, Vol 15, 1909-10

First color offset published in England, in the Penrose Annual, Vol 15, 1909-10. 240 x 175 mm.

Detail from the above Offset Lithography sample Detail of the above Offset Lithography sample

Detail from the above Offset Lithography sample.