The Press

THE TOM PAINE PRINTING PRESS is a not-for-profit educational organisation. It is based around a working 18th-century-style wooden ‘common press’, as used to print Paine’s massively influential pamphlets and books – Common Sense, The Rights of Man, The Age of Reason, etc. Together with the trappings of an 18th century print room, type cases, cabinets, frames and the compositor’s ‘stone’, this provides an excellent educational resource and tourist attraction. Posters, broadsheets, pamphlets and books are printed on the press, which is also used to instruct students of all ages in the complexities of letterpress technology and the crucial importance of the printed word in disseminating ideas.


A PRESS FOR THE TOWN OF LEWES: The Press is a valuable asset for the town and district of Lewes, in East Sussex, UK, and it is intended that it will be available, with proper induction and supervision, for local writers and artists to use for the production of their own books, pamphlets, broadsheets and prints.

The press under construction

The press under construction

The full-size ‘common press’, a development of Gutenberg’s original press of 1455, was constructed of oak, with metal fittings, by Alan May, the builder of the ‘Gutenberg Press’ featured on Stephen Fry’s excellent TV programme (Wavelength Films, 2008) The Machine that Made Us, which included all aspects of letterpress printing, including paper-making, press-construction, type-founding and printing. The completed Tom Paine ‘common press’ was operational at the Market Tower in Lewes during July 2009, and played a prominent part in the town’s Tom Paine Festival.

Assembly In Lewes. The Press arrived in Lewes on 22nd June 2009, and over the next two days, constructor Alan May, his wife Judith and Peter Chasseaud assembled and adjusted the beautiful, solid oak components of the replica 18th century Common Press. Here are a few pictures:




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