Sunday 27 September 2015

Men of Yore: Friedrich Koenig

This is another in a series of posts about men from history who have either achieved great things in one form or another by pushing boundaries: either in themselves or in society or science or exploration of some form. Boundary pushing and growth is what men do, it's their nature: to grow and push outwards. We, as men, are the frontiers men, the first to discover/uncover new territory, in a metaphysical sense (i.e. including both material and the immaterial) that is later colonised and 'civilised' by the rest of humanity. 

Friedrich Koenig

He was born at Eisleben on April 17, 1774, and, after attending school, was apprenticed to a printer of Leipzig and then worked as a journeyman. His first improvements were made in connexion with the ordinary hand press. To further his projects he came to England in 1806, and it was soon after this that he met his countryman, Andreas Friedrich Bauer (1783–1860), who possessed the mechanical skill Koeng lacked. Four patents were taken out between 1810 and 1814 and from these came the power-driven flat bed printing machine in which the paper was pressed against the type by a cylindrical roller. Through John Walter (1776–1847), two of Koenigs machines were installed for printing the Times, and with the appearance of the issue of November 28, 1814, a new era in newspaper production began. Koenigs success, however, was but the prelude to a long struggle against difficulties. Returning to Germany with Bauer in 1817, he founded a works for the building of printing machines at Oberzell near Würzburg, only to find it next to impossible to obtain properly skilled artisans. Five years indeed passed before the partners completed their first German printing machine, and throughout his life Koenig met with little but adversity. He died at Oberzell at the age of fifty-eight years. The business was carried on by Bauer and relations, and after-wards gained a wide reputation. The speed of an early Koenig machine was about two thousand sheets an hour. Improvements by Cowper and Applegarth raised the speed to 5,000—10,000 sheets an hour, the Hoes of America then built machines doubling the capacity and to-day the rate of printing is some fifty times as fast as that in 1814.


The ability to communicate ideas quickly, cheaply and conveniently (mass-media) is something we Westerners take for granted.  Radio, tv, the internet, wi-fi, smartphones, social media and all the rest has resulted in us being able to swim in a sea of information (with all the benefits & hazards it brings with it).  But this wasn't always the case.

Prior to Friedrich Koenigs revolutionary printing press all printing had to be done the same way that Gutenberg did it 300 years previously: one sheet at a time, and by hand.  It was slow and expensive.  Koenig had the genius idea of mechanising the process and making it cyclical, much like modern day production lines: which comprise a linear-progressive part (the coke bottle travelling along the linear conveyor belt) and multiple cyclical-repetitive parts (e.g. the bottle filling contraption, the bottle capping contraption, the bottle labelling contraption, all doing the same job over and over again).  This is precisely what Koenig did with his genius idea of using a roller as a method of printing repeatedly.

The result of his invention is of course the growth of the printed-press media (newspapers, journals, comics, magazines etc) and all the benefits that these things brought us.

P.S. The linear and cyclical elements in a production line are like the linear and cyclical elements in life: linear = masculine, cyclical = feminine.  For example the linear view of history tends towards the progressive view (history as forever improving), and the cyclical view of history tends towards the repetitive view (history as forever repeating e.g the Indian Yugas, or Oswald Spenglers cyclical view of history etc).


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