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  ICBTT2004 Technology & Society Division, JSME

The First Printing Press Made in Japan

Kiichi YOSHIDA and Kaoru GONJO

Prof. Kiyoshi MAEDA, who was a Chairman of Subcommitee of Preservation of Hisorical Records on Mechanical Engineering of JSME in 1997, expressed as follows: "From the mid to late nineteenth century, our country experienced a period of modernization that was supported by the influx of foreign science and technology. This turned the path of Japan from an agricultural to an industrial country under a policy of an "enriched and strengthened country and production industry." Subsequently, over this past century, our country has continued in its economic growth. The motivating power of this economic growth has been generated by industry and supported by mechanical engineering." The printing industry in Japan also imitates foreign technologies as well as another industries. In this paper, the first printing press machine made in Japan are introduced.

Keywords; M-form, internal capital market, the architecture for the architecture for the organisational growth pattern, increasing returns

1. Introduction
The extant printing matter which is oldest in the world is the sutra "Hyakumanto Darani" (767) in Japan. The printing as modem industry in Japan started after untieing the isolation of Edo era. The printing industry of Japan started from imitation of the Industrial Revolution of the Western Nations as well as another industries.

2. Shozou MOTOKI and Tomiji HIRANO
A new age of modern printing industry has been started by two Japanese persons which are a leader and a pupil. They are Shozou MOTOKI (1824-1875) who is an interpreter of Dutch at Nagasaki and Tomiji HIRANO ( 1846-92) who is a puple of Shozou MOTOKI. Shozou MOTOKI who is so called Japan's Gutenberg (a founder of modem printing in Japan) took interests in various technologies of Western while interpreting. MOTOKI made a printing office by letter press in Nagasaki and invited Wiliam Gamble who succeeded in casting types of Chinese characters in Shanghai. Shozou MOTOKI made a base of Mingchou Types in Japan, too.

3. Elements of Printing Industry
HIRANO, firstly, established the printing industry in Japan. The four elements of printing are necessary for industrialization. These are (1)metal types which are able to melt and cast again many times, (2)printing inks, (3)paper which can be printed, (4)printing press machines which give inks to papers. The invention of movable metal types which are oldest in the world is in Korea at 13rd century.The printing technology could not industrialize in Korea, because there was not a element of (4)printing press machine. HIRANO opened movable letter press manufacturer at Kanda Tokyo by the capital of 1000 yen in 1872 transferring from MOTOKI, after he was an engine assistant of The Western Steam Company and The Nagasaki Iron Foundry which was made by The Tokugawa Shognate. Next year, he made Hirano Printing Manufacturing Company at Tsukiji Tokyo. HIRANO was able to manufacture homemade printing press machines firstly in Japan, because he had been studying mechanical engineering very well.

Photo. 1 Shozou MOTOKI.

Photo. 2 Grave of Tomiji HIRANO. (Yanaka Cemetery)

4. The first printing press made in Japan
It is seen that the first hand printing press machine made by HIRANO from about 1877 is the imitation of Albion Press imported from England. This machine is designed simply so as to be painting a capita! letter H only. The paper is sent on metal types inked over. The paper is moved by a leather belt attached in wood roller. The paper is pressured by a person with a lever. The lever returns by a spring. The moving letter press printing changes to offset printing after the Second World War graduately. However, the Mingchou Types and casting, which MOTOKI and HIRANO developed, survive still in spite of computerized press.
Prof. MAEDA expressed in the Memorials in Mechanical Engineering -Machine Tool Edition in JSME- as follows : Mechanical engineering in Japan gained its independence as an industry around 1900. Our prosperity today is a result of the constant efforts of many mechanical engineers.
Japanese people must not forget that the first printing press machine and moving printing types were made by very much effort of MOTOKI and HIRANO. This paper translates Reference(1) in Japanese to English.

Photo. 3 The First Printing Press Made in Japan.

Manufactured year: about 1877
Manufacturer: Hirano letter press company
Machine weight: about 250kg
Machine size: 700mm X 900mm X 170
Maximum printing size: B4
Preservation: Mizuno Printing Museum
104-0042, 2-9-2, Irihune, Chuoku, Tokyo

Photo. 4 The monument of the cradle of Japanese types in Japan (Tsukiji).


  1. K. YOSHIDA: "The First Printing Press Made in Japan" in Japanese, Japan's memorials of mechanical engineering, edited by Prof. Maeda, Ohmu Publisher, 2000.

The authors wish to express their thanks to Mizuno Printing Museum for borrowing a photograph of the first printing press (the actual article) made in Japan.