A Short History of Offset Printing

The history of offset printing could fill volumes.  Instead I would like to highlight more modern advances in offset printing as it relates to sheetfed and web printers.  

1875:  The first press to use offset lithography and the offset printing process is invented in England.  It used a cardboard covered cylinder to transfer the image from stone to a metal surface.
1880:  Rubber is discovered as a more effective transfer method on an offset printing clylinder.
1892:  First four color rotary press is invented.
1895:  Harris Automatic Press Company is founded in Niles, Ohio.  The company begins research on how to better the offset printing process.
1903:  Ira Washington Rubel of the United States first uses the offset process and uses it to print on paper.  He discovers that images print sharper by printing from the stone to the blanket and then to the paper.  This forms the basis for all modern offset lithography.
1911:  Man Roland enters the offset printing market with their first offset printing press.
1930:  Heatset printing makes a debut with the first heatset inks being produced for offset printers.
1950:  Lithographic offset printing becomes a direct competitor with letterpress.  Popularity now swings in the direction of offset printing as the desired and most economical form of printing.
1960:  More and more newspaper printers begin replacing their outdated letterpress machines with offset presses.
1962:  Heidelberg begins development of offset printing presses.  This came after decades of resistance by management.  Technicians were able to convince them that this was the way of the future.
1995:  Computer-to-plate makes its debut at trade shows around the world.
1998: Heidelberg patents the gapless printing clylinder.
2002:  Man Roland patents the magnetic brake system for folders allowing quarter folders to print faster.

I don't pretend to be a history buff in this aspect, but this is a sampling of events over the past 100 years or so.  I would be interested to know if anyone else out there can add to this as it relates to sheetfed or web printing.  Leave a comment below and let me know.  Thanks.

Related articles:
Why Germans Build The Best Presses
Who Really Invented the Printing Press?


  1. Vital Information..Thanks for sharing. Offset lithography is the most common printing know-how when high numbers of material are needed. In this type of printing, the desired picture is burned on a plate and then is "offset" from the plate to a rubber blanket and then to the surface to be printed on. One of the benefits of the offset presses technique is superior picture quality. This press also works on a variety of materials including paper, wood and metal, among others. Another benefit is that as the quantity of prints goes up, the cost goes down. Offset presses
    are designed for high-volume work, and they do it well.

  2. Am such a beginner on a printing industry and am not that knowledgeable of the historical background of an offset printing. This share is actually very helpful for me. labels and stickers

  3. Thank you for such a fantastic blog. Where else could anyone get that kind of info written in such a perfect way? I have a presentation that I am presently working on, and I have been on the look out for such information.