Frederick Koenig and the steam printing press

Fredrick Koenig was born in Germany, Saxony on April 17th, 1774. Knoenig’s father was a hardworking farmer whom provided for his family. Education was very important and Koenig’s father made sure to provide the best for his offspring. Upon completion of education Koenig was working as a beginner compositor and printer for Breitkopf & Hartel, of Leipzig. After a short period he was released from his engagement at Breitkopf & Hartel, because of his extraordinary ability and success. As this time Koenigh was only beginning his journey in life.

After enrolling in a year of University, it was at this time Koenig was sketching his designs for a printer. During the year 1803-04, Koenig designed a printer on paper that would be known as the Suhler press.  The designed was labeled as a huge loss of investment as it would cost more to make than to recover in profit.  During this time, Koenig was offered a position to organize the State printing office at St. Petersburg by the Russian Government. Just after two years he decided to move to England to further his development.


Arriving in London, it was hard to find printers supporting his ideas. He came across a man, Thomas Bensley, known as a book printer for Bolt Court. Mr. Bensley supported Koenig’s ideas and proceeded with a plan for a prototype. Andreas F. Bauer a fellow friend of Koenig, was a mechanically inclined to make and produce almost anything. This was the beginning of the printing press to be powered by steam.

The steam printing machine

The machine was certainly an improvement but it was only a modest improvement in number of copies printed. Koenig continued to make improvements to his steam printing press machine. Eventually he had to accept that the he could no longer modify it to maintain a competitive edge in the printer market. This led to Koenig’s collaborations with other press builders. It was during this time that he helped create successful printers.

His success was getting notice and impressed the proprietor of the “London Times,” Mr. J. Walter. With Koenig’s altered calculations Mr. Walter actualized the success of the group by ordering two printers. These printers took over two years to build, but when they did finally work over a thousand pages printed per hour.

Koenig’s initiative and passion to succeed in the printer industry is clearly visible in every step of his journey. His innovativeness gave him the flexibility and creativity to change and stay current.

All this hard work had worn down Koenig, and diagnosed with a nervous disorder. Eventually this would lead the sickness to an even greater fate of brain disease. He later died January 17, 1833.

The passing of Koenig was dark moment, Bauer continued on with the business for 20 more years. Then passing it off to Koenig’s sons to carry on the business and their father’s legacy.

By Faisal Alfadel _________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

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