A man who was prominent in the development of the papier-mache or wet mat method of stereotyping for newspapers was a Swiss printer, JAMES DELLAGANA. He learned stereotyping according to Genoux’s patented process in Paris, and set up a stereotyping shop in London. In the year 1855 he was granted a patent for casting plates type-high, hitherto all stereotype plates were only about 1/6″ thick. He then invented a system for casting plates hollow inside, but still type-high, thus making the plates lighter and more convenient to handle. In 1861 he invented a molding press, which was later universally adopted, and known as the roller or calender.
In 1860 JAMES WOOD of London invented a new casting box which cast the column plates flush with the type, ready to be used in a newspaper form, alongside movable type matter.
Dellagana prospered and made plates for the celebrated daily newspaper, “The Times” of London, started by John Walter on the 1st of January, 1785, under the name “The London Daily Universal Register printed Logographically” (Logography is “word-printing”). On its 940th issue it was changed to “Times.”
At the end of the Crimean War, from 1856 to 1859, the “Times” conducted a series of experiments with stereotyping with the wet mat process, the object in view being to get as many good plates in as short a space of time as possible. Every advance in this direction was communicated to the trade as fast as made. A large number of daily newspapers were encouraged by the example set by the “Times” to adopt stereo-typing and the practice brought on improvements in the process as well as in the machinery and equipment used therein. In 1860 the Times was so far advanced that it went over to the wet mat method entirely. The first plates were cast type-high in single columns; later full pages were cast in curved form to fit the cylinders of the rotary presses in use at that time, and finally in 1863 the casting of semi-cylindrical plates was accomplished and the problem of rapid newspaper printing was solved. The first semi-cylindrical plates were cast in 1854 by an American, George Craske of New York.
In 1863 JOHN C. MACDONALD and JOSEPH CALVERLY, employees of the “Times”, were granted a patent for “Improvements in the manufacture and application of printing apparatus.” The patentees employed the ordinary wet matrix method of stereotyping, but they cast the plates in a tubular form, cylindrical on the external surface. In 1866 they were granted additional patent on further improvements.
From now on the wet mat commenced its triumphal way in newspaper offices and up to this day, little changes have been made in the original method of using the wet mat process. Many were the experiments made, but the basic ideas have remained the same up to the advent of the dry mat. The wet mat processes had many drawbacks, and of the many experiments to remedy these, the most interesting ones were made in America and merit being described.