History of Offset Printing
In 1875, Robert Barclay of England developed the offset printing process for printing on tin. In 1903, United States citizen, Ira Washington Rubel, reworked the process to work for printing on paper. This was the beginning of a process still used today by large publishing and printing companies.
In offset printing, the inked image or text is moved from a plate to a rubber blanket and from there to the paper or other printing surface. In lithography, oil and water are used to print the image.
These two technologies first came together when Barclay blended the process of the rotary printing press of 1843 and transfer printing from the same era. The rotary press used a metal cylinder wrapped in cardboard that transferred the ink to the flat metal printing surface.
When photography became popular in the early 1900s, the once-flourishing lithography began to fall out of favor. Photoengraving was used instead. But when Rubel forgot to load a sheet in 1901 during a printing, he found out that the rubber mat produced a much more accurate image than the metal. Once this process was refined, the offset printing press flourished again.
Original lithography used limestone to print images on flat, porous surfaces. In fact, the word “lithography” means “an image from stone.” Today, the repelling relationship of oil and water help place an inked image with high quality and detail onto paper surfaces. Using rubber to apply the image means that the image will release cleanly.