The Atlas Press as it would have looked in 1840.

To celebrate the 160th anniversary of the publication in 1859 of the first issue of The Shirburnian, Sherborne School’s Art Department are appealing for help to restore to working order the Atlas Press that was originally used for proofing the magazine.

The School’s Art Department would love to continue the Atlas Press’s long association with the School by using it with all year groups as a relief printing press for printing wood cuts and lino cuts.  However, at the moment, with its platen and rollers missing, it is unusable and stands forlornly in the foyer of the Carrington Building.

Manufactured in 1840, the School’s Atlas Press was the 180th manufactured by Messrs. Coniston & Smith of 101 Bunhill Row, London.  The Press features the figure of Atlas, a symbol of strength and endurance, who according to Greek mythology was condemned to bear the weight of the heavens on his shoulders for eternity.

David Coombs with the Atlas Press in June 2019.

The Atlas Press was given to the School in the late 1960s by Mr Les Coldwell, owner of the Abbey Press who, with their predecessors Sawtell’s, had printed The Shirburnian from their premises on The Parade (situated behind and on the floors above the Abbey Bookshop) for over 130 years.

Mr Coldwell thought that the School would be a fitting home for the Atlas Press because of their long association with the Abbey Press.

In June 2019, David Coombs came to visit the Atlas Press, which he had first used in 1961 as a 15-year-old apprentice at the Abbey Press.  David later became Director of the Abbey Press and in 1987 he purchased the company and renamed it Shelleys. With David’s son Glenn now managing Shelleys The Printers, the Coombs family have been involved with printing The Shirburnian for 58 years.

Although the Press was in full working order when it was given to the School, today its platen and rollers are missing, and it stands as a redundant reminder of the huge changes undergone by the print industry, from the days of moveable type to the digital age.

If you have any information about the School’s Atlas Press please contact the School Archivist.

Rachel Hassall
School Archivist
June 2019

See also:
History of The Shirburnian
Art and Design Technology at Sherborne School

For further information please contact the School Archivist.

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