Robert Oldham – Mover, Restorer and User of Antique Printing Presses

Since I established the Ad Lib Press in 1965 I have owned a number of unusual antique presses and I have collected some antique type and old printing cuts. I've hand-set and hand printed several books, done hand bookbinding and paper marbling, and taught those aspects of the book arts in workshops. I've also worked on the restoration of several antique hand presses, including one I used to own shown on the Worldwide Hand Press Database page. I've been interested in astronomy since I was 12, and have built several telescopes. Currently, that interest is focused on astrophotography. 

Since 1990 I have been interested in electric vehicles. I owned a converted electric Volkswagen Rabbit for a while and I have built an electric racing barstool. My electric Smart ForTwo is currently undergoing traction battery repair after ten years on the road.

I've had an amateur radio license since about 1994 and my particular focus has been Amateur Radio Emergency Service (ARES). I was the Emergency Coordinator for the county where I lived before moving to Costa Rica.

In 1999 I became interested in the archaeoastronomy of the prehistoric megalithic chamber structures of central Portugal, and I have made several trips there to measure and collect data on over 60 of those structures, which the Portuguese call "antas".

Some of my writing has been published. An article about Abraham Stansbury and his printing press, and another article about a portrait of a Philadelphia printer and his cylinder printing press, were published in The Chronicle of the Early American Industries Association. My paper summarizing my Portuguese archaeoastronomy studies was included in the published proceedings of an international conference on "The Origins and Development of Prehistoric Megalithic Monuments in Western Europe" held at Bougon, France in 2002. An article co-authored with Erik Desmyter, a Belgian printing historian, titled "The Liberty Press, a press invented by Frederick Otto Degener", was published in the Journal of the Printing Historical Society in 2007; my article about the Columbian hand press appeared in the Journal in 2014; my study of the "torsion toggle" press invented by George Medhurst appeared in the Journal in 2020, and my study, with co-author António Maia Amaral, Deputy Director of the Biblioteca Geral at the University of Coimbra, Portugal of what appears to be the oldest surviving iron hand press known appeared in the Journal in 2021, as well as in the annual Boletim of the Biblioteca Geral in 2021.

I live and print in a house on the side of a volcano in Costa Rica.

Favorite LINKS:

A painless way to help the world's hungry people

A place to see some really fun electric vehicles

THE website for letterpress information

The main Amateur Radio organization

I retired from the Science Museum of Virginia in Richmond, Virginia, in 2009 where I was part of the staff of the Ethyl Imax Dome Theater. I designed, built, and maintained special effects projectors, as well as the 45+ slide projectors, for planetarium shows, and I sometimes also operated the Imax movie projector or ran movies from the control console in the theater.

I've also worked in the Exhibits department at the Science Museum, designing and building hands-on interactive educational science exhibits, as well as repairing them when they got heavily used. Between that stint and the recent one I was the exhibit maintenance staff for the former Capital Children's Museum in Washington, DC.