1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Press

PRESS (through Fr. presse from Lat. pressare, frequentative of premere, to crush, squeeze, press), a word which appears in English in the 13th and 14th centuries with three particular meanings, viz. (1) crowd or throng, often used of the mêlée in a battle, (2) a shelved cupboard for books or clothes, and (3) an apparatus for exerting pressure on various substances, and for various purposes. The first meaning is still current, though usually it has a literary air; a specific use is the nautical one of “press of sail,” i.e. as much sail as the Wind will allow; cf. the similar use of “crowd.” The second use has given way to other words, but is still the technical term in use in libraries, where the books bear “press-marks” specifying the case or shelf where they may be found. As a term for a machine or apparatus for exerting pressure, there are innumerable examples, usually with a qualifying word giving the purpose for which the pressure is applied, either for attaining compression into a small space, or a required shape, or for extracting juices or liquids, or the methods adopted for exerting the pressure. The printing-press has given rise to obvious transferred uses of the word “press”: thus it is applied to an establishment for printing, e.g. the Clarendon Press, at Oxford, or the Pitt Press, at Cambridge, to a printing-house and to the staff which conduct the business, to the issue of printed matter and especially to its daily or periodical issue, hence newspapers and periodicals generally. According to the New English Dictionary this use originated in phrases such as “the liberty of the press,” “to write for the press,” &c. The earliest quotation given is from the first number of the Dublin Press, 1797. For the history of the liberty or freedom of the press see Press Laws; also Newspapers and Periodicals. For the punishment of “pressing” see Peine Forte et Dure. It is now recognized that “press” in “press gang,” “to press,” i.e. to force or compulsorily enlist men for naval or military service, is a word distinct from the above. It stands for the earlier “prest,” and is ultimately due to French prêter, to lend (see Impressment).