Historical information

This guillotine is a hand operated machine specifically designed to cut through multiple sheets of paper or card. It has a very heavy and sharp single blade knife mounted between vertical guides or runners. The main users of a machine like this is in by the printing and publication binding industry. Book binding companies use a guillotine to evenly trim the pages of a book after it has been bound. The way the guillotine is used is - paper or card is stacked squarely on the flat table and pushed firmly against the back guide - the handle below the table at the front of the machine is wound around, which brings the back guide forward, pushing the paper stack forward and positioning the centre of the stack below the vertical frame - the upper wheel is wound around, which brings the clamp and firmly in position on top of the paper, to hold it very firmly - the large wheel on the side of the machine is turned around to lower the long sharp blade down onto the pages and cut them through. The sharp edge of the blade is protected somewhat from becoming blunt; a block of wood sits in the table under the stack of paper An early model of a guillotine was patented in 1837 by Thirault, who built a model with a fixed blade. Guillotines similar in principal to this one were patented by Guillaume Massiquot in 1844 and 1852. Over the years many improvements have been made and operation has moved from man power to electricity. Oscar Friedheim Ltd. was the importer and wholesaler of a large range of machinery and equipment for the printing and bookbinding industry. He sold most of his equipment under his own name. On this guillotine or paper cutter he refers to the origin of the guillotine’s manufacture only as “German Manufacrure”. A reference book “Commercial Bookbinding: a description of the processes and the various machines used" by Geo. Stephen, 1910, recommends Oscar Friedheim, amongst others, for the supply of “reliable cutting machines for hand or power”. It also recommends Oscar Friedheim’s for a wide range of other printing machinery and processes. OSCAR FRIEDHEIM LIMITED, LONDON Oscar Friedheim Ltd. was established in 1884 and operated from Ludgate in London. The company was an importer and wholesale supplier in the 1880’s, offering machinery and equipment for the printing and packaging industry for the UK and Ireland. The company became incorporated in 1913. An advertisement of 1913 includes a telegraphic code plus two telephone numbers for Oscar Friedheim Ltd and invites readers to call at the Ludgate, London, showrooms to see the machines working. The company later became Friedheim International Ltd. The book titled “Friedheim, A Century of Service 1884-1984 by Roy. Brewer, celebrating Oscar Friedheim’s achievements. Friedheim International currently operates from Hemel Hempstead, on the northern outskirts of London UK. It promotes itself as “… the leading supplier of finishing, converting and packaging machinery to the printing, graphic arts, and highly varied packaging industries in the UK and Ireland. The company’s policy is simple – “employ the best people, work with the best equipment manufacturers in the world, and treat our customers as partners!” The company still sells guillotines. REFERENCES INCLUDE: About Us, Friedheim International Ltd http://www.friedheim.co.uk/AboutUs/tabid/57/Default.aspx Advertisement in back of book, The Art of Bookbinding. A practical treatise by JW Zaehnsdorf, 1890, The Advert. Oscar Friedheim Press 1913, stock advertisement, Alamy, www.alamy.com Cutting of edges, page 34, Commercial bookbinding; a description of the processes and the various machines used, by Stephen, Geo. A., http://www.archive.org/details/commercialbookbi00steprich Friedheim International Ltd., Endole, https://www.endole.co.uk/company/00127303/friedheim-international-limited Friedheim, A Century of Service, by Roy Brewer, published by Oscar Friedheim Ltd. (1984), Amazon Books https://www.amazon.co.uk/Friedheim-Century-Service-1884-1984-Brewer/dp/B0016D0XXO Internet Archive, https://archive.org/details/artofbookbinding00zaehiala


The guillotine is significant for its ability to represent aspects of the printing trade in Warrnambool and in a typical port town circa 1850 to 1910. It represents communication methods and processes used in the time before electrically powered equipment became common in industry.

Physical description

Guillotine (or paper cutter), hand operated. Metal framework with vertical guides, stand and metal mechanical parts including wheels and gears. Table with back guide; handle below front of table winds to move the back guide. A wheel at top of machine winds to adjust pressure of the clamp on the work on the table below it. The cutting blade fits between vertical guides; a timber insert in the table below the blade helps minimise the loss of sharpness of the blade. A handle on the side of the machine turns a large spoked wheel, which rotates a large gear, causing the blade to move up and down. Makers details are on a small oval plaque with embossed maker’s details is screwed onto main body. Maker is O Friedheim, London, and the machine is of German manufacture, circa late 1880’s.

Inscriptions & markings

Maker’s plaque inscribed "O. FRIEDHEIM / London / German Manufacture"