A brayer is a hand-tool used historically in printing and printmaking to break up and "rub out" (spread) ink before it was "beaten" using inking balls or composition rollers. The word is derived from the verb to "bray", meaning "to break, pound, or grind small, as in a mortar".[1] A brayer consists of a short wooden cylinder with a handle fitted to one end; the other, flat end is used to rub the ink.[2] In the late nineteenth century the term was applied in the United States to a small hand-roller, "used for spreading ink on the inking table, and for applying it to the distributing plates or rollers connected with presses".[3] Such small rollers were sold as "brayers" from at least 1912[4] and later in the century the term was applied in the U.S. to hand-rollers of all sorts and sizes. It retains its original meaning in Europe.

William Savage's definition and illustration of "brayer" in his Dictionary of the art of printing (1841, p. 91).
A variety of contemporary rollers ("brayers").

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