Though it has been open since 1982, I’ve not visited The Printing Museum until recently. It explores the intersections of the history, art, and technology of printing and demonstrates its enduring impact through exhibitions, interactive tours, and creative workshops. It was fascinating to track the impact of printing on the development of civilization in a series of intimate spaces.
The printing press was invented by Johannes Gutenberg. While it improved book production, can you imagine how tedious the process where each piece of type had to be placed by hand?
Printing on this primitive device also required considerable strength as I found out when giving it a try!
The ability to print maps had to be a huge boon to early explorers. It is likely that maps also made people more aware of the world in which they lived.
Over time the printing press evolved making it easier to disperse information. In this country, the first press was in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Newspapers were among the first publications in the colonies, and it is said they played an important role in discourse involving a developing democracy.
Much later the introduction of the Linotype machine changed everything. No longer did type have to be hand set which not only saved time but allowed production to increase. As a result newspapers such as those printed by Hearst became a source of mass communication.
I was especially interested in the role of printing in Texas from 1820-1840. Early on, its history was turbulent as Texas transitioned through a series of wars and forms of government. Without printed materials from those days, much of the story would have been lost.
In addition to the Albion Press in the Texas gallery were a couple of wonderful collages made from assorted reclaimed printing paraphernalia.
As I wandered the museum studying each iteration of the printing press, I could only wonder what early printers would think of mass communication today. Could they ever have dreamed of the ease with which information is spread quickly across the globe? Sometimes it is hard to appreciate what we take for granted until seeing how challenging it was in another era.