Friday, September 27, 2013

Field trip to the Gutenberg press in Provo

Yesterday, me and Shirley went to Provo to visit what they claim is the world's only functional Gutenberg press. When we arrived we found a non-descriptive house except for a over sized photograph displayed in the window.

First we were shown an example of what the book looked like with a actual page printed on calf skin (or Vellum.) "Vellum is derived from the Latin word “vitulinum” meaning "made from calf", leading to Old French “VĂ©lin” ("calfskin")." - Source Wikipedia 

The pages were decorated after being printed on the press with paint and gold filigree. I took two shots of the same decoration so you could see the light hit the gold in two separate ways.

 We then moved on to a demonstration of the printing process. First all of the letters have to be set one by one into the bed of the press. Each one hand placed and spelled out letter by letter.

The text is inked with two pads mounted on handles.

What the plate looks like after ink application.

The paper is then moved onto a bed. This keeps the paper registered in the same location for printing multiple copies of the same image or text.

The crank is then pulled to apply the ink to the paper.

The paper is then removed.

Using the paddle you see in the lower left of the next photo the paper is then placed on a clothes line to dry. Two pages are printed at a time, that is why it looks like the whole page is visible. There is another page hanging on the side you cannot see.

 A detail shot of the press with its crank and compression system.

 The Gutenberg Bible was the first major book printed with movable type in the West (as in eastern cultures had done it before and thought it was no big deal.) 

 Individual letters in their holding case. Shown here are D, P and Z.

R, a, e



They then demonstrated how this moved forward in history and bragged about the Declaration of Independence. It was kind of cool. Benjamin Franklin was a smart guy and his profession for most of his life was as a printer.

 A tray full of individual metal letters. Look close and you might be able to see random letters on the tips.

The whole experience was awesome (I mean I felt awe during this experience.) These old guys were really passionate about the printing press and I loved hearing them tell stories. One little tidbit I remember is about kids putting back the metal letters and confusing P's and Q's thus creating the phrase: "Mind your P's and Q's." It is a great time to have a guided experience by someone who is so passionate about what they do. Yeah you can read about anything on the internet and learn what the whole printing process was about, but you will miss out on something I can only call awe or magic. Actually being there to witness something, no matter what it is for, has a power. A power over your mind and heart if you are open to it.

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