Cool Piece of Printing History

From the Ministry of Type

With the wealth of information we find online, it can seem like there's very little to be had from other sources. But every once in a while, I'm reminded that print is still replete with more words, wisdom, and history than we can yet uncover on the internet.

Such a reminder came today in the form of a post on "The Romance of Printing" from the equally romantically titled, Ministry of Type. Blogger and all around good thinker Aegir Hallmundur brought my attention to a great old print proto-net titled The Wonderland of Knowledge.

From The Wonderland of Knowledge, Aegir scanned a no less than 23-page-long survey of printing history and techniques. Check it out, and check out these great excerpts from the 1930s publication:

"For many thousands of years every book that was produced had to be written by a scribe. Then, at last, someone thought of using type, and so changed the world."

"Lead…one of the heaviest of metals, came to serve as wings for words and thoughts, and for the spread of knowledge." (That does sound like heavy metal!)

"Without printing, we could hardly have either popular education, or democracy as we understand it today." (That's what I keep tellin' you guys!)

"We cannot sit for fifteen minutes in a car or tram or train without having our book or newspaper. If all else fails, we read the advertisements along the wall, no matter how tiresome or foolish some of them may seem." (Although somewhat disparaging to the profession of commercial printing, this statement is one of the clearest explanations of the effectiveness of print advertising I've ever heard. Once we are able to read, it can be almost unbearable for many people to not be reading. Therefore an advertisement, no matter how seemingly irrelevant, is nearly impossible to avoid reading, simply based on our eye's natural inclination and desire to absorb information.)

"Since the beginning of the century there has been quite a revival of printing as an art. Lovers of fine printing set up private presses…And certain fine editions are being produced here and there that remind one of the brave days of the Renaissance, when printing was still a rare thing and an art." (Remember, this is from the 1930s. What do you think, is printing still an art form today?)

It's not often that I find new, fresh information about the history of print online. Or that I find such a lovely reminder of what makes printing great. Thanks for the contribution, Ministry of Type!

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1 Comments Posted So Far:
Posted By: MichaelJ On 2009-05-02 06:50:00

Anne,
Thanks for posting. Great story. Great links. Just to add my two cents, I think the tide is starting turn. I wanted to point you to a column I just did that should have been titled The End of the End of Print. The editor put a less dramatic The Fallacy of the End of Print meme. I'm hoping you might find it interesting.
http://www.pbs.org/mediashift/2009/04/the-fallacy-of-the-print-is-dead-meme117.html

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