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Museum of Printing History: A Field Report

The Digital Media 3350 class visited the Museum of Printing History on January 30, 2012. The museum is located at 1324 West Clay, right outside of downtown. I live in the Heights, so my drive was not bad. Our guide’s name was Amanda Stevenson, who is the museum’s curator.

Early Writings

The Writing Prior to Printing (3500 BC to 1400D) was our first stop. A fact of the gallery is that the Chinese invented movable type. I understand why it did not catch on. Their alphabet is huge and it would take allot work to produce the characters. Another point of interest was the Hyakumanto Dharani Scroll. It dates 764 – 770 AD and it came from Nara, Japan. It is one of the few remaining block printed dharani scrolls and is one of the oldest surviving examples of printing on paper.

Gutenberg’s Press

The Renaissance Gallery displays a replica of the 1450’s; was built by Steve Pratt. Gutenberg united movable type and the printing press. It uses casting type, raised letterform and reads backwards. Ms. Stevenson printed the body copy from the Gutenberg Bible right there on the spot. I thought that great but she work her muscles to print it. She told us that there are three people that work the press. First is the compositor, who sets the letters and the spaces. The beader is who applies the ink. And the most important person is the puller, who pulls the lever to print.

Gutenberg Museum print

American Gallery

The American gallery features a 19th-century Columbian iron handpress. It is a one-pull press and the platen exerts more pressure than Gutenberg’s. This allowed the printing of daily newspapers because it was faster. On the wall was an edition Pennsylvania Gazette, printed by Benjamin Franklin in 1765.

Page 1 of The Pennsylvania Gazette, the first ...

Texas Gallery

The Texas Gallery does us proud by displaying documents of the state’s first printer, Samuel Bangs. Printed pieces from the 1800;s are displayed. These documents were printed on his own press. Between this galleries were the Hall of Headlines. Newspapers from important event in history were displayed.

Hearst Newspaper Gallery

This gallery displays how the emergence of printing with linotype or “line casting machine”. As the name infers, it produce an entire line of metal type at once. In 1890, Ottmar Mergenthaler invented this device. It could easily and quickly set complete lines of type for use on printing press. This machine revolutionized the art of printing.

Deutsch: Ottmar Mergenthaler

The Film, the Harvest of Wisdom

The Harvest of Wisdom is film about the history of written communication from prehistoric to present times. I actually watched this on the Digital Media’s website.


I believe the museum exists to display the development of essential technological innovations that lead have to today’s modern printing methods. These innovations have lead to the spread of information and to a more well-informed world.

By observing the history of printing, I realized how far society has come since the days before printed word. The invention of the printing press was evolutionary in the spreading of information. That day, I saw many historical pieces but my favorite collection was the miniature books.