Crandall Historical Printing Museum

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We visited the Crandall Printing Museum in downtown Provo. This museum has operational equipment from Gutenberg’s time up to the mid 20th century. It is on a par with some of the best institutions of its type. (No pun intended.) Here, the printing processes are demonstrated whereas other printing museums contain only static exhibits.

Our docent was very knowledgeable and engaging. He took us through the history of Gutenberg’s invention of moveable type. Individual characters were filed from steel stock and then heat treated. This made a punch that was hard enough to create an impression in a block of copper. The copper was then inserted in a mold into the back of which was poured hot printing metal; an alloy of lead, tin and antimony. The type piece was inspected, the sprue broken off and adjusted to length for what is called type-height.

The individual pieces of type were brought together into a composing stick; a device that holds the line of type in the left hand while the right hand picks the type pieces from the several compartments of the job case. The case is like a shallow drawer with boxes made from dividers wherein each letter was assigned a box. The case was divided in two where all the capital letters were at the top of the case and the small letters in the lower section where they were in a more ergonomically friendly location. This arrangement gave rise to the practice today of calling capital letters upper case and the small letters lower case.

Once set, the lines of type were justified using small spaces between the letters so that each line of type was the same length. This was accomplished by dividing the square block upon which the capital M would be cast into pieces that were 1/5, 1/4, 1/3 and 1⁄2 an M. Thus the em quad is a block with no letter in it that is as wide as it is tall. Half an em quad is called an en quad (for the letter N). The normal distance between words is a 3 em space which is 1/3 an em quad. An en quad is used to separate sentences. This may sound arcane, but it is the foundation of good typography today. When using the typewriter or the word processor, the 3 em space is built into the machine. When typing, you should add two spaces between sentences for easier reading.

This method of using moveable type continues today. There are specialty shops that do high-end short run work with what is called hot type. Cold type refers to modern computer generated copy.

Club members were able to ink and pull an impression from type locked up in a chase on the Gutenberg press. From there, the tour advanced to the 18th century shop that was from the Ben Franklin era. Of all the things Franklin accomplished in his lifetime, he wanted to be remembered as a printer. The aphorisms we’ve become acquainted with from Poor Richard’s Almanac were written by Ben Franklin under the pseudonym of Richard Saunders.

Our next stop was in the 19th century shop of E. B. Grandin with a small Acorn press and bindery. Grandin printed the original 5000 copies of the Book of Mormon. In this area a period bindery was on display.

In the same room stood a Linotype machine which was developed at the end of the 19th century and was the technological breakthrough that launched high-speed printing. This machine used bronze molds called mats which were held in a magazine. When the keyboard was operated, mats dropped onto a little conveyor to an assembly area in the machine. The mats were held in a line and moved in front of a mouthpiece through which hot metal was injected to form a single line of type. A good operator could set 10 lines of type per minute. This machine is a marvel of cams and levers. To watch one in operation is hypnotizing.

The last room contained a small letterpress that was once operated by Thomas S. Monson. Also in the room was an offset duplicator which is part of the lithographic process that came online during the mid-to-late 1940s. Offset printing is still used today for long run jobs.

The days of real printing is long gone. Now everything is done by computer. Today anyone can be a typesetter and sit at a keyboard to create copy such as this. Time was that typography was an art and beautiful printing was produced by craftsmen.

The days of real printing is long gone. Now everything is done by computer. Today anyone can be a typesetter and sit at a keyboard to create copy such as this. Time was that typography was an art and beautiful printing was produced by craftsmen.

http://www.crandallprintingmuseum.com/

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