|the two presses in the back are the oldest in the world|
|a bilingual printed text|
In graduate school I learned a lot of things about the printing process, and the sale and importance of books in the time of Shakespeare. We folded up paper into quartos and sixteenmos, listened to Tiffany Stern talk about how the paper props were likely given separately from the rest of the script to the printers. We became familiar with secretary hand, got to know different printers and their particular stamps on their pages, we even had a project where we had to write a paper making sense out of all the books sold alongside a Shakespeare play at a bookstand in London in a given year, all things we can do with even a small library, thanks to the powers of the internet, and a few good resources. I wrote my MFA thesis about the power of books, paper and stories in their world and in ours.
|uncut pages with editing marks in the margins|
As you walk from room to room, you enter various places of work. There's the type room (where the type is, to this day stored in careful boxes) and the room for the setting of the type, and a full of presses. The room for the editing (big boothed table by large windows for the light), the shop where the books were sold, the foundry where the type was made, and no end of beautiful libraries. You can pour over books in Dutch, books in English, books in Latin or Greek, or printed Arabic scripts. Beautiful manuscript volumes, tall, narrow account books, a five language bible in many volumes, and giant atlases. This printing house put out some of the earliest of illustrated scientific works covering anatomy, botany, astronomy all studied like never before. It wasn't just the printing presses they own, including the two oldest presses in the world, it seeing all those tools for every piece of every task, which was just astonishing. The process seems so careful, so meticulous, with so many pairs of hands involved from start to finish.
Today's tools are so much more complex, and yet also so user friendly that even though I haven't any clear idea about the workings of my computer or even of this website, things are set up so that I can click the "publish" button whenever I choose. It makes me wonder, where is craftsmanship in online writing? Does it lie wholly in the writing style? And how to the material objects used to read text today (my computer screen, or a smart phone or whatever) affect the material read? What about laying text in a blogpost? Do people have more or less control over their words now? How does range of readership affect these questions? In the last week I've had more pageviews on my blog from the Ukraine than from the US, and I am very curious: who are you readers in the Ukraine? What do you find interesting in my writing? And to anyone reading, what do you find compelling about books? About the act of reading? It's been nearly a month and I am still wondering.