Tuesday, October 23, 2007

some kinda wonderful

Three cash dollars is all it cost me to buy this beautiful movable metal type at a flea market outside Cleveland. Obviously, the seller did not know what he had on his hands, or wanted to give a print enthusiast a great deal. Either way, I was quick to purchase, and gazed into my bag full of type at ten minute intervals during the rest of the afternoon. For those of you that don't believe this is the most wonderful thing on the planet, allow me to convince you:

Johannes Gensfleisch zur Laden zum Gutenberg, or just Gutenberg for short, was the genius behind the invention of movable type. Before this, the standard method for book production was the handwritten manuscript. Due to the absolutely ridiculous nature of this, printing as a means of dissemanating information was still fairly obsolete, but was thriving as a means to print images that were engraved out of wood or metal. In 1439 however, Gutenberg walked onto the scene, barely able to squeeze his ginormous brain through the doorway. He saw that the handwritten book was slow going. Many people were illiterate due to the low volume of reading material that was available, especially to people in the middle and lower classes. To resolve this disparity, a troubled but determined Gutenberg sat down and developed a system of letters, cast out of metal, that were all the same height. A printer would then be able to arrange letters to form words that would all sit in a block that was the same height, therefore allowing for ink application and even printing on paper. He created a highly efficient system for creating type in mass quantities, using oil based inks to print, and a press to accommodate the type as well.

In short, thanks to good old Gutenberg, printed documents became commonplace. People everywhere, in all social classes, learned how to read, and printmaking began to take responsibility for an educated and highly sophisticated world.

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