From the Days When Books Were Pressed More Than Printed

One of the most memorable parts of our two days in New York was an exhibit we attended at The Grolier Club entitled Printing for Kingdom, Empire, & Republic: Treasures from the Archives of the Imprimerie Nationale.

The exhibit featured all sorts of pieces of typeset from France. I thought I knew what I needed to know about movable type, how individual pieces of type were put one by one into a frame to build words, sentences, and pages. But what never occurred to me until this exhibit was that the pieces of typeset themselves would all have to have been created by hand. All those tiny reverse letters created one by one by extraordinarily talented and patient craftsmen.

What really impressed us was how minuscule the four point type was, and the notion that someone would have carved those letters by hand on that insanely small canvas. Makes me appreciate how easily it is to change a font, to make something bigger or smaller, to move a paragraph to a different page. In the days of typesetting, all of these tasks would’ve been major undertakings.

About the author

Craig Mason