Monday, September 9, 2013

What I Did on My Summer Vacation 1.0

This is The Museum of Printing in North Andover, Massachusetts, about an hour's drive North of Boston. It is home to one of the largest and most eclectic printing and typesetting collections in the country. First established in 1978, it now sits in a former textile museum on the North Andover Common, and is managed by an entirely volunteer organization. I was off to visit the Museum while on a nearby family visit in early July, and had the good fortune to meet up there with my new friend Sara from Western Mass. Meeting at the Museum seemed like a fitting idea, since we both were keen on printing technology and could find refuge from the heat inside. Sara first introduced herself to me earlier this year after discovering Letterology, and we have kept up a lively correspondence over many months discussing our mutual interests.
Photo source: North Andover Patch 

We were quickly introduced to our gracious tour guide, Frank Romano, at the door, and he gave us a most extensive tour of the press room, type composition room and the museum's library. Romano, a professor emeritus from the Rochester Institute of Technology, is a fountain of knowledge on the history of printing and type, after having spent most of his career in the industry. Here he shows us the press cylinder used to print the New York Time's edition of the first moon walk in 1969. Below is an 1882 Hoe rotary flatbed newspaper press that printed the Hingham Gazette for 80 years. The Hoe press is believed to be the first American press to use a steam motor and it revolutionized the newspaper printing industry because of it's speed.  

Photo source: Laurie Swope for The Boston Globe
The very first Linotype machine invented by Ottmar Mergenthaler in 1885. This machine was the first to produce Lines-o-type automatically by keyboard operation. It ushered in machine typesetting compostion and revolutionized book and newspaper production. 

Allison (I didn't get her last name), is a 15 year-old volunteer at the Museum, and she's seen working here on a calendar she's locking up on a Vandercook. When first introduced to printing, her enthusiasm led to building a working model of a wooden press with her father. Below are examples of several litho stones, an early Photon phototypesetting keyboard, and a glimpse into some of the Museums' stacks.

This gentleman joined our tour in the library and happily discovered a toy press identical to the first press he had as a child. 
     The Museum of Printing is home to about 30 presses on site, with even more equipment stored in a Boston warehouse. The collection includes one of the most complete inventories of hot and cold type composition in the country, including Linotype, Monotype, metal and wood type, composing typewriters, and photo typesetters. They also have the entire Mergenthaler Font Library containing about 300,000 letter drawings and intricate plans for the manufacturing matrices of Linotype machines, in 800 different languages. The Museum is open on Saturdays only, from 10am to 4pm. On exhibit in their gallery through end of December is a beautiful show of work by wood engraver Mark T. Fowler. The non-profit Museum is a friendly and welcome atmosphere and holds a number of special events throughout the year, including their annual Father's Day Printing Arts Fair and periodic type sales. Stop by for their next sale on Saturday, September 14th, and again on November 30th if you are in the hood. Find out more about events, visiting and membership information here
::Thank you to Sara Krohn and Pamela Harer for their contributions to this post!


  1. that is excellent,
    I visited a dealer here in the Bayside suburbs who was a Govt. Printer in Brisbane in the 1980s - he was ordered to dump 19thC equipment, he had his superior sign-off on the request
    he has half of the equipment still - wonderful!

  2. The history of printing technology, as well as that of typewriters, is fascinating in the context of the evolution of mass communication, especially in comparison to what we are doing now right here on this blog. I am fortunate to have been able to watch a linotype machine in action in a small newspaper office. That would have been in the 1950's. Thanks for triggering the memory of the clash and clatter of that huge mechanical contraption, and the smoking hot exit of a slug of metal type.

  3. Glad that you shared to us what did you do on your summer vacation. I enjoyed reading it. I also want to go to the place like that in my vacation. Anyway, thanks for sharing.


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