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A Visit to the Museum of Printing

Restored Columbian hand press, volunteer Tim Dunn at typewriter (Elizabeth Haven Hawley)

Museum of Printing ★ Haverhill, Massachusetts

 Frank Romano and a full staff at the Museum of Printing welcomed more than 40 people associated with “Good, Fast, Cheap: Printed Words & Images in America before 1900” for a post-conference tour on Sunday, October 8. Near the museum’s entry, an eagle-crested Columbian, resplendent with gold details and the lever-and-weight system that maximized the machine’s impression force, hinted at the equipment in the galleries. The contents did not disappoint! 

The Museum of Printing featured an array of well-organized and interpreted historical printing materials. The range of artifacts is exceptional, and the museum is distinguished from other fine printing museums in its ability to connect hand press technologies with those of the electronic era. The collections offer an impressive range of machines, tools, library holdings, and archival materials, with knowledgeable volunteers sharing their expertise typically only on Saturdays. Romano and company offered APHA/CHAViC conference attendees the privilege of a private half-day open house.

Dick Patinson at the Ludlow (L) and Ted Leigh at the Vandercook. (Sara T. Sauers)

Museum staff demonstrated setting type and printing on museum equipment, allowing visitors to turn a hand on machines conserved with an eye toward teaching use. Under the careful tutelage of Dick Patinson, visitors selected Ludlow matrices to create slugs of their names. Most of those with slugs ventured to the workshop to lock up a press and to print a personalized certificate, guided by Ted Leigh. Patinson also demonstrated the Linotype machine, upon the request of attendees. The team members making APHA’s tour possible included Carolyn Muskat, Andy Volpe, Mitch Ahern, Bill Soucy, and Laurie Hartman.

The self-tours provided an education in the changing designs and types of machinery within specific eras. In addition to the neat lines of platen and iron hand presses one might expect from a museum of such depth, the galleries included a substantial section on the latter twentieth-century: phototypesetting, offset lithograph, and color separation equipment. The library walls packed floor to ceiling with well-chosen and scarce manuals and printing history volumes inspired envy in those living at a distance. The museum’s archival collections of type design also are deep, although they were not available during the APHA/CHAViC open house.

Frank Romano discussing the museum’s 1892 Hoe cylinder press. This press printed the Hingham [Massachusetts] Gazette for 88 years. A hand-fed press purported to produce 2,500 impressions per hour. (Josef Beery)

Midway through the event, Romano treated attendees to a rousing talk about the origins of Times Roman and Egyptian type designs in the presentation room, and then extended the hospitality of a hot catered lunch to sustain guests staying through late afternoon. An ample supply of type, letterpress literature, popup cards, and a few composing sticks found new owners after being spied and paid for in the museum gift shop. By chartered bus returning to Worcester or directly from Haverhill, Massachusetts, conference attendees made their way home on Sunday. The Museum of Printing tour rounded out a strong 2017 conference by connecting attendees with the type, presses, and craft knowledge at the heart of printing history.

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