Museum Blog



Last week, we looked into how Japan they drew inspiration from Chinese innovation to create its own distinctive methods of papermaking and bookbinding. Today we’ll be exploring book production in Korea and how it differs from processes we discussed in our two previous posts.

Like Japan, Korea was in contact with China and imported a number of their ideas about printing and papermaking as soon as they developed. For several centuries, Korea used woodblock printing and paper made out of hemp to produce written texts. This process was almost identical to what the Chinese were doing at the same time. Things began to change, however, during the Goryeo period when Korea went through an artistic golden age.

In 1234, a man named Choe Yun-ui was tasked with printing a lengthy Buddhist text that would have taken thousands of wooden blocks to reproduce. Choe found a way around this by creating moveable metal type. The final form of this metal type is practically identical to what Gutenberg created 200 years later but Choe’s method for producing the type is vastly different. Gutenberg produced his letters with a type mold, pouring molten metal into an opening where it would fill a matrix that had been indented into the shape of the letter being cast. The Korean method that Choe envisioned did not use a mold at all. Instead, a character would be carved into a piece of wood and then pressed into a bed of sand, where it could be filled with metal. To expedite the process, multiple characters would be pressed into the sand and connected with thin trenches. The freshly cast type looked a little like a tree when it was pulled out of the sand, each character connected by a metal branch. Once it had cooled, the characters could be broken off their branches and used individually.




If you were to ask someone “who invented printing?” there is a good chance they would answer, “Gutenberg, of course!” Although Gutenberg was the first person in Europe to invent the printing press and moveable metal type, printing predated him by several centuries. In fact, printing wasn’t invented in Europe at all– it started in Asia.

For Asian American Heritage month, we will be exploring the history of the book in Asia. We will dive into how papermaking, bookbinding, and printing varied between different regions and cultures. We’re starting in East Asia, with the country that first invented printing and paper: China!

     The invention of paper is attributed to an imperial official from the Han Dynasty named Ts’ai Lun, who purportedly came up with the idea in 105 A.D. In reality, the idea may have predated Ts’ai Lun, but his close relationship to the imperial court meant his name went down in history. Before paper, Chinese scribes would use pieces of bamboo or wood to write on, then later they began to use silk and cloth. All of these materials were difficult to write on and silk was too expensive for it to find widespread use. Paper was a huge improvement and proved to be a revolutionary invention. Chinese papermakers made pulp from readily available waste products, like rags and fishnets, as well as fresh plant fibers like bamboo and mulberry bark (called Kozo).


Paul Landacre’s Washington Hand Press

The Lindner Collection at the International Printing Museum has numerous gems of printing history. Some of those gems even tell an unique Southern California history. One such example is the Landacre Washington Press.

     The early origins of the press we call The Landacre Press are unknown (although false legend had it that Mark Twain himself printed on it). It was manufactured just prior to the Civil War in Cincinnati and made its way west to California on a wagon. What can be verified is that the press was discovered in 1929 in the famous ghost town of Bodie, California. According to biographer Anthony L. Lehman in his book “Paul Landacre: A Life and A Legacy” the press was found “standing rusted and caked with grime in a ramshackle barn that was being held together more by habit than by nails.” It was found by acclaimed editor and photographer Willard Morgan. Morgan left this press to his friend and fellow artist Paul Landacre in 1930.
Paul Landacre was one of the most acclaimed wood engravers of the twentieth century, known for his technical acumen paired with the artistic beauty of his illustration and prints. His prints are featured in prestigious museum collections throughout the world and his house is a Los Angeles Cultural Historic Landmark. Landacre spent months lovingly restoring and repairing the press that would become his constant companion for the rest of his working life. 




Women's Typographical Union Float 1909
Women’s Auxiliary Typogrpahical Union Labor Day Parade 1909 LOC

This past August, Americans celebrated the centennial of Universal Women Suffrage. The fight for that right blossomed at the infamous 1848 Women’s Rights Convention in Seneca Falls, New York. The convention was led by Women’s Rights pioneers Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony. Lesser known is their involvement in forming the first Women’s Typographical Union in New York and as publishers of a women’s rights newspaper called “The Revolution.” Last March, we published a series of articles on Women in Printing, including the fascinating story of Mrs. Agnes B. Peterson and the forming of the Women’s Co-operative Printing Union (WCPU) in 1869 San Francisco. On the opposite coast, in New York City, women were also fighting back against male typesetting trade unions.

The mid-nineteenth century was the epoch of the typesetting trade. Printing technology was moving at an industrial pace and demand for material had never been higher. The mechanization of typesetting, however, lagged behind in comparison. This gave rise to the giants of typesetting, the age of whole compositing rooms and a large staff of typesetters for big city newspapers or book publishers. According to Print Historian Walker Rumble in his book about nineteenth century typesetting, The Swifts, “The advent of women on the printing shop floor threatened to lower wages, ‘feminize’ male workplace culture, and present a competitive challenge to job performance.”





January 17th is Ben Franklin’s Birthday! Everywhere you look at The Printing Museum you can see the influence of Franklin from some of his original prints to the Gordon Job Press. He is the Father of American Printing, but he had many, many other sons. Because of the diversity of his life and accomplishments, it seems as if every sector of society claims Franklin for their own. The electricians claim Franklin for their own with his experiments with the kite and batteries; politicians pay homage to him as one of our Founding Fathers and as a diplomat and ambassador; even the fireplace industry gives out a “Franklin Award” because of his pioneering work in perfecting the fireplace! Today we’re going to focus on the postal carriers who remember him for his improvements in postal service and title as the first Postmaster General. For this reason, and all his other accomplishments, the United States Post Office has issued over one hundred and thirty stamps depicting Benjamin Franklin! In fact, Benjamin Franklin was featured on the very first 5 cent stamp seen here.  

At the International Printing Museum we have a small collection of just a few of the many stamps featuring Benjamin Franklin… 


The A-Z of Odd Printers Jargon

Like many professions and communities, the world of printers comes with it’s own set of terms, phrases, and names that are specific to the printing trade. Some of them, like Uppercase and Lowercase, seeped into the larger culture (though few people actually know the origin of the terms uppercase and lowercase originates from the use of an upper case to store the Capitol Letters and a Lower case to stow the small letters). Other terms are rarely, if every, used anymore as the profession of printing moved into new technologies and the last generation of occupational hot metal printers dwindles. It’s a shame too because some of our favorite jargon really ought to be used more. 

Here’s some of the best and oddest from 1888’s

The Printer’s Vocabulary by Charles Thomas Jacobi





Compositors were thus termed by pressmen by way of retaliation for being called “pigs”





Type thickened at the feet through wear and tear in continual impression and improper planing down





A small printing office where common work is done, and labour is badly paid for, is generally thus described


New Arrivals to The Printing Museum

Part Two:

The “Lost” Edgar Miller Windows

The International Printing Museum curator, Mark Barbour, arrived in Los Angeles from Chicago with a truckload of antique printing presses and artifacts, only days before the state and national governments issued COVID19 stay-in-place orders. Among the donated items from Jerome Kosoglad in memory of his father and Chicago equipment dealer and collector, was a rare French stone lithographic press from 1870 with a printing stone used to print a famous Norman Rockwell edition. Also included was an 8’ wood type collage apparently created by an unknown Los Angeles artist (Santa Monica Blvd is spelled out in one part, as well as an image of the famous Los Angeles Ambassador Hotel).




Printers and Pandemics

Part II

Outbreaks, endemics, and pandemics were regular occurrences in America during the 18th century. And the printing industry served to announce, educate, and debate the best ways for the average citizen to survive these occurrences. Evidence of such can be seen in the broadside above.

The earliest American engraver and the first Boston printer, John Foster, printed the Brief Rule pictured above. He was born in South Boston. After graduating from Harvard College in 1667, he became a teacher in Dorchester. In addition to teaching, Foster also taught himself printing and by 1675, left teaching to open a print shop in Boston. The broadside pictured was printed in 1677 during one of six smallpox epidemics in Boston from 1636 to 1698.


New Arrivals to The Printing Museum

Part One:

Norman Rockwell and Edgar Miller Travel West

c. 1870 French Stone Lithographic Press, possibly used to print the Norman Rockwell print titled “Looking Out To Sea.”

One week before the national COVID19 Shutdown in March, the International Printing Museum’s curator Mark Barbour was in Chicago. He was there to load up a Penske truck with gems of printing history, several of which he was working on acquiring for nearly 15 years. The donor of the artifacts was Jerome Kosoglad of Wheeling, IL (suburb of Chicago), who with his late father Leonard operated IPEC Inc., dealers in used printing equipment. Over the years, Leonard added unique printing presses and artifacts to his personal museum, many of which he acquired during liquidation of printing plants.

When Mark visited IPEC about 15 years ago, the equipment business now operated by Jerome was in decline and many of the old presses from Leonard’s collection were no longer there. In the warehouse, against a far wall with plenty of dust covering it, Mark spotted the gem he was after for the Printing Museum: a mid-19th century wooden lithographic press, something missing in the Museum’s story on printing history.


Printers and the Pandemics, Part I

A book first published in 1721 is currently being reprinted. Since the COVID-19 outbreak in Britain, it’s been hard to get your hands on a copy of Daniel Defoe’s A Journal of the Plague Year.

The name Defoe may sound familiar. He’s the author of other fictional accounts of calamity and woe such as Robinson Crusoe and Moll Flanders. When the Black Death once again threatened the European Continent in 1721, DeFoe decided to write an account of the plague of 1665 to alert people to what was about to happen. A Journal of the Plague Year is a story of “panic buying, mysterious illness, quack remedies, and fake news.” The book is no doubt a work of fiction since DeFoe was only five years old when the plague hit London in 1665. It’s thought he used his uncle’s stories and memories of the epidemic to write the book. Some of the accounts in his work may sound very familiar to us today.



Here are just a few of our favorite feature length documentaries about printing and the graphic arts industry.  Happy viewing friends!

Printing History

The Machine That Made Us

A completely charming documentary hosted by a completely charming Stephen Fry. He, and just about everyone else in the film, aren’t afraid of hiding their absolute joy at retracing the footsteps of Johannes Gutenberg. They follow the life of Gutenberg and the many steps it took for him to turn out those famous Gutenberg Bibles. Stephen travels around the world to rediscover the art of papermaking, illuminations, and type casting (with friend of the Museum Stan Nelson, formerly of the Smithsonian National Museum of American History). A great look at Gutenberg and his press aka “The Machine That Made Us” Watch Free on Top Documentary Films



The perfect antidote to your quarantine blues! Spend your time inside with some great films about or featuring printing and presses.

Park Row  1952

The quintessential film about printing, and the only one that focuses purely on printing, a love letter to printing and journalism. To get an idea of just how into printing this film is, it opens by scrolling through an image of every daily US newspaper’s nameplate, which is quickly followed by the producer’s name in type on a composing stick held by a statue of Gutenberg. The story revolves around two rival newspapers on New York City’s Park Row in the 1880’s. The movie goes into great detail explaining print shop terminology and imagery with a young Printers Devil serving as the audience stand-in. It even features a completely fabricated, but enjoyable, version of Ottmar Mergenthalers invention of the Linotype. You should watch this film for the dialogue alone which includes gems like “There are four subjects one should never argue about; Anthropology, bird calls, romance, and, of course, Newspapers”, “Mr. Spiro, escort this wench back to her slaughterhouse before I throw her out of here right on her front page” and, the perfect pick up line for a printer, “What’s a job printer like you doing with such a big press?”

Stream on Amazon Prime

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Part Four of our series on Women in Printing History

Richard Kennedy. Virginia Woolf Setting Type: ink and graphite drawing
Richard Kennedy. Virginia Woolf Setting Type: ink and graphite drawing

To round out our discussion of Women in Printing History, let’s take a look at a woman better known for her writing than for her printing. What started for her and her husband as a hobby turned into a fulltime publishing business. This Saturday, March 28, marks the 79th anniversary of her death.

Virginia Woolf was born on January 25, 1882. After the death of her mother, Virginia experienced her first mental breakdown. She was only 13 years old. Two years later, her half-sister and a mother figure to her, passed. Ten years later, Virginia’s father, who encouraged her to begin writing professionally, passed away, and she once again suffered a mental breakdown.Woolf was troubled by her mental illness throughout her life. These mental challenges, incidentally, were instrumental in her becoming a typesetter and printer.

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Part Three of our series on Women in Printing History

Women compositors working at The Victoria Press London, England
Women compositors working at The Victoria Press London, England

Women Printers in the 19th Century

The 19th century was a difficult time for women in the printing industry. They faced opposition but also fought and won against the forces that tried to keep them down. New technologies had an enormously positive impact on the printing industry during the Industrial Revolution. This was the time of Lord Stanhope and his cast-iron press. In Europe, the flatbed printing press was replaced with the cylinder press thanks to Koenig and Bauer. And in America, Richard M. Hoe’s steam-powered rotary printing press allowed the printing of millions of copies of a page in a single day. It was during this time that Lydia Bailey took over her husband’s printing business, and its many debts, to support herself and her four children.

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Part Two of our series on Women in Printing History

Sarony & Major. “The landing of the Pilgrims, on Plymouth Rock, Dec. 11th 1620.”​ c1846. Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress.

The Great Puritan Migration

In 1638, as Puritanscontinued to leave England for the new world, one particular immigrant had an idea different from all the rest. Reverend Jose Glover had a plan to bring a printing press to the Massachusetts Bay Colony. He secured passage on the ship John of London for himself, his wife and five children, servants, and household furnishings. He also brought a printing press, 240 reams of paper, and a case of assorted type. Unfortunately, Reverend Glover never lived to see his dream of setting up a print shop in the new world fulfilled. During the voyage from England, Glover contracted a fatal illness, probably smallpox, and died. Once the ship arrived at the Massachusetts Bay Colony, Reverend Glover’s wife, Elizabeth, took matters into her own hands and went to work on setting up shop. Mrs. Glover purchased a house for Stephen Day, an indentured locksmith, who was under financial contract to her husband. The press was placed in one of the rooms of this house. Most historians believe that it was in this house, in 1639, that Stephen Day and his son Matthew printed The Freeman’s Oath broadsheet. In 1640, after the printing of The Freeman’s Oath and an almanac, Stephen and Matthew began work on the first book published in the American colonies, The Whole Booke of Psalmes.

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Part One of our series on Women in Printing History

From the beginning of printing with movable type in Europe, women were employed in the industry. In fifteenth and sixteenth-century Italy, there were more than fifteen female religious houses that were sites of book production. Almost two-thirds of these were located in Florence. One such location was the Convent of San Jacopo di Ripoli in Florence. 

 In the 1470s, a printing press was established at their house. This was only the second printing press to be located in Florence and the first to produce a substantial body of work. According to the records of the San Jacopo di Ripoli print shop, much of the convent’s typesetting was done by a nun, Suor (Sister) Marietta. During the nine years the convent was in business, this print shop printed over 100 secular and religious titles (12,000 volumes) as well as pamphlets and broadsides.

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Deborah Corn and Karis Copp of Print Media Centr, Inc. Visits The Museum


Print Media Centr, IncThe International Printing Museum was honored to play host to Deborah Corn and Karis Copp of Print Media Centr, Inc. During their ProjectPeacock Print Fair tour, the two stopped by the museum to experience a bit of printing history. We are sharing with you a summary of their visit and photographs from the tour.


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What’s In a Name? That Which We Call a Plaque

There’s so much beauty to be found at The International Printing Museum. This month we’d like to feature a selection of photographs taken of the plaques affixed to various machines and printing related equipment we have at the Museum. There’s history and stories in these metal signs.

Every faded letter, scratch and ink stain is a remnant of a time past.

Remember to Always Read the Plaque

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Lithography, Heliography
& Photography
Part Two

Last month we learned about The Graphic Effect of the Industrial Revolution and the invention of lithography. This month we’ll see how lithography had an impact on the creation of another Industrial Revelation invention, photography.

Images from Light

Nicéphore Niépce and his brother Claude were avid inventors. In the early 19th century, the brothers constructed a prototype of an internal combustion engine. Their machine was strong enough to power a 2,000-pound boat upstream on the Saône River in eastern France. On July 20, 1807, the brothers were awarded a patent for their invention, which was signed by Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte.

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Lithography, Heliography
& Photography

Part One

The Graphic Effect of the Industrial Revolution

The world was an exciting and engaging place during the Industrial Revolution. In the 18th and 19th centuries, both Europe and America witnessed the creation of some amazing inventions. During this time, Eli Whitney invented the modern cotton gin, Thomas Saint designed the sewing machine, and James Watt created the world’s first efficient steam engine.

These inventions led to the development of still others, several of which had an effect on the printing industry. The steam engine, for example, helped Friedrich Koenig and Andreas Bauer to invent the first steam-powered rotary printing press. This press used a rotating cylinder rather than a flat surface, as Gutenberg designed.

This invention was not without controversy. Samuel Smiles, in his book Men of Invention and Industry, reported that the pressmen at the London Times, where the new press was located, heard rumors about the steam press and “vowed vengeance against the inventor and his invention, and that they had threatened destruction to him and his traps.” Their trepidation was warranted due to the fact that this first “modern” newspaper press was five times the speed of what came before it.

Mr. J. Walter, proprietor of the newspaper, warned the pressmen against using any violence and offered to assist those whose jobs would be lost due to the new technology. This compromise led to the printing of the first newspaper on a steam-powered cylinder press during the early hours of November 29, 1814.


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When is a Book Not a Book?

What makes a book, a book?

Must a book contain a story?

Must there be multiple pages, bound together?

Must it be hand-held?

Does a portable electronic device count?

Is an audiobook a book?

Is a book of stamps a book?

What about a record of financial transactions as in, the company’s books show a profit?

Are any or all of these considered books?

The Merriam-Webster dictionary has 18 different definitions for the word “book.” The first two are what most of us perceive as a traditional book.

  1. A set of written sheets of skin or paper or tablets of wood or ivory
  2. A set of written, printed, or blank sheets bound together between a front and back cover

In my earlier posts, The History of the Book, part 1, and The History of the Book, part 2, I discussed books that adhere to these traditional definitions. In this post, we’re going to explore what may be considered an unconventional view of the book.

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The History of the Book, Part 2: Saint Patrick

When most people think of Saint Patrick’s Day, they think of shamrocks, green beer, and parades. When I think of Saint Patrick, I think of monks, monasteries, and manuscripts.

You may be surprised to learn that, if not for Saint Patrick and the monks and missionaries that followed him, civilization as we know it may not exist.

To understand this, we need to look back 2,000 years to appreciate the impact of the Roman Empire.

The Roman Empire

Long before the birth of Saint Patrick, the Roman Empire ruled most of the known world. At its peak, the empire reached from Britain into most of Europe and extended into the Middle East and North Africa.

While the Romans, like the Greeks before them, relied heavily on an oral tradition, they were also literate people. An empire the size of Greece or Rome needed written laws and codified business practices. Thus, the Greeks and Romans kept excellent written records. These were written on clay and wax tablets, and on papyrus. Here’s a section of Aristotle’s Constitution of the Athenians.

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The History of the Book, Part 1

When we think of Gutenberg, we think of books. His invention of the adjustable mold and his use of metal alloys allowed for the mass-production of movable metal type. This invention, combined with his use of oil-based ink and a wooden printing press, led to the first printing of the most read book in the world, the Bible.

While it was Gutenberg’s system that made it economically viable for printers to mass-produce books, the concept of the “book” pre-dates Gutenberg by thousands of years.

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The Printing Museum Recognizes It’s Docents of the Year

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Looking Forward to 2019

With the celebration of Ben Franklin’s 313th birthday this week of January 17th, a week traditionally known as International Printing Week, this is an excellent opportunity to reflect on the achievements of the International Printing Museum this last year and our goals and aspirations for 2019. We think of the Printing Museum as the West Coast home for Ben Franklin, Printer!

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