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Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Printing Press Then and Now

As part of our series for the Folger Shakespeare Library celebrating the 500th Anniversary of the King James Bible, we did a short video on the printing process. This illustration gives you a good idea of what was involved in a typical print shop back in the day. There's one person inking the plate, another operating the press, still others setting type, one person checking what's been printed, a young boy apprentice in the foreground helping out. Way in the background you can see a woman bringing in a load of paper. And above on drying racks is the results of the days efforts.

It would take weeks to print a book, thanks to the labor of all those people.

The printing process has certainly changed. A typical printing press for a modern newspaper is a pretty self-contained unit, It can run up to 3000 feet per minute (that's a lot of newspapers) and it also cuts and shapes the paper to size. Obviously requiring a lot less people per page. But I'm wondering if this behemoth isn't also rapidly becoming as outmoded as the first print shop pictured above.

Perhaps a better example of the printing press of the future is the little item pictured below.

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