Last week I started my Masters degree in Book History. A little obscure... but it's a fascinating and fairly new area of study, relatively speaking - and a lot going on in it! There's so much that hasn't been researched yet, and a lot of gaps in our knowledge, especially given just how much printed material has been published. Last week, during our introductory sessions, we got to visit the St Bride Foundation for a whistle-stop tour of the history of type and print.
Claire Bolton ran us through processes including the manufacturing of metal type, explained the linotype machine (supposedly nicknamed the 'eighth wonder of the world' by Thomas Edison), and showed us the plate for last hot metal printed Guardian front page. We even got to have a go on the recreated Dürer press, a copy of what historians believe to be a typical Medieval wooden press used by the father of Western European moveable type printing Johann Gutenberg. It was first reconstructed by Alan May for 'The Machine That Made Us' (the 2008 documentary presented by Stephen Fry) and this second reconstruction is fully functional, able to be used as a one-pull press - as Gutenberg's probably was - or a two-pull press, like the one in Albrecht Dürer's illustration.
The St Bride Foundation has an amazing array of talks and classes for anyone interested in books, printing, binding, typography and related areas - I've bought myself tickets to hear Annie Atkins, who worked on The Grand Budapest Hotel and the Boxtrolls, talk about designing graphics for film; I'm also attending the Beatrice Ward Lecture, where Robert Green will discuss salvaging the Doves Press type (famously fishing the metal type from the River Thames!) It's a place full of life and fantastic events.
FIND THE ST BRIDE FOUNDATION AT: Bride Lane, Fleet Street, London EC4Y 8EQ