ECO S Eugene

Economic S Eugene

Printing Exhibit

Movable Type Printing

The 100th anniversary of the invention of printing from movable type was celebrated at the Museum of Science on February 8, 1940 by the opening of an exhibit and a tea given by President Chauncey J. Hamlin and the Board of Managers of the Buffalo Society of Natural Sciences. A second exhibit on the significance of printing was installed on March 13 and ran for seven weeks.

Mayor Thomas L. Holling officially opened the first exhibit. Edward H. Butler, Publisher of the Buffalo Evening News, spoke briefly, and Alexander Galt, Librarian, Buffalo Public Library, discussed “What Printing Means to Man.”

The exhibit showed the steps in the development of the mechanics of printing from the crude clay cylinder seals of the Mesopotamian Valley about 2200 B.C., a loan from the [[Syro-Hittite]] Collection of Eustace de Lorey of Paris, to today’s mass printing, exemplified by a five-foot-square model of a modern newspaper plant, loaned by the Buffalo Evening News.

One of the special features was the page from the “42-line” Bible printed in the workshop of Johann Gutenberg, who is credited as the first to print from movable type, a long step forward from the printing blocks which had formerly been used. This page and a wood block, in the l5th century style to typify the first method of printing found in Europe, are from the collections of the Museum.

Polyglot Bible 1657 imageOther exhibits highlighted the progress of printing against case backgrounds by Robert Blair. The Annual Register for 1811, printed on Konig’s steam cylinder press which could turn out 800 impressions an hour, was loaned by the Grosvenor Library. The April 2, 1847, issue of the Philadelphia Ledger, loaned by the Free Library of Philadelphia, represented an early product of the Hoe Lightning Press which could print 20,000 impressions an hour on one side of the sheet. The November, 1890, issue of the Century Magazine, loaned by the D. Appleton-Century Company of New York, was an example of the first fine printing on a rotary press, previously available only for newsprint.

The J. W. Clement Company loaned Linotype slugs, monotype, and electrotypes to indicate modern methods of printing, and books illustrating fine printing of today came from the library of Elizabeth B. Hyde.

In the second exhibit the history of the Bible text is outlined to show the difficulty of permanently recording knowledge before printing. No original manuscript of the Bible exists, and Babylonian clay tablets of 2200 B.C., loaned by the Auburn Seminary Library represent the only source material of Old Testament times.

Original copies of the New Testament likewise perished, and a facsimile, also from this Library, of one of the only two manuscripts of a fourth-century manuscript Bible, containing the oldest New Testament text in existence, is shown. The Museum-owned leaf from the Gutenberg Bible continues the story to the famous London Polyglot Bible, edited and compiled by John Walton in 1617, volume 1 of which, from the Seminary, is displayed. This contains all the original texts and versions of the Bible then known and uses nine languages. This is reproduced on the next page.

Description de L’Egypte, 1820-30, the first book announcing archeological finds on this subject, comes from the Museum of Science’s own Library, while the Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society, 1853 and 1855, was lent by the New York State Library, Albany, and shows the original reports in which cuneiform writing was deciphered. Loaned by the Grosvenor is Schliemann’s Ilios, the link between Asiatic and European civilization. The old civilization had been so completely lost that scholars did not accept his findings until this volume, sponsored by Max Muller, was published.

After this review of the vicissitudes through which unprinted books had to pass, the exhibit shows twelve books significant in human thinking, Eight of these were selected from the Museum’s famous collection of early and first editions, known as Milestones of Science. Others were lent by the American Geographical Society, Auburn Seminary Library, and the Scribner Book Store.