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History of Printing Technology

Selection of Archives & Special Collections materials that illustrate the history of printing technology. Originally created for Professor Aoki's ARTS 36 class.

Overview of Era

The Birth of the Fine Press Movement

On the evening of November 15, 1888, William Morris (textile designer, architect, and all around artsy guy) attended a lecture given by his friend Emery Walker on the topic of medieval manuscripts and incunabula publications that so inspired his imagination that he said to his friend on the walk home, "Let's make a fount of type." It was, perhaps, in this very moment that the Kelmscott Press was born, and with it, the beginning of the fine press movement.

Morris hated the commercialization of cheap products now easily manufactured, and sought to fight the trend brought on by industrialization, and as such, became the founder and leader of the Arts & Crafts movement. Morris worked with Walker to design type founts and employed Edward Prince as a punchcutter (who also was the punch cutter for the Doves Press and the Ashendene) that were most commonly inspired by Jenson but had medieval trademarks in their design as well. His borders eventually became elaborately decorated.  

From that point in the late 19th century in England up until the present day in the San Francisco Bay Area, fine press printing is alive and well. Locally it is patronized and promoted by the Book Club of California and give excellent shape and form through the legacy of John Henry Nash, Taylor & Taylor, and the Grabhorn Press.

Fine Press printing employs handpresses like the Albion Press and Columbian Press, moveable metal type, and fine cotton rag paper along with tasteful illustrations, colorful elements, and reproductions of maps and other images without ever losing sight of the great legacy of medieval manuscripts, the invention of moveable type, and the history of typography.

SCU Library Resources

The following items are available to consult in the Archives & Special Collections reading room on the 3rd floor of the library. Email SpecialCollections@scu.edu to arrange an appointment.

Resources not at SCU