by Dan The Traveling Man
The Museum of Printing is a hidden gem in the north of Boston. Located in Haverhill, Massachusetts it was established in 1978 to protect and preserve the history of graphic arts and mass communications. The museum is filled with machines that have played significant roles in the history of printing as well as two libraries and an art gallery. It may be a small museum and only open on Saturdays but it is a place you would not want to miss.
When I visited the Museum of Printing, I went on a guided tour by Frank Romano. He has worked for the museum in the field of printing for many years. He also once helped Steve Jobs come up with the fonts used for Apple Macintosh computers. Frank is quite an expert on the subject and teaches it at the Rochester Institute of Technology. I learned some information about the history of printing from him that I did not know beforehand. It was interesting to know that the first book printed in the United States was at Harvard University in the early 17th century (The Bay Psalm Book). Frank also showed me the museum’s library, which has 6,000 books about printing, graphics, and the visual arts! Although people are free to check out the books, he had them digitized so that people can easily access them on the computer. If you happen to visit the museum, I highly recommend you meet Frank. He would tell you all there is to know about the history of printing and graphics.
The museum has exhibits filled with many of the devices that were heavily involved in printing throughout the centuries. There were printing presses, newspaper cylinders, typewriters, and computers. Frank allowed me to use the Columbian Press from 1813 and one of the typewriters which were both fun. While using the typewriter, I made sure to type on the paper that ‘Daniel Phillips was here!’ The museum has the original printing cylinder for the ‘Men Walk on Moon’ New York Times article from July 21, 1969 and first editions of various Apple products like the computer, the PowerBook, the iPod, the iPhone and the iPad. I felt nostalgic checking out the flip phones, cassette tapes, and floppy discs too. It has been many years since I last used them!
It was fascinating seeing the Chromagraph DC-300 Drum Color Scanner from 1965 because it is much larger than the scanners are nowadays. At home, I could just scan things on my printer. I also liked seeing the wood engravings in the art gallery because they reminded me of when I made engraved prints in high school, which was fun. They were made by the late artist, Anna Hogan, and the gift shop even sells prints of her artwork. In the museum’s typography library, it features artwork detailing the inventions of the various printing methods, such as ancient Egyptian papyrus spurs writing and communication (predecessor to paper) to ancient Chinese woodblock printing to the upper case and the lower case Roman alphabets and to the medieval Gutenberg press. It is quite intriguing to know how they both have evolved over the centuries. In the beginning, they were mostly done by scratch and now, printing and mass communications are produced more digitally. Who knows what the printing industry will be like in the future? Only time will tell.
With all that is said and done, visiting the Museum of Printing was impressive. It is a great place to learn about the history of printing and mass communications. Hopefully, you will have a nice time.