Trip to Amberley Museum

This Thursday, our band of volunteers, plus some of our keen colleagues from the International Centre for Victorian Women Writers (ICVWW) at Canterbury Christ Church University, embarked on an adventure to West Sussex, to visit the wonderful Print Workshop at Amberley Museum.

The idea of this trip, one of a couple we have planned as part of the project, was to give the volunteers a greater idea of how our Cropper Minerva printing platen fits into the wider story of letterpress printing.

Our second charge, as part of our Heritage Lottery Funding, concerns the recording and sharing of heritage. We are aware that the stories and experiences of these experts – in letterpress printing, in linotype, monotype and hot metal casting – rarely find audiences these days, yet they are so very important. The industrial past of our country, the contribution of these machines and these skills, stories of life as a printing apprentice and the like – these things should not be forgotten in our fast-paced, technological present.

So, as well as taking lots of photos and watching type being cast, we listened to and recorded some of the stories from those showing us round, and they will appear on this blog, soon.

The volunteers were able to see the evolution of the printing press, from the 15th century devices developed by Gutenberg, through to German motorised presses from the 1930s. It was fascinating to note the differences between flat-bed presses, cylinder presses, and free-standing jobbing platens.

We were also fortunate enough to be given a brilliant demonstration of a Linotype machine. Everyone marvelled as the machine operator tapped away on a large, multi-alphabet keyboard, causing a line of cast type to be emitted at the other end.

The expertise of the volunteers at the Print Workshop at Amberley Museum deserves recognition and accolade. It was a privilege to hear from them and to encounter their obvious passion for the craft. We are especially grateful to Peter and John, who showed us round, patiently answered our questions, and were very kind about our fledgling poem prints!

Here are some images from the trip:

This is a wooden Common Press, built at the museum according to the blueprints of these early presses:

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Here, Gary expertly inks up the Columbian Eagle Press, in order to print some fun birthday wrapping paper:

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We were very grateful to Peter for his stories, advice and expertise:

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Here, the linotype machine is charging into action:

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And last but not least, this is an Autovic platen from the 1930s. One of my favourites:

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Hopefully there’ll be some more stories from our museum trip coming soon, so watch this space!

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