Print is Amazing

Lead Type, Photograph by Eric Chen

Lead Type, Photograph by Eric Chen

I think printing is a seriously under appreciated art form. When people pick up books or newspapers nowadays, many don’t have a strong appreciation for the printed material because we all can imagine how easy it is to type words on a computer word processor and print it out. It would be nice it many more could be aware of the series of technological developments that helped pave the route to where we are now.

At first, it was crazy for me to imagine that, not so long ago, workers were meticulously hand setting lead type for entire books and newspapers. Today, students can simply reprint a document if they found a typo; however, back then, a typo would result in long tedious fiddling with pieces of type.  What I am most impressed with people working with traditional methods of printing is their meticulous attention to detail and ability to create perfect work efficiently and constantly.

In addition to spelling, there are so many factors that printers need to be constantly aware of, such as font, size, spacing, and inking. Throughout the process of setting the segment of “Annabel Lee”, I’m pretty sure I got every detail wrong in some way. My font was inconsistent, my spacing was not centered, the spelling was off, the printing machine was not calibrated properly, the machine was not inked properly, the list goes on. Nearly four hours of work went into printing a single paragraph.

Annabel Lee Print, Photograph by Eric Chen

Annabel Lee Print, Photograph by Eric Chen

Hats off to those who can set a whole book.

In a way, printing is even more beautiful because of how subtle it is. A single page of perfectly spaced text with intricately designed font has a special way of concealing all the hard work that was invested in putting it all together.

Now that the next semester is starting, I’ll be going back to typing academic papers on my computer, replying on spell check and automatic spacing, I am somewhat motivated to try to bring this “printer attitude” into my studies. “Having attention to detail” is something I wish I had more off.

I am very thankful for MICA for hosting this unique class for Johns Hopkins students. It has definitely been a very memorable experience.

 

Cover of Born Bred and Buried in Baltimore, Photograph by Eric Chen

Cover of Born Bred and Buried in Baltimore, Photograph by Eric Chen

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