Planning to print

Lab 5: Planning to Print

As I write this we have spent the past three class periods preparing to print. My partner and I have yet to put type to ink to paper after putting a lot of time and effort into a simple, small project. The work we have done is painstaking, meticulous, time consuming. The idea of drafting large book pages and having to tear apart my work just to construct the next page for print makes me think that if I was a real printer before typewriters, computers, etcetera, existed, I might have pulled all of my hair out. But, I don’t really think the point of this lab was to teach us how difficult a print shop’s job was - however difficult it was - because that would be too easy. This is my first print job ever, and might be my only one, but if someone did this every second of every work day they would become pretty good at it. So, there must be something else to it.

First, when I take into consideration how difficult it was to print with a press I know that what was printed was so much more deliberate than it can be today. I can pull my laptop out at any time and write whatever I’d like to whomever but with a printing press what was printed would have to be so much more important, so much more necessary - something worth printing. What was chosen wouldn’t have been an accident.

Another thought I have is how the relationship between the “writer” and the text has been changed over time as technology has advanced. I put writer in quotations because I believe there is a difference between writing and putting text together to be printed but I am using “writing” in this case for convenience. When I type on my laptop I can feel very removed from the words I put on my screen. Not removed from the meaning of the words but the words themselves. When I write with pen and paper I craft each letter myself so I feel some sort of connection to the tail on the end of my “a” or the dots on my “i”’s. With printing the tactile relationship one has with the text they are laying to be printed is so intimate. You can’t feel words written on a screen or in pen but with these letters I can feel everything - the cold metal, the leftover ink, the curving and angles of each letter. The relationship that would develop between a printer and his text could be incredible - with my laptop I can backspace and delete an entire page without much consideration - but with printing there’s more at stake, so a connection could develop between the human and the words like we don’t undertsand today. Finding the letters for a certain word and setting them upside down and backwards and adding a spacer for the next word was so much more satisfying than typing the words I am right now.

With these things considered the culture that would have surrounded the printed word must have been vastly different from today’s. If you saw a posted sign on the street that was printed using a press you might pay extra attention to it knowing someone had gone through the trouble of using the press to put their thoughts into the world instead of hand writing them. The same importance that would have been felt during the creation of the text would travel to its existence in the real world after its conception and birth. I’m not sure we really experience this today, maybe with the exception of a billboard, but even those are becoming digitized.

After even planning to print, without having even printed yet, I already know that a typed text carried a lot different meanings and implications hundreds of years ago than it does today. It held more gravitas, a word I’ve heard in this class before, while today text can be so informal, so unimportant.