Monday, April 12, 2010

The First Information Age

Susan Koch Bridgford's Lecture
The First Information Age: The Invention of Movable Type
Wednesday March 31st, 2010
5:00 – 6:00 p.m.
Medbury Lounge
Drake University; Des Moines, Iowa, USA


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  2. Gutenberg and the First Information Age
    Guest speaker: Susan Bridgford
    Notes taken by Claudia T Frazer

    Susan worked in her family’s printing business as a “printer’s devil” ; received her degree in Art from the University of Wisconsin at Madison; rather than starve, she got her Journalism degree at the University of Ohio in Athens, Ohio. She worked as a graphic designer with magazines in Ohio, Chicago, and finally Better Homes and Gardens. She now manages Koch Bros. business in Des Moines, Iowa.
    • Johannes Gutenberg was responsible for efficient printing with movable type in 1436.
    • At the change of the millennium, Gutenberg was cited among the top ten figures of the last 1,000 years. This citation differs from others in the millennium list, not because he developed a scientific theory nor did he produce a large body of philosophical knowledge; instead, he was responsible for a single invention: efficient printing with movable type that unleashed the power of ideas to the Western world.
    • As early as 1620, people recognized Gutenberg’s accomplishment, and Francis Bacon, English statesman and philosopher wrote that typographical printing had changed the whole face of the state of things throughout around the world.
    • As a goldsmith familiar with techniques of stamping of coins and molds, Gutenberg developed the tools and techniques for casting type with from the same alloys of gold, tin, and antimony that are used today, and he also invented the hand-printing press that was inspired by the screw wine presses from the Rhein River valley where he lived, and improved oil-based ink that was necessary for printing on paper rather than on parchment.
    • Went from printing on parchment to printing on paper (movable type); faster and easier; letters more uniform.
    • Gutenberg’s name is linked to invention of printing press although some thoughts of influence from Dutch, Laurens Janszoon Coster.
    • Capacity to do press in large numbers and further protects copies for archival purposes.
    • In 1455, Gutenberg published copies of the Biblia Sacra – a beautifully executed folio Bible with 42 lines on each page, 2 columns of 21 lines, pages not bound. The Bible was sold for 30 florins each, which was the equivalent of three years wages for a skilled tradesman. Nonetheless, it was significantly cheaper than a hand-written Bible that could take a scribe a year to prepare and an illuminator several years to illustrate it.
    • Wood block printing/engraving – Johann Faust, employee/apprentice of Laurens Janszoon Coster, brought lawsuit against Gutenberg.
    • By 1500 there were 220 printing presses in operation across Europe; in the late 1500’s there was some form of printing on every continent.
    • Seals were used in early typology, and seals were made using wax.
    • Gutenberg was a genius; “at the right place, at the right time”; he Invented the archetype of all modern printing
    • Moveable printing press replaced the scholar priests
    • Technology remained unchanged until the Industrial Revolution when steam-printing technology was developed
    • Factory-produced movable type was introduced to the Midwest during late 19th century
    • Hand-setting of type was made more efficient with furniture changes; type cases were introduced
    • Different type cases used in different parts of country
    • Caps in one, smaller letters below = upper case, lower case
    • Beauty was in the ability to recycle all the characters
    • Printer’s devil is the one who puts the type away in drawers (Susan did this as a child)
    • Movable type was the “work of the devil” maybe because it was putting it in lay terms, or maybe because the Bible was no longer limited to priests; anyone could do it
    • Paper existed before printing
    • Materials for press ; dyes and water for parchment; printing inks are oil-based
    • In the 1970s it was hard to change the composition of inks because of “off-gassing”
    • In the present, soybean-based inks are used; Koch Bros. was first to switch to this