Museums & Galleries, All Towns

Getting plenty of ink: from Gutenberg to Xerox, the history of printing fascinates

TOWN:All Towns
WHAT:A look at the progress of printing over 550 years
WHY:You'll discover that printing history is our history

There was a time not long ago when almost all that you learned came courtesy of the printing press. From a Chemistry 3 textbook to Life magazine to a sale flyer for a local store, ink hit paper along the way. The Museum of Printing in Haverhill on Boston’s North Shore pays homage to that glorious history. 

Most visits begin in the Bible room – no, it’s not in a chapel — where printing history starts in 1455 with a replica of the Gutenberg bible on display. Subsequent printings of the Bible follow, all evolutions in language, translations and type fonts, the significance of which our guide explained to us. 

There are rooms with old wooden type displays, letterpress printing presses, Mimeographs and ingenious typesetting machines, including a working Linotype, a molten-lead swallowing mechanical wonder. Other examples of engineering ingenuity follow, including a wall of typewriters of every size and shape. 

While Apple’s iconic Mac takes center stage as an icon of digital disruption, the museum displays typesetting machines that had just as profound an impact in their day, including a Compugraphic typesetter from nearby Wilmington, MA. There’s even a very early Xerox 914 machine. An identical machine was featured on a Mad Men episode. A photo displayed nearby shows the female office staff staring at it is delivered to their office on a shipping pallet. 

We came away with a new appreciation for the long march of progress in communications that took place in the last 500 plus years, and how it played a role in informing and entertaining us along the way.

NOTE: The museum is currently open on Saturdays from 10-4.