Gutenberg Press Awes Students

Gutenberg Press Awes Students

Alex Pons

Early Monday morning, as students began to visit the Case Library and Geyer Center for Information Technology, Allen Bjorkman of Fenix Press proudly demonstrated a replica of a Gutenberg-era movable printer.

In addition to the new library, faculty felt there was a need for an additional attraction that would highlight the evolution of the printing press. Having first heard of the Fenix Press at a local Renaissance Festival, a librarian thought that not only would the demonstration be appropriate, but also that most students would find it interesting.

Libraries are known to be places where years of printed text and knowledge accumulate into a venue where the curious and open-minded can learn. As President of the University and Assistant Professor of Philosophy and Religion Rebecca Chopp described in her speech at this year’s Founders’ Day Convocation, Colgate has always understood the importance of libraries.

Case-Geyer is well equipped with state-of-the-art technology and facilities, and many consider it to be a symbol of the school’s enthusiastic commitment to meeting twenty-first century demands. Yet, when faced with a future of tremendous opportunities, Colgate decided to look back in time and demonstrate to its students exactly how far printed text has come.

The fact that Colgate would bring a Gutenberg-era printer might seem out of the ordinary to some people, but it is, according to librarians, very befitting. For starters, most students do not know that Colgate actually owns one of the original Gutenberg pages.

Yet, what is the most important message behind the demonstration is the library’s desire to link the future with the past in the context of printing books.

“[We wanted students to have] the experience of being in a building with state of the art technology with the history of printing and libraries,” Assistant Professor in the University Libraries and Information Literacy Rebecca Hewitt said.

The history of printing began in Germany in 1440 when Johannes Gutenberg invented the first printing press and with it literally revolutionized human history.

While the process has been replaced by more effective and efficient methods, Bjorkman reminded Colgate students exactly how complex the process was when it first started.

The process begins by placing metal letters in the appropriate places, which eventually resembles a large stamp. Just the right amount of ink made of natural elements is placed upon the text and, with one quick move powered with human strength, the stamp is pressed upon a piece of paper.

Most students who witnessed the demonstration were amazed at the simple, yet effective process.

“It is such an interesting and complex process that all I could think was ‘wow,'” first-year Austen Schwartz said.

Some students did know about the demonstration before the opening of the library — thanks to a few advertising flyers distributed around campus — but most students were simply intrigued by the demonstration and decided to spend some extra time in the library to watch and ask Mr. Bjorkman questions about the process.