I’ve given up pretending I aspire to daily blog posts during this visit to England, partly because I’ve been too busy recording my adventures in the UK on my bicycle rider blog.
But today was worthy. First of all, Amanda’s friend Lara texted her and invited us over for lunch, which basically was a traditional English breakfast—beans, eggs and toast—but done with flourish and some fresh tomatoes, too. It was quite nice.
But before that, we walked some distance downtown to visit the John Jarrold Printing Museum, a cramped, fascinating place in an old building scheduled to be taken down in an area redevelopment project this fall. I do hope that they find a new home for this museum and save all of the interesting displays; we thoroughly enjoyed our visit.
The Jarrold name in Norwich is primarily associated with a downtown department store, but the family at one time were printers, too. In fact, they published the first edition of the children’s classic “Black Beauty.” Today, the small museum preserves many pieces of printing history.
We walked in, and at first were a bit lost in the clutter, until a nice elderly gentleman, one of many volunteers who gather at the museum, took us on a tour. He basically started with Gutenberg press technology, and delighted in telling the stories behind the names of many fonts. Every once in a while, he would would pose a question about print history, and seemed a bit taken aback when I knew most answers. Then again, he didn’t know he was giving the tour to a communication professor who teaches media history, but never mind.
Even if the ideas were familiar, seeing the actual machinery and mechanics of printing was still fascinating. And he knew many more details about how the printing actually works.
We moved quickly to the 19th century and the introduction of the Linotype machine.
The first volunteer later passed us off to a second gentleman, who explained lithographic printing. I didn’t realize that the offset presses most often used today actually use basic technology that dates back to presses using stones for offset printing in the 1700s—so I learned new information.
As we were leaving, a third volunteer proudly presented me with a one-page reproduction of Magna Carta, which is pretty cool and which I will probably frame and put in my office.
It was quite a day—the visit to the print museum followed by the pleasant visit with Lara and her daughter, followed by a quick bike ride.
I do hope Norwich has the good sense to somehow preserve this museum. It’s a treasure and is worth keeping.