Friday, March 16, 2012

What Mr. Gutenberg did not and could not find in the forest

On Center Street in Provo, Utah, the world's greatest Gutenberg museum quietly hides its treasures. Last weekend, I took a trip there for my editing class. The beauty of this little post-it note of a place is just how un-museum it can be. They want you to touch everything, and though they've been giving this tour for 14 years, they are terribly excited to tell you everything they know. And they know a lot.

The man above is my friend Wally. Wally is a very experienced printer himself, who holds the wonders of printing with all its intricacies and techniques deep in his heart. His brilliance struck me constantly as he told us story after story, unfolding the history of his trade.

As I said, the museum is a hands-on experience. It contains one of the only working Gutenberg presses in the world. During our trip, we inked and printed the first pages of Gutenberg's Bible, exactly as he would have done it. You don't get this kind of experience at Disneyland, folks. 

The printing business isn't exactly the happiest place on earth. I'm always amazed at the number of things that can go wrong with even the smallest of publications. In the printing process, all the pages need to be turned just the right way so they line up. The ink has to stay on just the tops of the letters to make it readable. The paper has to be cut on just the right side. The metal of the parts must be just the right blend to be both strong and malleable. The p's, d's, q's, and b's all look exactly alike, but they aren't at all. And the correct way to use a dash and a comma is tricky enough on a computer, let alone when you've got to dig it out from the case and put it with all the other letters individually.

With all of this, a tiny mistake often means starting the whole thing over.

When I think about this, I am all the more in awe of Gutenberg. Not only did he have to deal with all of these problems, he had to invent from scratch a way to deal with all of them. To even make moveable type, he had to create his own mold to cast it: something never seen anywhere else. As Wally says,  "It didn't just come running out of the forest and say, 'Gutenberg! Here I am!'"

I'm glad it didn't, but my heart goes out to Gutenberg who probably wished it would have. I don't think anything's ever run out of the forest for me. There's this great song called "All You Need," which you can listen to and download for free here. The lyrics say, "'If it's meant to be, it'll come to be.' That never worked for me. I've had to work for everything." How true.

This does not mean God doesn't love us or bless us. He's just moving us to become something. Like with Nephi:
"And it came to pass that the Lord spake unto me, saying: Thou shalt construct a ship, after the manner which I shall show thee, that I may carry thy people across these waters. And I said: Lord, whither shall I go that I may find ore to molten, that I may make tools to construct the ship after the manner which thou hast shown unto me? And it came to pass that the Lord told me whither I should go to find ore, that I might make tools." (1 Nephi 17: 8-10)
He does provide. But the hands must be ours. And the decision to do something must also be ours.

With that said, I highly recommend you schedule your own tour of the Crandall Printing Museum. No matter how long you think you'll be in Provo, just do it now.

1 comment:

  1. I went a couple of years ago for my Senior course and I came out with similar sentiments. Such a cool place - and boy do we English majors appreciate these simple beginnings! Thank, Katie, for reminding me. ;)


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