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550 Years Printing History

550 years of printing history at the Leipzig Museum of the Printing Arts

The history of the “black art” is one of brilliant inventions, innovations rejected or developed and sudden radical change on a breathtaking scale. And yet it always remains a story about people. At the Leipzig Museum of the Printing Arts, the human touch makes printing history come alive again: rare historical machines and printing presses are shown in action, enabling visitors to experience the art of printing with all their senses.

As the drupa international trade fair comes round once again, it is clear that print media still play an important role in our increasingly digital world – because they appeal to ALL our senses. In Hall 6 at this year’s drupa, the Museum is showcasing a cross-section of its extensive collection of historical printing machines, equipment and exclusive products. Come and see the machines in operation daily at drupa, producing modern print media with a difference!

Housed in a building with some 100 years of history as a print works, the Leipzig Museum is dedicated to preserving an important aspect of our industrial heritage, offering a unique insight into the manual and industrial production of printed products. By combining a working print shop and a museum, it offers visitors close-up, hands-on experience of 550 years of printing history.

In an atmosphere redolent of oil, grease and printing ink, some 100 working machines and presses offer an impressive introduction to the three most important historical printing techniques – letterpress, intaglio and flatbed. Expert staff are on hand to explain how the machines work and what they are used for, and with their assistance visitors can become involved themselves, setting their own lines of text in lead type and printing them out.

A genuine rarity is the working type foundry in which lead type is still cast either by hand or by machine. A wide range of matrices with lead letters, and fully functioning typesetting and casting machines demonstrate the historical techniques. And with its exhibition entitled “From Monotype to Mac – Prepress since 1950” the Museum bridges the gap between lead typefaces and desktop publishing.

The Museum also has a fully equipped handcraft book bindery, a fully functioning workshop for woodcuts dating from around 1900, a cabinet with sheet music printing techniques and a reference library with some 3,500 specialist books. The collection of some 4,000 different typefaces in the form of lead and wooden letters, matrices and steel platens is unique in Europe.

Some three special exhibitions per year focus on individual themes related to printing and all its various facets. The current exhibition, which runs until mid-May 2012 is entitled “From lithography to offset printing. The Kunstanstalt Carl Garte Leipzig and the collection of Hans Garte”. It shows extraordinary examples of multi-colour lithography and early examples of offset printing from the beginning of the twentieth century.

Like the drupa trade fair itself, the Museum sees the future as lying in intelligent networking of print and Internet along the lines of “Augmented Reality” – with the difference that all the senses are addressed simultaneously at the Museum. And when it comes to the media mix of the future, the Museum recommends occasionally taking a look back at the history of printing technology so as to understand the here and now better and actively use expertise from the past as a source of inspiration for the future.

Come and experience the art of printing with all your senses at drupa 2012 in Hall 6.

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