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Deutsches Technikmuseum - Writing and printing

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The Websites of the donation Stiftung Deutsches Technikmuseum Berlin at a glance:

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The donation contains six locations:

Writing and print technology

From transcription to printing

Up until the late Middle Ages, transcribing by hand was the only way to make multiple copies of books. At that time, paper and parchment were very valuable. Woodblock printing on paper was first employed in China as a replacement for such laborious work. The first woodblock prints appeared in Europe around 1420/30. They tended to look more like “picture books” because the vast majority of the people at that time could not read. Before 1450, bookbinders, goldsmiths and potters were already using form punches and pressure stamps.
In China in the 11th century, individual characters were already being applied to paper by means of ceramic moulds. Clay tablets from the 3rd century BC with Assyrian cuneiform inscriptions qualify as the oldest pressure stamps.

Photo: Hand compositor in the Torgau Print and Publishing House around 1910
Photo: The approximately 2.50 meter high wooden printing press includes all the necessary accessories for making handmade prints

Wooden hand press, replica of an original from the 17th century

The focal point here is the evolution of letter press printing

All printing techniques can be relegated according to the kind of printing plate used to one of the four printing processes: letterpress, gravure, flat screen (offset) or screen printing. The letterpress is the oldest of all the printing processes. This permanent exhibition concentrates on the depiction of the technical development of the letterpress as well as the related changes in working conditions.

Among other things to see are:

  • A hand-setting room (Berlin, 1950´s)
  • Iron hand press (Columbia hand press, Edinburgh, circa 1835)
  • High-speed printing machine (A. Hamm, Frankenthal-Heidelberg, circa 1895)
  • Typesetting machines (Simplex, Mergenthal, circa 1904)
  • Schrift and slug casting machines (Nebitype, Societa Nebiolo, 1972)
Photo: A school class learns to make prints themselves on a cast iron printing press from the 19th century. They are being helped by a guide

Printing on your own in the educational print shop

Demonstrations and offers

"If you have it down in black and white you can take it home with you." All machines on display are operational and can be used for demonstration purposes. Our guests can choose between a guided printing tour on a wooden press from the 17th century or a cast iron press from the 19th century. In the process, just how difficult such work used to be will become clear.

Groups of 10 to 30 people can practice the "black art" in the museum´s very own educational print shop. Please register under (030) 90 254-218.