Wednesday, October 06, 2010

I got to spend four hours in the Gutenberg Museum, R you jealous?

I've been laying low in blogland as well as provincial Portland. At first, we had to. After Roy heckled a world-famous type designer (sorry, Mr. Barnbrook; thank goodness for the breezy recap kindly published here), we made a quick exit after only a few minutes of basking in his brilliance (he'd just said something wonderful about the naming of fonts and how it was, if I remember right, an opportunity to communicate to a specialized group, where the languages of poetry and design come together).

Then we fled the country altogether. Our happy out: Cousin John's wedding in Germany! Not only did we jump at the chance to finally cash in air miles for free travel, but we opted to extend the trip for a stay en France where I had visions of shacking up in a petite village, finding the best baguette baker, and basking in vacation glow. At the risk of gloating overly, it was all that and more.

The French part of the journey is already a haze of sun-drenched forest and kelly green landscape (with plenty of stops for stinky cheese and saucissons from the market), so it's probably a good thing we were able to wrench ourselves away and get back to business in Germany. That included the Gutenberg Museum in Mainz.

It was hard not to make a run for the B42s, of which the museum has a couple, housed inside a steel encased room with several layers of industrial doors—the kind of stuff you'd see in a Bond movie. Instead, I worked up to the main event, reading about Gutenberg's history, much of it shaped by political skirmishes and the exiles that followed. In fact there seem to be a couple of lost periods in Gutenberg's life—the stuff of novels, perhaps? I want to think he was wandering about China, picking up the craft behind wood and clay type and seeing how that would adapt to his idea for a newfangled printing machine.

Given Gutenberg's credit for the invention of metal movable type, I did wonder how Chinese printing history would fare. It's there, in a wing oddly set off from the main attraction, but full of info and objects.

Add in a few more floors on newspaper history, actual printing machines, papermaking exhibits, watermarking methods, and so on, and your head starts to spin. It's the Bibles, finished in 1455, that ultimately ground you. In the fully defended room, I was alone with them, one in surprisingly rough condition and the other so pristine I almost doubted its authenticity.

More TK.


At 21:16, Blogger helen said...



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