Sunshine Abroad

The trials and rewards of French translation and beyond

Profitless Printing Through the Ages

The Genesee Country Village and Museum is awesome. 

Just putting that out there. 

I finally got to go see the historic village yesterday for the Smithsonian Magazine Museum Day , and I learned so much in three hours about life in the 18th and 19th centuries in Western NY. The most interesting bit to many people (including Mr. C) was the Civil-War-era replica of the Intrepid, a helium balloon used by the army.

The most interesting bit to me was the printing press.

Courtesy of the Genesee Country Village and Museum

Courtesy of the Genesee Country Village and Museum

Of course it was fascinating: the history of an industry that led to my own career, the typeset itself, kerning...everything. (On a side note: search Google for "kerning" and enjoy. You won't be disappointed.) 

But something the printer said surprised me...and then again, it didn't. He explained that being a printer was a white-collar job, much like a doctor or lawyer of the day. But unlike those other white-collar jobs, there was no profit in printing. A printer did his work out of a sense of duty to his neighbors and fellow townsfolk, to bring them the local, national, and even international news that they would never otherwise receive.

Huh. Sounds a bit like today's publishing and journalism, doesn't it?