Our Visit to The Printing Museum in Houston:
Replica Gutenberg Press
Since 1982, The Printing Museum in Houston, Texas has been telling the history of printing. This unique museum is home to antique printing presses (both real and reproduction) dating back to the 1400s. Exhibits also feature historic printed materials and other equipment used over time to share the written word. From presses, to vintage typewriters, and a 1984 Macintosh Computer, The Printing Museum is a walk through the art, creativity and business of printing. And yes, 1984 is the year that Apple released the very first Macintosh personal computer.
Although this is a museum that a lot of Houstonians don't know about, we found it to be absolutely fascinating! We featured our visit to The Printing Museum in Episode 1 of our Side Trip Sundays video series: Houston Hidden Gems. You can visit that page to see video highlights of the museum.
Some of Our Favorite Printing Press Exhibits Include:
A Reproduction of the 1452 Gutenberg Press invented by Johannes Gutenberg in Germany 40 years before Christopher Columbus set foot in the New World. Before the invention of this printing press, monks would sit for days, weeks, months and years reprinting copies of the Bible and other books by hand. Using this press, Gutenberg reproduced 180 identical copies of the Bible in two years, printing them one page at a time.
An 1813 Columbian Press which was invented by George Clymer of Philadelphia and is made of cast iron. The weight of the iron, along with a series of levers and counterweights, made it easier to print a cleaner impression with less force and more speed. But the cast iron construction and weight of this press made it less attainable and harder to transport than its wood competition.
The 1829 Albion Press was invented in London and is a much smaller, more portable version of a cast iron printing press. It was this type of press that was used by the government of Coahuila y Tejas prior to and around the time of the birth of the Republic of Texas. It is considered to be the first printing press in Texas.
The 1885 Linotype Machine added the ability to print an entire line of type with the stroke of a key. Prior to this, newspaper publishers were almost entirely printed weekly or monthly because ever character had to be set by hand. The Linotype Machine made it significantly easier and more efficient to print large blocks of text and issued in the era of the daily newspaper. Thomas Edison called it "the eight wonder of the world".
1813 Columbian Press
More Exhibits We Really Like:
A 16th Century Gregorian Chant Book. The huge size of this book has us wondering just how long it took to print. Even without seeing the inside, it's amazing to see a book of this age up close.
A Papyrus Fragment from 300 - 350 and a Replica of The Rosetta Stone from 196. The Printing Museum has several original and reproduction items on display that precede printing presses by over 1,000 years!
Treasury Notes from The Republic of Texas. You can get a close up look at $10, $20 and $50 Treasury Notes from Texas' days as a Republic in the 1830s and 1840s. Maybe they were printed on an Albion Press?
An 1893 Hammond Typewriter anchors a fantastic collection of vintage typewriters. We've never seen one like this before.
A 1960 Xerox 914 Copier. Noted as "The Most Successful Commercial Product in History", the Xerox 914 could print one copy every six seconds of sizes up to 9" x 14" and revolutionized business printing. Even though it was super successful, it was known to heat up and catch on fire, so a fire extinguisher came with each 914 that was installed!
1829 Albion Press
More Fun at The Printing Museum:
During normal, non-COVID, times, The Printing Museum offers its exhibits, artist residencies, guided tours, interactive exhibits, summer camps, group tours, a movie and workshops. Folks who take a guided tour have the opportunity to print a page from the Declaration of Independence on the Columbian Press or a page from the Bible on the Gutenberg Press.
During our visit in September 2020, gallery exhibits were available for viewing.
16th Century Gregorian Chant Book
1893 Hammond Typewriter
Visit the Printing Museum:
Address: 1324 W Clay Street, Houston, Texas 77019
For Current Prices and Hours: Check Out the Museum's Visitor Info page
Free Parking is Available