Thursday, 5 September 2019

5 in 5 - September 2019 - Printing Press Museum

Welcome to '5 in 5' where on the 5th
of each month I post 5 photos that I have
taken in 5 minutes.

Last week  I spent a few days in Norwich with a friend. I was excited because it coincided with the John Jarrold Printing Museum being open, and as this only occurs 3 hours a week I am usually there when it is closed.

I had looked forward to this visit for a number of years and was amazed at how many machines there were. I could barely contain my excitement!  I know some readers might find this strange, but as someone who loves industrial and social history, printing, book making and binding, this place was a treasure-house. It was also manned by some enthusiastic and knowledgeable volunteers.  Sadly the printworks closed some years ago but in its heyday it produced newspapers, books and was highly successful.

There was lots of different machines, many from it's original printworks and some subsequently donated over the years.  Below is one of the volunteers who worked at this monotype machine. I was amazed to learn how this works, and it completely changed my knowledge and understanding about printing. The printer would type the script into the keyboard (below) which would transfer a code onto the blue paper roll above.

This process instructed the machine to melt metal that was then formed into individual letters, forming words and the page to be printed. 

I never knew that! I was aware of this task being done manually, letter by letter, so I appreciate how this monotype printing machine revolutionised the process and led to greater production of books.

It could be a dangerous job as sometimes there would be spills or explosions of molten metal and the machine would have to be stripped down thoroughly otherwise the metal would get into working parts and solidify, Naturally this would stop the machine from working and cause production delays.

Here's a photo of the letters, set out as a book page and ready for printing. 

 This is where the action happens....

Once the page has been printed the individual letters could be put back into the machine to be melted and reformed.  However, where the page or book might be needed for reprinting the letters would have a band put around the edge to hold them into position, and stored in a box for future use. 
This is something else that I didn't know before.    

Sadly, despite being a Grade II listed building, the museum is due for demolition and it's future uncertain. Thankfully the museum collection will be resited although it will be smaller than it's current size and some of the machines will have to be stored or kept elsewhere. It's important to preserve collections such as this and I'm glad to say that lots of effort has gone into safeguarding the future of the John Jarrold museum collection. I hope I can see the collection again as a whole before the closure, but am thankful that I have been and met the men who worked there. They had so many stories to tell, and it is well worth visiting if ever you are in Norwich.  

As always, I invite you to join in this 5in5 monthly challenge and I hope some of you will do that. Trying a new way of doing things can spark new ideas and add interest, so here's how it works: 

1.  Choose a location.
2.  Have your camera ready.
3.  Set a mobile timer for 5 minutes.
4.  Take as many photos you can until the time is up.
5.  Choose 5 photos to download and share by using the link tool 
You have until the 25th of the month to add your photos and if you want to know more about 5in5 there are details here.

And one more thing - when you use the link tool, please click on your post title.  This will show the web address. Please right click, copy and paste this as your link.  This will take readers directly to your '5 in 5' blog page and be easier for them to find.


  1. My dad had a printing company which he and his brother inherited from my grandad, I worked there in the late 60s, so your photos bring back happy memories of that period. Thank you Sandie

    1. That must have been really special Joy, especially given our love for stationary, writing and stories. I learnt so much there. It was a privilege to visit and I do hope the collection and museum continues into the future. These memories and collections are so important part of our history and who we are now.

  2. I, too, would have found this fascinating! Thanks for sharing.

    1. I hope I have the opportunity to revisit one day Karen. My fingers are crossed that the powers that be keep the collection safe and enable it to be enjoyed by future generations. We live in such a disposable age and we can't replace these collections once they are gone.


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