Printing experts converge in Rochester Oct. 22–24 to learn from history

RIT’s Cary Collection to host 40th annual American Printing History Association Conference




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From Johann Gutenberg to William Morris, several centuries of the printed word were published on handpresses—those lever-run machines where inked metal type was pressed into paper.

To investigate the connection between hand-operated printing presses in use from the 15th to 19th centuries, and today’s work in the history of the book and fine press printing, Rochester Institute of Technology is hosting the 40th annual American Printing History Association conference. The conference is Oct. 22–24 at the RIT Cary Graphic Arts Collection at The Wallace Center.

The conference theme, “Printing on the Handpress & Beyond,” is aligned with the Cary’s charge as a leading national library on the history of the graphic arts. Printing workshops, tours, lectures and excursions in the Upstate New York region will inform attendees of the creative ways these models are still employed by printers, artists, scholars and educators.

“The past is always influencing the future,” said Steven Galbraith, curator of the Cary. “The history of printing is still the basis for what we do on computers and there is a lot to be learned from these early machines and techniques.”

The APHA conference is also sponsoring a book arts vendor that is open to the public from noon to 4 p.m. Oct. 23. Alix Christie, author of the recent novel Gutenberg’s Apprentice, will deliver the conference keynote speech, “Gutenberg’s World: How Printing Arose in 15th Century Mainz,” in the evening following the vendor fair.

Attendees will also get the chance to use some the Cary Collection’s 18 historical printing presses, including the Kelmscott/Goudy Albion iron hand press. After a full day of lectures Oct. 24, the conference will culminate with the presentation of the Frederic W. Goudy Award, given to an outstanding practitioner in the field of type design and typography.

Registration fees range from $75 to $175 for students, APHA members, and non-members. To register for the conference, go to apha.wildapricot.org/event-1972456. For questions about the conference, including events that are open to the public, contact the APHA program chair, Amelia Hugill-Fontanel at ahfwml@rit.edu.

Note: Established at RIT in 1969, the Cary Graphic Arts Collection is one of the country’s premier libraries on graphic communication history and practices. Originally comprised of 2,300 books from the estate of Melbert B. Cary Jr., the collection has expanded into a comprehensive resource on the development of the alphabet and writing systems, early book formats and manuscripts, calligraphy, typefaces and their manufacturing technologies, bookbinding, papermaking, printing and illustration processes, and artists’ books. The Cary Collection at the Wallace Center also manages the RIT Graphic Design Archive comprised of 42 archives documenting the work of important 20th-century Modernist graphic designers.