The exhibition focuses on manual and mechanical typesetting as well as on various printing methods, delving deeply into five main topics: the casting and setting of type, and the printing of texts, images, and symbols. Large display cases exhibiting a wide variety of font samples, printing plates, tools, and other equipment illustrate the complexity and diversity of printing techniques. Demonstrations are provided of the four main types of printing: relief, intaglio, planographic, and stencil.
The history of printing also includes methods for printing texts and images that can be read and viewed tactilely, that is by running one’s fingers over their surface. These innovations are included in the exhibition, which features many tactile illustrations, exhibits, and custom-made objects. In addition, full object descriptions are available in Braille (in German) and at listening stations. A rich experience is thus guaranteed to sighted, blind, and visually impaired visitors alike.
Old printing presses and printing machines represent major advances in the history of printing and typesetting. The exhibition features an iron Stanhope press (1835), a high-speed press that originally ran on steam (1895), and a Heidelberg job press with a pneumatic paper feed system (1963). These presses illustrate the course of technical innovation. They show how the manual labor of human beings was increasingly assisted, expedited, and even replaced by machines. In addition, a type cabinet and original equipment from the H. Berthold AG type foundry are on display. There is also a section devoted to typewriters, where visitors can follow their development over the last 150 years.
The exhibition features regular demonstrations with various printing presses, for example the 1972 linotype machine known as the “iron colleague” (eiserner Kollege). In addition, lithography is a special technique for printing images. In 2017, the Deutsches Technikmuseum acquired the entire lithography workshop that once belonged to Dietmar Liebsch, a lithographer and offset printer in Berlin. Liebsch was known, among other things, for producing prints from original plates by the Prussian painter, illustrator, and lithographer Adolph von Menzel.
The exhibition tells a clear story of technological progress: from iron hand presses to high-speed presses to offset and rotary presses. Printing machines and machines for casting and setting type turned the manual craft of printing into a mechanical industry.
Rasmus Malling-Hansen was a minister and teacher at an institution for deaf-mutes in Copenhagen. To help deaf people communicate better in written form, in 1865 he designed a machine with an electric ball and 54 concentrically arranged keys. He patented the design, and several models were ultimately produced in small numbers by a workshop in Copenhagen. Thus began the age of industrial typewriter manufacturing.
Jüngers Mechaniske Etablissement, 1872
Down to the Late Middle Ages, the only way to disseminate books was to copy them by hand. To replace this toilsome labor, woodblock printing on paper was developed (first in China). The first woodblock prints in Europe date to around 1430. The method entailed carving the text and picture into a single wooden panel. A mirror image of the carved panel was then printed using a letterpress.
1958, replica (original: 1430), on loan from the Deutsches Historisches Museum
The linotype was the first fully operational machine for setting and casting lines of type. It made typesetting about four times faster. Operators of the linotype machine could set about 6,000 characters an hour. When a key was pressed, a matrix for the corresponding letter dropped down onto an assembler whose length equaled that of a line of text. In this way, the printing plate of a newspaper page was constructed line by line.
Mergenthaler Setzmaschinenfabrik GmbH, 1904
This Stanhope hand press dates to 1835 and comes from the Decker’sche Königlich-preußische Oberhofdruckerei, the official printer of the Prussian Court and the predecessor to what is now the Bundesdruckerei, the German Federal Printing Office. A novel system of levers allowed greater pressure to be exerted with relatively little force, making the Stanhope much easier to use than traditional wooden presses. This technical innovation made it possible for women and adolescents to work in printing shops.
Oberhofdruckerei G. Decker, 1835, gift of Axel Springer Verlag