November 28

Rummaging through a shelf-full of books in an open air church sale in a small Vermont village, the writer came across a rather plain little red book bearing a pasted-on label with the unmistakable stamp of the Merrymount Press. Furthermore, its title, A Plan of Printing Instruction for the Public Schools, related it to the printer’s craft, making it doubly desirable for a typographic library.

The flyleaf of the little book bore the inscription, “To a true teacher of the Art,” and was dated this day in 1927 and signed by Henry H. Taylor, the author. The book was one of a series produced by the American Institute of Graphic Arts. Mr. Taylor, of the distinguished firm of San Francisco printers, was presenting within the compass of forty-eight carefully printed pages a proposal for the teaching of printing in the schools, as a preparation for a vocation.

“Printing,” wrote Mr. Taylor, “a process of rapid and inexpensive multiplication of manuscript, is, broadly speaking, a branch of the art of design, commencing with the design of the adopted type-face itself and ending with the correct placing and printing of the type-mass; that is to say, both from the utilitarian and critical points of view, any completed piece of work must be judged in the last analysis as a piece of design, into the production of which there has entered a knowledge of the technique of typesetting, presswork, and other operations, and the ability to perform these in a workmanlike manner. Therefore, instruction in simple design, as applied to the composition of type-matter, and its correct placing and make-ready and printing on a sheet of paper appropriate for the purpose, must go hand in hand with the purely technical instruction.”

Would that this paragraph could serve as the introduction to the courses of instruction in the teachers’ colleges! Taylor continues in the same vein:

“The solution of these new problems as they arise calls for the exercise of taste and judgment, and the success or failure of any work taken in hand will be dependent on the ability of the printer in the exercise of these faculties. Of course, in carrying on his work the printer must have a certain mechanical equipment, or “tools,” with which to work; but his “intellectual tools” are the ones which he more commonly lacks, or more correctly speaking, are the ones which he least understands how to apply, for the reason that the training he usually receives is too specialized to allow him the opportunity to acquire them. But every printer, consciously or unconsciously, is applying them all the time, some successfully, others not so successfully, still others badly or almost not at all.”

Mr. Taylor rightly advocated, at the first level, hand-work in both the composing room and the pressroom. “Hand-work,” he stated, “being slower than machine-work, concentrates the student’s attention on the work itself, and thus makes for thoroughness. Machines, on the other hand, being fascinating things in themselves, command attention to themselves primarily; the tendency of the boy is to look at the working of the machine as being the work itself. . . .”

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