Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Museu Nacional Da Imprensa, Porto, Portugal

I visited my friend in Portugal for two weeks in June. While I was there I took the train to Porto and spent four hours at the Museu Nacional Da Imprensa (National Printing Museum). The museum's focus is on the newspaper and book printing industry. It's great for someone like me who loves the history of printing and all the presses and accoutrements of printing. So much to see and touch! Unfortunately they only have two small platen presses working (the rollers were very crooked on one of them) for the public to try out. I would have loved to see the other machines working! They had several representations for the different styles of presses as well as several styles of cutters, folders, perforators and type casters. The whole ground floor was full of machines!  I was in heaven!
Upstairs, protected by glass, they had a large collection of various editions of Les Miserables by Victor Hugo that have been printed since it was first published. Also housed upstairs were dozens of press miniature replicas all made by one man out of wood. I'll post those photos later. The museum is known for it's political cartoon show and event it has every year. It hasn't picked up on the trend of modern letterpress printing at all. I wonder if they even know? All the postcards on offer were of the past political cartoon images from their shows.

This museum isn't for the average tourist. Most people would probably find it dry and boring. the little display cards didn't really tell you or show you how the machines worked or any details about when or where they were used. It did provide English for most of the machines downstairs but it was just basic information like names and dates. If you already know about presses and type you would love seeing all the different makes and styles and tools. But if you are just into loving the look of letterpress this museum would really be a let down. Upstairs, the miniatures and print editions of Les Miserables didn't have any English explanations...just Portuguese. So if you can read Portuguese you are in luck. I can't.

Molds for making display size metal type

Metal type without shoulders.

The composing stick on the left is REALLY long!

Table top platen press with demo cut for printing. 
Tiles with depiction of a scene  from an old print shop.

BIG cast iron paper cutter

Tied up form (!) and proof.

Alauzet French hand press. Also below.

3 photos of an ancient wood hand press with hand forged metal parts!
Note the "bullet nose" that puts pressure on the platen.

Another old but not quite as ancient hand press using the "bullet nose" for pressure.
Also below.

English hand press.

Form locked up.
Turning mechanism for a platen press.

Not quite sure how it works but the sign said that it was used to scrape the sharp edges of of  metal plates before printing.

Setzmaschine Typograph for casting type. It's a thing of absolute wonder!

Setzmaschine Typograph letter keys attached to wires.

A. Hogenforst (?) flatbed press