You don’t have to travel too far for our first Hidden Gem, as Conor O’Toole examines the fascinating history to be found at the National Print Museum
The National Print Museum, in the grounds of the Labour Court in Beggar’s Bush, is unquestionably Dublin’s premier museum of print related artifacts and apparatus. Nestled away in the back of a curious building that’s halfway between a church and a warehouse, the items it houses are far more important, as far this writer is concerned, than anything contained in the vast majority of churches or warehouses.
It is truly amazing to enter the building and see a drawer labeled ‘Times New Roman: 12pt’. The physical metal type is all on display as it would have been stored originally, the capitals in the upper cases and smaller letters in the lower cases. Suddenly, the ‘cases’ make much more sense. The room smells of oil and ink. You can touch the fonts and marvel at the minute curves, which would have originally been carved by hand.
The Print Museum boasts a large collection of type setting machines including a Linotype machine, named so because it makes lines of type. An upcoming film Linotype: The Film will document this device, so make a point of visiting it before you have apply to join a waiting list to have such a privilege.
In the museum, you can also see an original copy of the Proclamation of the Irish Republic. These massive documents are both fascinating historically and typographically. A shortage of lower case Es at the time mean that the Es are all a different a size to the rest of the text, and there’s at least one case of an upper case E being fashioned from an F and a bit of wax.
The museum frequently runs workshops and presentations on various topics and by assorted speakers. They have a mailing list that you can sign up to which is, unsettlingly, set in Comic Sans. From the signage around the museum, which is largely in Arial, one can assume that the curators of the museum are not as au-fait with modern day views on type as they are with typesetting of the past.
Regardless of this, they still keep a lovely museum running on an often-overlooked craft, which has been fundamental in the evolution of print media, and as such, culture as a whole.