The Michael Turner Albion Press – by Professor Ian Gadd

The Michael Turner Albion Press

The arrival of the Michael Turner Albion Press at Bath Spa University offers an important opportunity for learning and collaboration. It is not the University’s first printing press: we are fortunate to have an established and well resourced printing studio at Sion Hill with several kinds of presses, much used by art and design students keen to learn about different ways of reproducing their ideas. The proposed vision for the Michael Turner Albion Press, though, is slightly different, as befits its location at Corsham Court and its donor, himself a former librarian of the Bodleian Library, Oxford.

To most of us, a printer is now just an electric gadget that sits in the corner of our office or home-study, but for nearly all of the last half millennium a printer was a person and not a machine. Printing of course has always needed machines—presses—but for centuries it also required informed decisions about typography, layout, ink and paper as well as a set of complex technological skills. To be a printer was to know a craft and to follow a profession. The digital revolution, though, has changed what printing means, and not just in terms of language. There are still many active printers but for most of us this kind of printing is all but forgotten. And yet printing itself is absolutely crucial to our understanding of what we are and how we got here. It was for centuries the dominant medium of public communication across Europe and beyond. It facilitated and at times fomented religious, cultural, scientific, and political revolution. It also propagated the administrative form, the paper currency, and the daily newspaper. A press like the Michael Turner Albion Press, a mid-nineteenth-century hand-operated letter-press capable of printing posters, forms, pamphlets and other kinds of printed material was thus just one very small part of the printing infrastructure that helped underpin the establishment of the modern state.

Just as any printing house was itself a creative, collaborative and social space, the Michael Turner Albion Press aims to bring together staff and students through teaching demonstrations, practical workshops, student and staff projects, and other creative and scholarly events. It will offer students of art, design, literature, history, media communications, cultural studies, publishing, education and others the opportunity to learn not only about printing technology, but also about the press as a social and cultural agent. And it will remind us that printing has always been more about people than machines.

Ian Gadd, Professor in English Literature

Join us at Corsham Court on Saturday, 28th January 2017 as we launch the Michael Turner Albion Press. Book here:


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