Wednesday, October 28, 2009

The Crandall Printing Museum

As a class we had the opportunity to go to the Crandall Printing Museum, which is a few blocks south of BYU campus. I had not heard of the museum until we were given the assignment to go there, and I didn’t know what to expect. All I could picture was sterile rooms with windows looking on replicas of important printing inventions. I can not be happier to have been so wrong.

The museum is set up in what looks like it used to be a home. You enter in a side door and immediately you’re confronted with so many things to read, touch, and see in general. After signing the guest book we went to the first room. This room has a replica of the Gutenberg machine. This machine made the printing of the Bible possible. Previously monks had to hand write every copy of the Bible. Along with their elaborate decorations, copying the words from the Bible took a long time and a lot of effort. As a result there were not very many copies of the Bible, which meant that normal people did not have access to the Biblical records in everyday life. Their only way of learning the teachings of ancient prophets was by listening to sermons given by priests. The creation of the Gutenberg printing press was able to change this. Now that the Bible could be printed more quickly than it was written, more copies were made leading to an increase in access to the Bible, which would affect generations to come especially with regards to religious tension and shifts.

Another area of the museum focuses on the Revolutionary era. The press, another replica of those that would have been used in the era, was very similar to the Gutenberg press. It was interesting to see how over the centuries very little had changed with regard to printing technology. In this section of the museum we mostly focused on Benjamin Franklin. We learned how he came to be a printer. We learned about his Poor Richard’s Almanac. We also learned a little bit about his personal life. He was the youngest son of a youngest son, and pretty much his father’s favorite. Beyond Benjamin Franklin we got to see how the Declaration of Independence would have been printed. The Crandall Museum is the only museum where you can get copies of the Declaration of Independence printed by a historically accurate printing press.

The last area we spent some time in focused on the printing of the Book of Mormon. It is so interesting (and sustaining) to me to note all of the ways the pieces just fell into place for the printing of the Book of Mormon. The most notable, in my opinion is that the Erie Canal opened just in time for the heavy printing press to be transported from New York City to Palmyra. There were very few of these presses around and one just happened to arrive in Palmyra exactly when Joseph Smith was told to print the Book of Mormon. In this section of the museum I also learned that the assignment was to print 5000 copies of the Book of Mormon. Another interesting fact is that a few were finished just days before the organization of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. There were just enough copies then for the few people present at the organization.

This museum is great. I would really recommend that anyone go, no matter what their interest. Also, they are trying to expand the museum, which is going to take a lot of funds. If you know of any business that could help them out please encourage it!

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