The Building of a Benjamin Franklin Press, Part I: Online and in Maker Lab, Music 1404

Course Number: ENGL 595PP
Prerequisites: Graduate Standing
General Education Areas Fulfilled: Check on GOLD
Catalog Course Entry: ENGL 595AA-ZZ
Quarter: Fall 2020
Instructor: Fumerton, Patricia
Day(s): T
Time: 9:00 - 11:45 AM
Location: Online

This course will consist of a mostly online colloquium that will extend over two quarters, fall ’20 and winter ’21, for 4 sessions during each quarter, meeting on Tuesdays at 9 am to 11:30 am. You can petition to have it meet fields I, II, III, and V. The Fall dates for meetings are: Oct. 6 and 20, Nov. 10 and Dec. 8. Each quarter’s meetings will together earn students 4 units, for the equivalent, when taken together, of 1 course credit. The colloquium sessions are preparatory to the voluntary, not-for-credit building of a “Common” or “Franklin” wooden pull-press (c. 1750), which we will begin working on in the late winter but focus on (outside class) in the spring quarter ‘21. The colloquium series will also be advantageous (though not required) as preparation for the spring ‘21 graduate course, Eng. 236: “The History and Making of Print” (co-taught, Prof. Patricia Fumerton and famed 18th c. historian Prof. Tim Hitchcock, Univ. of Sussex, UK, who will be in residence at UCSB in the spring). The colloquium series is capped at 6 grads  (beyond that cap, on petition to the instructor), so that community members can also participate, and so we can also spend some time, likely in the winter quarter, in person in the Maker Lab, while observing social distancing (Fumerton is director of the ML, which is a fully-equipped printing press studio). The grad course in the spring will be capped at 12 students to allow for safety and full hands-on participation in the Maker Lab.


The fall quarter colloquium sessions will first situate the colloquium within the “History of the Book” and the new “Maker Movement.” In this context, we will address the value of practice-based research. We will then turn to an overview of the impact of the history of the printing press. Focus will be especially on the "invention" of the letterpress printing press by Johannes Gutenberg in 1440, and subsequent innovations introduced to that press's construction by makers of the “Common Press” used during the 17th and 18th centuries in England and the US (also known as the “Franklin Press” because Benjamin Franklin trained on such a press in England and set up his own printing press studio in the US featuring a Common Press). We will further learn to identify the commonly named “body” parts of old-style pull presses and moveable typeface and interrogate the cultural implications of such terminology.


The winter quarter colloquium will begin by tracking the evolution of the printing press as more like a circle, or spiral, of print history. We will, in particular, focus on how modern technology and even vocabulary are not only modeled on “old-style” printing presses and composing practices but also how the basic elements of the latest computer 3D CAD software can allow one to create (and understand how such creation happens), making a models of early modern printing presses and actual typefaces. Provided with a full set of 3D small-scale and plastic press parts for building a miniature Franklin press, each student will also learn to assemble a model press as well as to disassemble and reassemble it, as was done in the period of the wooden press, when printing was highly movable. Finally, students will keep their own final assembled model as a memento of their new insights gained into the making behind the printed word.