Importance Of A Knowledge Of Printing
( Originally Published 1920 )
THE study of printing should be more general in all our schools-but not as it is taught so often—by teachers incompetent to glimpse and grasp its widest possibilities—to make it live and thrill with all its latent power.
If its mechanical aspects are over emphasized it must fail to appeal to intellectual scholars, since it cannot sufficiently stir their imaginations to command interest.
The printing and publishing industry stands among the six largest from the point of view of annual value in dollars—in this country—and has, of course, boundless possibilities for good and evil. Nothing is more essential to civilization intellectually or commercially, than printing.
The allied industries are also relatively important. The United States produces more paper than any other five nations combined and hence offers countless opportunities for a good livlihood in this line.
Six hundred million dollars and more are annually expended for advertising in the United States and advertising invariably involves printing of some sort.
Aside from the positions that require a knowledge of printing more or less complete, such as proofreading, publishing, librarians' work, etc., there are jobs connected with the paper industry where this knowledge, which as a matter of fact is rarely found, would prove of great advantage.
It is evident, moreover, that some practical knowledge of printing may prove useful if not essential for practically all men who engage in commerce or manufacturing. They are all buyers of printing, and it is a difficult commodity to purchase intelligently.
For authors or editors a knowledge of typesetting is very valuable. They should know the mechanics of it, for "author's corrections" are the bugaboo of most printers and the cause of much unnecessary expense and misunderstanding about the cost of printing, because the inexperienced author seldom realizes that the change of a word may involve the resetting of an entire paragraph.
When we have agreed that a grounding in printing is desirable for prospective authors and business men, we have included a high proportion of our population. Even professional men will find it beneficial, though possibly not in porportion to the time required for its mastery.
From a purely educational point of view, I can emphatically state from personal experience, that nothing ever helped me more in acquiring concentration of mind than typesetting.
There is a wholesome discipline in the performances involved in products of the press. Nor should the aesthetic aspect be ignored. It seems a pity that cultured persons should be so generally ignorant of what constitutes good printing.
The same people who would not wish to admit that they could not recognize a Sheraton chair, or a Rubens painting, have no sense of omission from their educations because of their inability intelligently to appreciate a beautiful example of printing, as mere printing. A collection of well-printed books is an indulgence within the reach of modest incomes and the source of much satisfaction.
Considering that Printing is the "Art preservative of all arts" does it not seem like a subject which should be generally touched upon, at least collaterally, in every institution of higher education?
To sum up a bit: Printing is an industry of basic importance to civilization. It means, therefore, the livlihood directly or indirectly of many persons. The opportunities open to young men well equipped with a knowledge of printing are numerous, and the young man so prepared has an advantage over his competitors.
So much for the commercial aspect.
Aesthetically, printing has risen in the past, and does still, occasionally rise to high levels. Its encouragement as an art should come from the better educated people, as well as from the hard headed business men, who, by producing beautiful catalogs, have actually done much to encourage and bring in an age of better printing.
Educationally, I would like my own children to undergo this training which possesses so much that is fascinating, but is at once exacting and disciplinary to the mind, the eye and the hand.
There is no escape from the consequences of one's work. It remains proved in black and white, or even in many colors, as a credit or otherwise to one's imagination, conception and workmanship. It is my conviction that there are large educational advantages in the study of Printing if it be taught by trained enthusiasts in a way to make it live and vibrate with all its far-reaching and inexhaustible power.