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Friday, 5 August 2011

John Jarrold Printing Museum


Down in Norfolk on holiday I saw an advert for the John Jarrold Printing Museum and of course just had to visit it. The museum is situated in the engineers shop in the Jarrold printworks. In my youth Jarrold were well known for producing a whole range of very colourful guide books for stately homes. As we found out later they were pioneers in the introduction of high quality four colour litho printing.
“Did we know anything about printing?” we were asked when we arrived. As soon as Robert Smail’s was mentioned a lady said that she’d heard Gen speak at the St Bride Library earlier this year and had clearly enjoyed the experience.
One of the volunteers spent much of the two hours we were there showing us the presses and answering questions. He’d visited Smail’s in the past and acted as a straight-man for Gen in the caseroom. As they’re a museum and not a working printshop visitors are free to walk all around the presses. Enough to give any safery officer nightmares as some of them were working - including a 1930s Heidelberg clamshell which dated from before the addition of the safety guard. There was an enviable collection of equipment and space to put much of it on display and no charge for entry.
Amongst the immediately recognisable presses were an Arab and a Columbian. The Arab was up on a (very substantial) shelf but the Columbian was still in use. In fact earlier this year it had been used to at a display in Norwich Cathedral to celebrate the 400th anniversary of the King James Bible. This Columbian still had a frisket in a frame to hold the paper on the tympan and ensure a reproducible lay. Normally the printer would have held this frame in place as the tympan was lowered but to help the volunteers running the demo at the Cathedral a catch had been added. Instead of a Wharfedale there was a Heidelberg cylinder press with automatic paper feed. However their Furnival litho press had a very similar manual paper feed and sticks to remove the printed sheets.
Given Jarrolds history there was a great deal to learnt about lithography and colour separation. One very impressive early lithograph on display was printed in thirteen different colours. The real advance of course was the facility to produce screens for high quality four colour printing quickly and economically - pioneered by John Jarrold.
As it is located in Norwich of the museum it’s not surprising many of the volunteers worked for HMSO. I hope we’ll see some of them at Smail’s in the future. The museum is recommended to any one with an interest in the History of Printing.

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