Ben Franklin’s Birthday
By John Sarantakos, OU Printing, Mailing and Document Services
As I get older I notice that many of my younger colleagues have deficiencies in the printing knowledge. Many don’t understand where and why things like ligatures, quads, thins and EM’s come from or why they’re important. Printing terms come from the long and glorious history of printing. Benjamin Franklin is considered the father of printing in the United States. At the age of 22 he wrote the epitaph he wanted on his tombstone. It read:
“The Body of B. Franklin
Like the Cover of an old Book,
Its Contents torn out,
And stript of its Lettering and Gilding,
Lies here, Food for Worms.
But the Work shall not be whlly lost:
For it will, as he believ’d, appear once more,
In a new & more perfect Edition,
Corrected and Amended
By the Author.
He was born on January 6, 1706.
Of all the things he is known for, statesman, inventor, writer, lothario, he wanted people to know that being a PRINTER was what he was most proud of.
In today’s world when asked “what is your profession?” One might say, “I’m a manager” or “I work at So-and-So Corporation.” Sometimes you hear, “well I’m a printer” or “I just work in a copy center.” It’s almost like what they do is not important.
History says it’s important what the printer has provided society. Gutenberg, Fust, and Scheoffer in 1450 changed the world by mass producing books (not just the Bible by the way) which made the printed word accessible to more and more people. Which in turn gave the common folks an opportunity to improve their lives through education. In 105 AD, Cai Lun is credited with the invention of paper. Pretty important in the big scheme of things, don’t you think? How many sheep and goats would there be if we didn’t have paper? Not many or a gazillion depending on how you look at it.
January is the month of Franklins’ birth and passing. It behooves us to remember that our predecessors, like Franklin, were proud of their profession. They understood what an impact printing could and did have on society. History may not be your thing, but understanding where you profession, trade, and livelihood came from should be important. They say that ink gets into a person’s blood. I say it most certainly does and we should embrace it and be proud of our chosen vocation.
For those of you that might like an interesting read about the first mass production of the Bible, then try the novel, Gutenberg’s Apprentice: A Novel by Alix Christie (Harper Collins).