Monday, December 10, 2018

Revitalizing Spring Garden Press

A.B. Taylor & Company No. 2 Iron Hand Press
Tucked away in a hallway just outside of Martha Blakeney Hodges Reading Room on the second floor of Jackson Library’s main building is a 19th century printing press. Over the last several decades, the press has been used primarily by library staff for class demonstrations or to print small editioned items such as bookplates and broadsides.

When the press first arrived in the library in the early 1960s, it was in pieces and was missing a necessary toggle joint required for operation. Prior to the Internet Age, finding the missing parts or even a press of the same type to serve as a model for creating new parts was a tedious and time-consuming task. Charles Adams, the library director at the time of the arrival of the press, began writing letters with the goal of finding parts for the press. After a decade of letter writing, Adams turned over the search to Stan Hicks, the assistant library director at the time.

Charles Adams, Library Director at the time
the press was given to Jackson Library
Hicks, too, began writing letters trying to find either the missing parts or a similar press from which to create a model of the missing joint. Finally, in 1975, Hicks located another A.B. Taylor and Company No. 2 press in Mechanicsburg, PA. Pictures and sketches of the press were taken to make a wooden model of the toggle joint. At last, the press was in operation.

Drawing of the missing toggle joint based on a press
found in Mechanicsburg, PA in the early 1970s
Stan Hicks takes over the task of writing
letters to find the missing parts

Spring Garden Press has been the imprint of the library’s A.B. Taylor Company No. 2 Iron Hand Press housed in Special Collections and University Archives (SCUA) since becoming operational in the 1970s. The name was inspired by Spring Garden Street that runs through campus and serves as the university’s address.

View of Spring Garden Street in 2000

Throughout the 1970s to the early 2000s, members of the library staff letterpress printed commemorative broadsides, bookplates, and conducted many demonstrations of the press for UNCG faculty and students. Classes learned firsthand about printing history, including how type is set, how a form is inked for printing, and how the 19th century press transferred ink to paper.

Left: Emilie Mills, Special Collections Librarian, 1975
Right: The first item printed under the imprint Spring Garden Press
As time passed, fewer and fewer library staff knew how to operate the press and Spring Garden Press fell dormant for a few years. However, thanks to a generous Innovation and Program Enrichment grant received from the library, the circa 1850s printing press has been revitalized with the goal of engaging students, faculty, staff, and members of the greater Greensboro community.

SCUA staff training with Sarah Smith in November 2018
In November 2018, Sarah Smith, of Dartmouth College Library’s Book Arts Workshop, taught an iron hand press workshop for SCUA staff. The revitalization of Spring Garden Press was celebrated on November 29, 2018 as faculty, staff, and community members gathered to learn about the press, how it will be used in collaboration with folks both on campus and beyond, and to see a demonstration of its use. Once again, this press has been elevated from archaic artifact to an active tool of engagement with our community.

Keepsake coaster printed during the Revitalization of
Spring Garden Press event in November 2018
To learn more about the history of this antique printing press and how it came to UNCG, please click HERE.

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