Antique printing presses, rare books, prints and historic newspapers give you an opportunity to experience ways that people have used printing technologies to transform our lives. Moments in history—from the invention of paper and moveable type to the struggle for a free press in the young American Republic to important advances in printing and publishing in the 20th century, you will witness how each successive technological innovation was instrumental in leading to a greater exchange of information and ultimately to a more literate society. The Printing Museum makes its book and document collections accessible through display in various galleries:

Ghosts in the Books explores the development of writing, books and paper from the earliest clay tablets and papyrus scrolls to the beautiful illuminated manuscripts created by scribes and monks in the Middle Ages. Highlights include:

  • Mesopotamian Cylinder Seals (c. 3000-1000 BCE)
  • Ancient Papyrus Fragments (c. 300-350 BCE)
  • Asian Wood Type & Early Asian Printing (c. 8th & 19th Centuries CE)
  • Illuminated Manuscripts (c. 13th-16th Centuries CE)

Renaissance Gallery illustrates the rapid spread of information and exchange of ideas that was made possible by the invention of movable metal type and the printing press by Johannes Gutenberg in Mainz, Germany, c. 1440 CE. Highlights include:

  • Working historically accurate replica of Gutenberg’s press.
  • 15th- and 16th-Century Old Master Engravings from the Bader Collection.
  • Fine Arts Facsimile of the Gutenberg Bible.

George and Barbara Bush Americana Gallery reinforces the importance of the American free press and the role printing played in spreading news across a growing country. Highlights include:

  • Working 150-year old Columbian iron handpress.
  • Original Pennsylvania Gazette published by Benjamin Franklin in 1765.
  • Original New York Herald announcing the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863.

The Texas History Gallery pays tribute to the first printer in Texas, Samuel Bangs, who settled in Galveston in 1838 and started the town’s first newspaper, which still operates today. On display is one of the earliest surviving pieces printed by Bangs, in 1820, as well as the 1825 Ley de Colonizacion (Law of Colonization), which opened Texas to colonization by Anglo-Americans.

Hearst Newspaper Gallery displays early newspaper equipment, including a 20th century model Linotype machine, invented by Ottmar Merganthaler in 1886. Dubbed by Thomas Edison as “the eighth wonder of the world,” the Linotype drastically changed the speed of production of newspapers and books, and is credited with a sharp increase in literacy rates in the early 1900s.

The Hall of Historic Headlines, dating from the 1610s to 2009, mark important historical events, such as, the sinking of the Titanic, the 1929 Stock Market Crash, the 1969 Moon Landing, and the election of President Barak Obama. Of note are four original Thomas Nast cartoons from Harper’s Weekly that mark the first appearances in print of the Republican elephant, the Democratic donkey, Santa Claus and Uncle Sam.

The 20th Century Gallery highlights innovations in offset and four-color printing as well as business machines, like typewriters, the first Xerox® photocopier and an early Apple® Macintosh computer.

The Printing Museum Theater provides an opportunity to view Harvest of Wisdom, a 45-minute video on the history of human communication and the important role of printing. The video is available upon request by inquiring in the Museum’s Gift Shop.