About the Museum

The Tiny Type Museum & Time Capsule is a celebration of type and printing, and an effort at preserving history for future generations to re-discover. It’s a real museum you can own. With 97 of the edition of 100 shipped out, you can still place an order for one of the few remaining. You can also order the associated book. Worldwide shipping available.

Bottom drawer of the Tiny Type Museum and Time Capsule

The bottom drawer of a Tiny Type Museum & Time Capsule, showing a typical selection of artifacts

The Museum & Time Capsule

Each custom, handmade wood museum case holds a few dozen genuine printing and typographic artifacts from the past and present, including a paper mold for casting newspaper ads in metal, individual pieces of wood and metal type, part of a phototype “font,” and a Linotype “slug”* (set with your own message), along with a special piece of letterpress art commissioned for the project, a letterpress-printed book, and a few practical items once found in every printing shop.

Ingredients for the museum have been sourced from active letterpress printers, type foundries, artists, and nooks and crannies where people stashed the past in the hopes of someone showing interest in preserving it. I pulled all of this together into a unique collection that’s impossible to find outside of a full-scale printing history museum and put it into your hands.

The museum comes with a letterpress-printed book, Six Centuries of Type & Printing, in which I trace the development of type and printing since Gutenberg printed his Bible around 1450. This book is the “docent” for the museum, providing insight into the stages in technological and artistic development that took place, and explaining the importance and nature of the artifacts. It slips neatly onto a sled fit into the top of the museum case, with the name of the museum stamped in gold-tinted letters.

The museum—measuring 11×7×5 inches (28×18×13 cm)—lays out the history of printing in miniature, and serves as an object of study and conversation, a teaching tool, and a time machine—offering a small, but deep, glimpse into the past to those who discover it in years to come.

Glenn explains the museum’s contents and discusses centuries of type history in this talk presented in June 2019 in San Francisco.

What You Receive in Each Museum

Each museum contains the same general set of objects, though the complete set is unique from museum to museum. Only a few elements were mass produced in the past or present. Items in each museum include:†

Each museum also includes digital copies of four modern movies about printing and type:

Four movies included with the museum (DVD covers)

Museums include an illustrated guide for curators that explains type of artifact found in the set. You can download a copy of this guide for your perusal.

Guide for museum curators

The cover of the curator’s guide

*While the Linotype company (under various names) introduced casting type as a slug, its competitor Intertype introduced a compatible and some say superior line of equipment in the late 1910s. Slugs may come from either Linotype or Intertype equipment.

†This list subject to substitution and change. Each museum is unique.

Ludlow matrices used for larger-sized typecasting

Ludlow hot-metal typecasting matrices

The museum and time capsule s a 11×7×5 inch (28×18×13 cm) solid-wood box with three drawers, one of which serves as a sled to hold the book in its slipcase. It was designed and manufactured by Anna Peterson. The case’s components were cut using a combination of traditional hand tools, modern woodworking equipment, and laser cutters. The two drawers feature cast iron handles reminiscent of those used on type cabinets.

Design drafts of the museum prototype

Planning the museum case and starting work on the prototype.

A late-stage prototype of the museum case

A final perfected copy of the museum

The wooden container and the items within rely on archival-grade materials and joining to ensure it fulfills its long-term goal of being a tiny time capsule. Every box contains a secret compartment.

The Book: Six Centuries of Type & Printing

This project includes a book I wrote that traces and explains the development of the craft and technology behind printing from Gutenberg’s invention and modification of several key elements that allowed him to produce his Bible and other work, through the shift from craft-scale presses into the Industrial Age, and then into the development of photographic techniques used in printing and type, offset lithography, and finally the shift to digital.

Six Centuries of Type and Printing book

Hardcover, foil-stamped, bound in Germany

The book, Six Centuries of Type & Printing, serves as a print companion for the museum, providing context for all the components found in each museum—when they were developed and to what purpose—along with illustrations.

The book is itself an example drawn from history. It was composed in hot-metal Monotype Bembo (in North Yorkshire, England), illustrations etched onto zinc plates and printed by letterpress (in London), and bound in Germany. (You can see more photos of the book in this album.)

The book is a hardcover with gold-colored foil stamping on the cover and spine. It is 8 inches tall by 5 inches wide and 64 pages long. The book has its own slipcase, and for museum purchasers, the slipcase fits into a sled-like drawer at the top of the case.

While it’s a counterpart to the museum, it also stands on its own and may be ordered separately. It ships immediately.

Why Make a Museum and How Am I Qualified?

In the last three years, I visited five museums of type and printing history in Oregon, Wisconsin, and London: the C.C. Stern Type Foundry, the Hamilton Wood Type & Printing Museum, the Platen Press Museum, the St Bride Foundation’s Printing Library, and the Type Archive. (I even wrote a book about the London ones). I was overwhelmed by the incredible amount of material preserved from the past, much of which had been in danger of simply being thrown out or melted down at several points before the museum acquired it or came into being around it.

A Monotype matrix for casting display sizes of Albertus

A Monotype matrix for casting a display size of Albertus at the Type Archive in London

I was also taken aback by the financial insecurity of most of these and of other museums and archives of printing history. While some institutions are a point of national pride (like the Plantin-Moretus Museum in Belgium) or privately managed by foundations endowed by families (such as Tipoteca in Italy), many operate on a shoestring budget and have come perilously close to shutting down or having their collections permanently shifted to warehouses, which would make them nearly inaccessible for teaching and research. (This is particularly acute as 2020 progressed, with so many of them unable to open to visitors and run paid educational programs that fund operations.)

During the same period, I took a deep dive into time capsules, looking at the world’s largest time capsule outside of Atlanta (and its problematic roots), the Long Now Foundation’s Rosetta Project, and efforts to preserve history past our lifetimes with the context required to understand it. One of the notions I learned from the Long Now was LOCKSS: “lots of copies keeps stuff safe.”

I want to give everyone a chance to own their own tiny museum that teaches and shows the full span of printing history. But each of you who acquire this museum also will be sending it hurtling forward in time as another insurance policy that printing’s past—and all the understanding of how it worked—won’t be forgotten.

Pantograph cutting of wood type

Pantograph cutting of wood type at the Hamilton Wood Type & Printing Museum in Wisconsin

My background is a mix of graphic design and journalism. I received a degree in art at Yale, studying graphic design, where I worked with older designers who had spent their lives in letterpress, while I also mastered newly emerging digital tools. I’ve mixed design and writing across my career, in which I’ve mostly worked as a journalist. In recent years, I’ve written for the Atlantic, the Economist, Fortune, Smithsonian, Fast Company, Wired, Increment, and many others.

In 2017, I was the inaugural Designer in Residence in the letterpress program at the School of Visual Concepts, during which time I designed and letterpress printed a book of my researched and reported articles on type, printing, language, and culture. In early 2018, I published London Kerning, the book mentioned above about London’s past and present type culture and archives.

Collaborators and Sources

The museum cabinet. Anna Peterson, a maker of fine wooden spoons, to design, consult, and build the museum boxes. Anna is a writer and editor, doula and quilter, letterpress printer and recently graduated cabinetry program student, and veteran of Glowforge, a 2D laser-cutter manufacturer. Her fine work shines through every join and bit of polish in the museum cases.

The book’s setting and printing. I met Phil Abel of Hand & Eye Letterpress (now part of Social Enterprise Printing) when I was researching London Kerning in late 2017. Phil is a veteran letterpress printer, and designs and prints fine-art books and projects for art and commerce. His firm, located in London's East End, donates half its profits towards apprenticeships and training for vulnerable people. Phil printed the book and contracted the Monotype hot-metal typesetting to Effra Press in North Yorkshire and the image plate making.

Phil Abel at work at his London printing shop

Phil Abel at work at his London printing shop

Commissioned letterpress print. The museum includes a commissioned work by artist, printer, and designer Stephanie Carpenter, the program officer of the Hamilton Wood Type & Printing Museum. Stephanie’s extensive experience with the museum’s collection married with her fresh, often experimental approach in her work marries old and new.

Wood type. Wood type was purchased, contracted for, and made to order. The museum contains one piece of historic wood type, with a vintage piece dating somewhere between several decades and more than a century ago; one piece of modern laser cut wood type by Scott Moore of Moore Wood Type; and one piece of wood type made using historic tools at the Hamilton Wood Type & Printing Museum.

Linotype* and type sorts. I’ve worked with a few different folks casting slugs of type in the Linotype style, and acquired individually cast type from multiple places, historic and modern, including the Bixler Press & Foundry.

A photopolymer plate on press

A Boxcar Press-made photopolymer plate on press

Modern letterpress modular element. P22 Analog and the Starshaped Press developed a set of modular printing blocks inspired by modular projects that date back nearly a century. P22 Blox are created through die-injection molding out of plastic.

General items. I sourced from all over, including with the help of people who source and conserve letterpress material for current printers and industrial memory. Special thanks to Larry Lionetti, who regularly places letterpress items for sale on eBay.

Safety note: The museum contains historical and modern items that contain stable metal alloys of lead, brass, and bronze, as well as small and fragile pieces. Everything is safe to handle for anyone who would not attempt to put it into their mouth. Hands should be washed after handling metal pieces. These warning details are also noted in the museum.

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