"A FTER a book is written, the author sends his work, his manuscript, to the printer, who is to reproduce it in printed letters and in as many copies as are desired.
"Picture to yourself fine and short metal sticks, on the end
of each of which is carved in relief a letter of the
alphabet. One of these sticks has an a on the end,
another a b, another a c, etc. There are others which have a
"A workman called a compositor has before him a stand of
cases, of which each compartment is occupied by a single
letter of the alphabet, or by an orthographic sign. The
"The compositor has before him a manuscript, and at his left
hand a little flanged iron ruler called a composing-stick.
As he reads, his right hand, guided by long habit, searches
in the case the desired letter and places it in the
composing-stick, upright and in a row with the others. He
separates the words by means of a metal stick like those of
the letters, but the end of which remains depressed and does
not bear any carving. The first line finished, the
compositor begins another by setting a new row of little
metal pieces next to the row already finished. Finally, when
the composing-stick is full, the workman cautiously places
the contents in an iron frame, which keeps the delicate
combination from going to pieces; and he continues thus
until the frame is quite full and we have what is called the
An Old Fashioned Hand Press
"A roller impregnated with a thick ink made of oil and lampblack is passed over the plate. The letters and orthographic signs, which alone stand out in relief, become covered with ink; the rest does not take it because its surface is lower. A sheet of paper is placed on the inked plate; it is covered with a pad to protect it, then pressed hard. The ink of the characters is deposited on the paper, and the sheet is found printed on one side. To print the other, the operation is repeated with a second plate. The metal letters are, as I said, carved wrong side before, as the letters of a book appear when you look at them in a mirror. The inky imprint left by them on the paper reproduces them in a reversed position, and consequently in the right way.
"The first sheet is followed immediately by a second. With the roller the plate is inked again, a sheet of paper is applied, pressure is exerted, and it is done. Then comes a third sheet, a hundredth, a thousandth, indefinitely. All that is needed each time is to ink the plate, cover it with paper, then press. All this is done with such rapidity that in a short time we have a great pile of printed sheets, each of which it would take a whole day to write by hand.
"Before the invention of this marvelous art, which enables
us to reproduce the works of the mind very rapidly and in as
great numbers as may be desired, we were restricted to
"That is a name I shall never forget," said Jules.
"It deserves, above all, to be remembered, for with the printed book Gutenberg rendered impossible henceforth the ignorant times through which man has miserably passed. Our intellectual treasures, resources for the future, are better than engraved on stone or metal; they are inscribed on sheets of paper, in copies too numerous to be all destroyed."