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Davis, John S. - The Noble Art of Printing

John S. Davis and the Noble Art of Printing

Jacob D. Rawlins


As with many nineteenth-century professions, printing was not considered a job or a career; it was an integral part of the identity of the master printer. In other words, printing was not something that a person did, it was who that person was. Rapid advancements in the technology and business of printing during the nineteenth century, however, changed that notion of self-identification. Master printers were replaced by hobbyists, who kept traditional forms of printing alive, or by laborers, who worked on the new presses manufactured during the Industrial Revolution.

The early printing efforts of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints show the balance between hobbyists and master printers in the mid-nineteenth century. When the church sent its missionaries to countries around the world beginning in the 1830s, one of the first tasks facing these missionaries was to set up printing presses in order to print tracts and other religious materials.[1] While the missionaries were able to perform the basic mechanics of printing, most had not been formally trained. As the church grew, however, some master printers were converted and began to ply their trade alongside the missionaries in service of the fledgling religion. One example of such a master printer is John S. Davis, who performed much of the church's printing in Wales from the time of his conversion in 1846 until he emigrated to the United States in 1853.[2]

Davis was a printer to his core. Once he completed his apprenticeship in 1842, he always signed his name as "John S. Davis, Printer," whether the publication was in his native Welsh or in English. Davis's work in printing, which (including his apprenticeship) spanned twenty-six years and two continents, defined his life and his legacy, even though he spent nearly as much time (twenty-one years) as a storekeeper after he retired from printing due to illness in 1861.

Unfortunately, Davis left very few records of his training and early career. Many of his diaries, which he kept daily through much of his life, have been lost or destroyed.[3] From his surviving letters and other writings, we can piece together where he trained and worked from 1835 until 1846. After those first eleven years, the record becomes much more clear. In 1846 Davis was baptized into the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and began printing tracts, scriptures, hymnals, and a periodical, Udgorn Seion ("Zion's Trumpet"), which included many of his own writings and translations, both in Welsh and English. From 1846 to 1853 Davis produced thousands of pages for his church in Wales.

Davis continued printing after he emigrated from Wales to Salt Lake City, Utah. There he worked for several different presses, including the presses that published the church-owned Deseret News and other local newspapers. In 1859 he was elected Public Printer for the Legislative Assembly in the Utah Territory. He also served in the presidency of the Deseret Typographical Association (later changed to the Deseret Press Association, to "embrace all those associated, whether intimately or remotely, with the press; while the former name confined its practical operations to printers alone."[4]), whose purpose was to celebrate the art of printing and publishing.[5] By the time of his retirement in 1861, Davis had made many contributions to printing in the Utah pioneer colony as well as to the records of the early Welsh Latter-day Saints.

Later chapters in this volume will address Davis's career and writings after 1846. This chapter will attempt, through examining the historical setting and documents from contemporary printer's manuals, to fill in the gaps in Davis's training and early career by setting him in the context of nineteenth-century printers. This context will not only provide a picture of what Davis likely experienced in his formative years, but will also help modern readers understand what it meant to be a master printer in the nineteenth century.


Printing in the Nineteenth-Century

In February of 1856, the Deseret Typographical Association held its second annual meeting in Salt Lake City, with John S. Davis as the keynote speaker. As part of his address, Davis noted:

Printing has been, and must always continue to be, on the increase, both here among the saints as well as among the nations of the earth. There has never been a period in which the art has reached such a perfection as it has at the present day. Observe the newspapers of the age; they travel as upon the wings of the wind. They are attached to steam from the making of the paper, to its transmission from the press to distant parts. Look upon the electric telegraph, with lightning speed, conducting intelligence to the printing establishment; see the copy divided between the numerous compositors, and how quickly the steam press throws out its eight sheets at a time, ready for steam again to distribute them over land and sea with a speed that is astonishing.[6]


As his references to steam make clear, Davis and his associates in the Typographical Association were in the midst of a revolution in publishing technology. Advancements in manufacturing and communications during the nineteenth century transformed an industry that had remained fundamentally unchanged since Johannes Gutenberg invented the mechanical printing press in the mid 1400s. Hand-printing techniques and tools in use for centuries were updated, improved, and finally replaced during the 1800s, beginning with the introduction of the iron handpress at the beginning of the century and followed by steam- and electricity-powered compositing and printing machines later in the century. As Davis wrote in 1855:

This Art is not of early date,

Yet its improvements are so great,

That I have wonder'd much of late

To see such handsome Printing.

The wooden types have given place

To metal ones of finer grace;

And the old presses hide their face,

For steam machines have won the race.[7]


Although Davis looked forward to the latest printing technologies, he had not been afforded many opportunities to use them. Davis, like most printers of that time, had been trained in traditional methods. But he and his contemporaries were among the last generation of master printers to oversee every aspect of publishing.

In Bruce Michelson's book about Mark Twain's career in publishing, which began in about 1850, he writes, "The eager-looking boy in this daguerreotype [Samuel Clemens at age 15] was learning printing as a traditional craft. Each day at his job, however, he bore witness to an upheaval that was giving reproduced words and pictures a dominion that had been unimaginable as recently as the year of his birth."[8] Even in the pioneer colony in Salt Lake City, which had first been settled in 1847, traditional printing technology and methods began to be replaced in the 1860s by faster and more efficient machines and techniques:

Another shop-shaking change that came to the [Deseret] News during the Civil War was the bringing of a new press. It was a Hoe cylinder model, which had been a newspaper wonder of the century. It was steam-powered, and it could pour off eighteen hundred papers an hour, compared with about one hundred twenty for the original News hand-operated press.[9]


Davis, then, witnessed the evolution of printing from a time-intensive, hand-operated, traditional art form to a steam-powered industry that took full advantage of the technologies of the Industrial Revolution. To fully understand the importance of this evolution, one must examine (1) the traditional art of printing, (2) hand-printing in the nineteenth century, (3) the advent of printing machines during the Industrial Revolution, and (4) the changing roles of the printer throughout the evolution of printing.

Traditional Printing

The process of printing, or pressing paper on an inked form to produce multiple copies of the same text or image, had been used for centuries in Asia and Europe. But it wasn't until Johannes Gutenberg's inventions pioneered modern printing that mechanical printing finally became a practical alternative to hand-copied manuscripts. The genius of Gutenberg's press lay primarily in two factors: (1) the mechanized system that provided consistency and efficiency in the printing process, and (2) durable, metal, movable and reusable type.[10]

Printers before Gutenberg used a variety of devices to transfer ink to paper. All of them, however, relied on the printers themselves to press the paper onto the inked forms to produce the final printed page. Gutenberg built a mechanical press that used a hand-pulled lever to apply even, intense pressure to paper sandwiched between the inked form and a flat cover. The device allowed the printers to produce more consistent publications with less effort and more efficiency.

Gutenberg also developed movable, reusable type. Earlier printers generally used hand-carved wood or copper plates that were inefficient, since each page had to be carved independently, and tended to deteriorate with use. Consequently, it often took months to complete the printing of a single book. Gutenberg's individual metal letters, which were strong enough to withstand damage from both the ink and the pressures of printing, were set into forms that ensured an even height and, therefore, consistent printing. If a letter broke or if a correction needed to be made to the text, the printer could simply replace a few letters instead of an entire page. The moveable type also allowed the compositor to be typesetting the next page while the previous page was being proofed or printed. Once a page was printed, the letters were removed from the forms and reused in later pages.

Gutenberg's inventions began the age of modern printing. In the next three centuries, hundreds of presses were built throughout Europe, all based on Gutenberg's original design and its revision by William Janszoon Blaeu in the 1620s.[11] Over time, printers developed various innovations to make the process more efficient and incorporated larger wood beams into the press frame to make them able to withstand the repetitive strains of the printing process, but the design was basically the same. As Richard-Gabriel Rummonds notes:

Printing press technology remained more or less stagnant for almost 350 years. It is true . . . that some minor improvements were made on the wooden press during this period the frames were strengthened, the platens were reinforced, and the action of the screw was made more efficient but the basic construction of the power-inducing or pressure mechanism, which consists of a spindle and screw, endured virtually unchanged.[12]


As the technology improved, however, the need for greater efficiency, greater speed, and an ability to handle greater pressure led to the development of the iron handpress and, later, the cylinder press and other printing machines.

Hand Printing in the Nineteenth Century

In the early 1800s, Charles, the third Earl of Stanhope (1753-1816) invented the iron handpress. This press improved on the original wooden design with a stronger frame and a more efficient lever system that required only one pull per printed page instead of two. An 1808 printer's manual by Caleb Stower discusses the benefits of the new technology:

The common press does not, without great labour, produce an adequate impression, from heavy works in small letter; it must therefore be an important point to gain as accession of power, with, at the same time, a diminution of labour. This is more completely done by the Stanhope press, which is capable of ten times the force of the common press, with, perhaps, a tenth of the labour.[13]


The newly developed iron press proved to be very popular with printers throughout Europe, even though it cost more than three times as much as the older wooden presses.[14] Stanhope's press combined speed, efficiency, and power in a way that allowed printers to produce more pages in less time, which was vital as information and transportation networks improved and the population in towns and cities exploded. By the mid 1800s, very few wooden presses remained in active use, except to produce proofs or to do light work as secondary presses in larger shops.[15]

The ready availability of the manufactured iron presses resulted in a rapid increase in the number of small print shops, both in Europe and the United States. Because the new presses could be operated with fewer people and, therefore, lower operating costs, journeymen printers who, under the traditional system, could only hope to rise in the ranks in one of the larger print shops, were able to strike out on their own to take care of local printing needs, such as newsletters and books.

Although the iron handpress was vastly superior to the wooden common press, it still had to be operated according to essentially the same methods used by printers back to the time of Gutenberg: the printers would set the type by hand, ink the forms, position the paper, and apply hand-force to the lever to create the impression. The iron handpress, though it dominated small shops and book publishing for nearly a hundred years, was destined to be replaced by a technology developed only a few years after Stanhope's invention: the perfecting cylinder press, which was the precursor to later steam- and electricity-powered printing machines.

Printing Machines

Introduced in 1814, the perfecting cylinder press used a series of hand-cranked rolling cylinders rather than flat surfaces to ink the forms and press the paper. This machine could produce seven times the number of pages an hour 900, printed on both sides than the still-new iron handpresses could. The incredible leap in efficiency was further magnified by the later introduction of steam and electric power.

Newspaper publishers jumped on the new technology, since it allowed them to print in numbers never possible before. As population and circulation numbers increased, the presses likewise increased in size and power to meet demand. The process was accelerated still more as transportation and communication networks improved, thereby increasing the number of subscribers a newspaper could reach.

Although small print shops used handpresses until the early 1900s, by the middle of the nineteenth century, newspapers and larger print shops all used the new cylinder machines, relegating the iron handpresses-like the wooden presses before them-to proof work. Publishing was changed still more by the introduction of typesetting and compositing machines at the end of the nineteenth century. The most drastic changes, however, were not in the tools of the craft; rather, the greatest changes came in the roles of the craftsmen; the printers and others associated with the press.

The Changing Roles of Printers

The Industrial Revolution dragged a traditional craft into the modern age. On the surface, it simply replaced hand-built presses with manufactured printing machines. But, more importantly, the nineteenth-century technological advancements were accompanied by a reorganization of the publishing community. Master printers like Davis, who had been involved in every stage of publishing-from writing, editing, proofreading, typesetting, and printing to producing their own typefaces and inks were replaced by publishers who, though engaged in producing copy, were not usually involved with the mechanics of typesetting and printing, and machine workers who were not involved in the production of the text. In essence, the changes in printing in the nineteenth century diversified the craft; it spread the expertise across a variety of careers, instead of expertise being concentrated in the guild masters.

Before printing machines reorganized publishing, however, the iron handpress brought another significant change to the industry. The inefficiency of the wooden presses required more people to operate them. Consequently, prior to 1800, printing offices generally employed between ten and thirty people, including a master printer, journeymen with various specialties, and a number of apprentices. The iron press, though not much smaller than the older presses, was more efficient, thereby allowing fewer operators to produce the same amount of pages. This efficiency, combined with the greater availability of the presses, types, and inks because of improved manufacturing and transportation, provided for an explosion in the number of smaller shops run by fewer than ten people-and often just a single printer.

John Davis experienced all of these changes. He was likely trained in a small or mid-size traditional printing office. His first job was in a small office and, when he opened his own print shop in Merthyr Tydfil, Wales, he did all of the work himself for the first several years. When he emigrated to the United States, however, he entered a larger community that, though still young, featured a large number of printers. By the end of his career in printing, he was working in a diversified environment where his training in all aspects of publishing, though still an asset, was no longer necessary because most of the jobs were specialized.


Training a Nineteenth-Century Printer

Although John Davis lived in the midst of vast changes in the printing industry, his apprenticeship likely followed the traditional path. While no direct record of Davis's training survives, many other descriptions of printing apprenticeships are available through various sources. Benjamin Franklin wrote often of his apprenticeship, which began nearly a century before Davis's. Mark Twain recorded details of his early work in the 1850s as well. One of the better resources, however, was published in 2004 by the British Library: Nineteenth-Century Printing Practices and the Iron Handpress, by Richard-Gabriel Rummonds, which extracts readings from 20 nineteenth-century printer's manuals.

Printers had a vested interest in ensuring the continuing quality of their craft. To this end, some of the top printers published detailed manuals that covered everything from setting up the press, forging or selecting type, mixing inks, and the practical business and operations of printing to the qualifications and duties of all the workmen in a printing office. In his book, Rummonds organizes extracts from the manuals topically to show how changing conditions, including new technologies, affected the daily operations of a printing establishment.

While these manuals are valuable resources, they do have significant weaknesses. First of all, they are not firsthand accounts of real events in printing houses. Rather, they present an idealized view of the operations and expectations of the publishing community. Even though the authors of the manuals lived and worked in printing houses, they place heavy emphasis on how things should have been rather than how they were.

Second, each of the manuals relies heavily on earlier versions. The authors borrowed freely from other manuals to establish procedures, rules, and regulations. While many of the rules may, indeed, have been common to all printing establishments, the way they are written suggest an ideal rather than a reality. For example, many of the manuals include stringent qualifications for new apprentices. While some are reasonable ("understands and can speak his native language grammatically"[16]), some qualifications border on the ridiculous, especially for a boy of twelve to fifteen years: "It is of great advantage to a[n apprentice] to have some knowledge of the arts and sciences, the Greek, the Latin, the French, and the Spanish languages."[17]

Third, the authors of the manuals spend a considerable number of pages moralizing and giving advice to all the people involved in publishing. From admonishing masters in their treatment of apprentices to discussing the drinking habits of journeymen and the various vices of the apprentices, the printers who wrote these manuals are never afraid to share their opinions on the finest qualities a printer could possess, as well as what evils could ultimately destroy the craft. For example, "A most pernicious and destructive system has, of late years, crept into the profession; . . ."[18] and "With a noble purpose as the end of all your actions, and with action becoming your purpose, your success is merely a question of time,'always provided you have some brain and abundant common sense."[19]

Even with these weaknesses, however, the manuals provide a glimpse into the life of a nineteenth-century printer, from his apprenticeship to opening his own shop. The manuals were widely used by printers, probably more for their practical instructions on the mechanics and business of printing than for their advice on other matters. If nothing else, these manuals provide a view of printing that is far wider than the experience of a single author, like Franklin or Twain. And, in the case of John Davis, when there are so few other sources, these manuals provide invaluable records of the day-to-day tasks Davis likely experienced during his apprenticeship and early career.

The Printing Office

There is no record of the size of the print shop where Davis served his apprenticeship. In the nineteenth century, the smallest printing offices were run by a single printer who occasionally took in a boy to assist in the work. Larger shops could employ up to thirty people: a master printer; a number of specialized compositors, proofreaders, and pressmen, most of whom were termed journeymen;[20] and several apprentices. By the middle of the nineteenth century, printing offices of all sizes existed throughout Europe and America. Given the size of the communities in Wales at the time, it is reasonable to assume that Davis served his apprenticeship in a small to mid-size printing office.


John Davis began his apprenticeship in 1835 at the age of thirteen. Most printing apprentices at that time, both in Europe and in the United States, were indentured for seven years. Some printers, however, had begun experimenting with different methods of training, including shorter terms of indenture, indenture without providing room and board, and treating apprentices as day laborers, with no long-term contract. These alternate training methods were frowned upon by the manual writers, who deemed them less than effective in training apprentices and, therefore, harmful to the craft. Indeed, it was the practice of not providing room and board to apprentices that one writer deemed "a most pernicious and destructive system."[21] Additionally, the printing trade unions did not admit any person who served less than a seven-year apprenticeship in a formal setting.

Although an apprentice was technically an indentured servant, the printer had a financial and professional obligation to treat and train the boy well. In Samuel Whybrew's manual, he describes the arrangement as follows:

A boy who is apprenticed for a number of years, and receives his indenture, is entitled to the attentions of his employer. He binds himself to serve his time in consideration that he shall be taught "every branch of the trade, craft or business carefully and skillfully." And inasmuch as his employer has a sufficient guaranty that his apprentice will devote his whole time and talent for a few years to the interests of the former, it is reasonable to expect that the employer will advance his own interests by having the apprentice taught thoroughly and quickly how he may best accomplish the design of his apprenticeship, in order that the office may early reap the benefit of his services.[22]


Once finished with the term of service, many apprentices continued to work in various capacities in the printing office where they were trained. In training apprentices, therefore, the master printer was not only getting seven years of service, he was also providing for the future of his own shop by ensuring a steady crop of young employees educated in his own methods.

In traditional arrangements, apprentices were housed with the master printer or one of the journeymen and were fed alongside other apprentices and the master's children. Though they worked long hours during the week, apprentices had Sundays free to attend church and to visit family or friends. The manual writers viewed providing room and board to apprentices as essential, for it not only provided for their essential needs, but it also kept them out of trouble and allowed the master greater control over them through "threats and corporal punishment."[23]

The manual writers suggest strict care in selecting apprentices. Each of the manuals, in fact, spells out qualifications for successful apprentices. As noted above, some of these qualifications were hopeful at best and entirely unattainable at worst. The suggested qualifications, however, do give an idea of what printers expected of their new apprentices. One writer included this description:

The most necessary endowments for a lad desirous of becoming a printer are, a considerable portion of bodily strength and activity; an eye for symmetry of form and beauty of colour; a willingness to be taught, with a desire to excel; and a love of reading and study. The most necessary acquirements are orderly and attentive habits, a grammatical knowledge of his own language, and an acquaintance with arithmetic and book-keeping. But, in addition, we may observe, that there are few branches of learning, or even of science, a knowledge of which will not be found at least occasionally useful to a printer.[24]


Some manuals suggest additional education in languages, arts, and sciences. Others focus on character and work habits, rather than previous education: "No boy can successfully learn the Printing trade in all its details unless he possess the following qualifications: 1, common sense; 2, industry; 3, a fair knowledge of the rules of grammar; 4, honesty; 5, obedience; 6, perseverance."[25] In all cases, it appears that, at least in principle, the apprentice in a nineteenth-century printing office was expected to be above average in intelligence and eager to learn a variety of tasks. A few of the manuals suggest that the apprentices continue to pursue the study of languages and other subjects in any of their spare time.

From the evidence of John Davis's later career, he was likely an ideal apprentice. He wrote thousands of pages on various topics, including religion, science, social commentary, and politics in both Welsh and English. He also composed complex poetry and hymns in both languages and translated numerous documents, including the entire set of Latter-day Saint scriptures from English to Welsh. If he did not start out with the qualities described in the printer's manuals, he certainly obtained them during his apprenticeship and early career.

An apprenticeship was designed to transform a boy just out of common school into a fully qualified craftsman. Although the apprentices often began with menial tasks, such as sweeping and lighting fires, they moved quickly into learning the printing art. The author of an 1833 manual entitled The Printer provides a lengthy and somewhat tongue-in-cheek account of an apprentice's first week in the printing office: "He is handed over, at an early hour of a winter's day, to his fellow-apprentice, four years older than himself, who is henceforth relieved from sundry offices of drudgery that fall to the lot of the youngest."[26] In this account, the apprentice begins learning on the first day while sweeping up the extra pieces of type that fall to the floor during the printing process. This leads naturally to learning to recognize and sort the letters into their cases, which opens the apprentice's training in compositing (or typesetting).

The Printer gives an amusing insight into the work habits of the other apprentices and journeymen in the shop, who apparently regularly celebrated St. Monday-hung-over from spending their wages on a weekend of drinking, they are indisposed and unable to attend work on Monday. This leaves the new apprentice free to work directly with the master and the only journeyman sober enough to be at the office that day.[27]

The apprentice performed various tasks as needed, under the direction of the master printer or one of the journeymen. In some larger shops, apprentices specialized in one area of the print shop from the beginning. In smaller shops, they trained in all areas, usually beginning with compositing and moving to proofreading and then to actually running the press (younger boys were not generally heavy or strong enough to apply the consistent pressure required to make a good impression).

The boys were usually introduced to the various functions early to give them wide experience and to determine if they had a talent for any one of the areas. Once again, the printer's manuals provide valuable guidance on the qualifications of compositors, proofreaders, or pressmen:

A lad who desires to become a compositor must have had at least a good common education, he must have been taught reading, writing, and arithmetic, and be able to read different hand-writings with facility, though in this he is greatly improved by practice in the business. A little instruction in drawing is also of use, at least so far as to enable him to discover and appreciate symmetry of form and accuracy of proportion. . . . The want of this acquirement is often seen in the appearance of titles, whose ugliness is almost enough to frighten a reader from a book. A knowledge of languages is useful, but not absolutely necessary, as with care a compositor can follow an author's copy even when he does not understand the language in which it is written.[28]


It is always desirable that a reader should have been brought up a compositor. By his practical acquaintance with the mechanical department of the business, he will be better able to detect those manifold errata which, unperceived by the mere man of learning and science, lie lurking, as it were, in a thousand different forms, in every sheet; and, if overlooked, evince a carelessness and inattention to our labours, that must always offend the just taste and professional discernment of all true lovers of correct and beautiful typography. . . . A reader ought to be well versed in all the peculiarities of the English tongue-its idioms, its true genius, and singular adaptation to that variety of expression in which we embody our thoughts, and pourtray the human intellect.[29]


Pressmen are very different in their habits to compositors. They have not that quiet, studious appearance which results from sedentary labour and constant application to reading and deciphering copy. They are usually more robust, although the exercise of pulling the press bar is not as healthful an one as might be supposed. A large number of pressmen are ruptured, and there is much mortality among the class from heart-disease caused by too protracted and too violent exertion of the upper body.[30]


As noted above, apprentices in smaller shops, like John Davis, were trained in all of the functions and, therefore, had to maintain sufficient manual dexterity and intelligence to be a compositor; develop expertise in language and an attention to detail to be a proofreader; and gain enough strength to operate the press-all under the apparent threat of dying at an unnaturally young age.

In addition to training apprentices and starting them in a career, the printing offices also provided a framework for proper behavior. Each shop, particularly the larger ones, had a set of strict rules that governed the operations in the office, including cleanliness, obedience, and the amount of work to be finished in a day.[31] These rules were enforced by a system of fines and punishments. While apprentices earned very little, if any at all, they were subject to the same rules as the older workers. Punishments for poor behavior in apprentices were usually more direct than fines, however: withholding of food or physical reprimands at the hands of the master or his wife.

At the end of his term of service, the apprentice became free and was usually welcomed into the printer's craft guild as a journeyman. At that point, he could choose to remain with the printing office where he was trained (if there were space for another journeyman), seek employment in another shop, or set up shop himself, if he had the resources to purchase a press and type. Many apprentices chose to stay in the office of their master. During the nineteenth century, however, it became easier for newly minted journeymen in both Europe and America to establish their own business in a village or small town, each of which desired its own newspaper printing office.

John Davis completed his apprenticeship in 1842 and worked in several different establishments before settling at the press of the Reverend John Jones, in Llanybyther, Carmarthenshire. It was there that Davis began printing for the Latter-day Saints before his conversion to that religion in 1846. By 1849, he had saved enough money to purchase an old iron handpress and a case of second-hand type that allowed him to set up his own office, which he devoted almost exclusively to his work of printing for the church.



John S. Davis emerged from an environment where older printing traditions and practices were being replaced by a new, industrial system. In many ways, he and his contemporaries in the publishing industry were the last of the old system. Though many of the printers guilds and unions continue to the present day, especially in Europe, the common practice of a single master printer running a shop from creating raw copy to a final printed product ended in the middle of the nineteenth century. Davis, however, like many other printers of the time, welcomed the changes he saw coming because they would strengthen the craft he loved. He was a master printer and, therefore, was committed to the advancement of printing, not just to the protection of his own career. As he wrote in 1855:

Then, if we have such noble art,

Let every person act his part,

And join with us in hand and heart

To honor the Art of Printing.[32]

[1] Setting up local presses was a common practice in many of the religions that emerged in the early to mid 1800s. See John W. Welch, "Freedom of the Press and the New Religions of the 19th Century," (unpublished manuscript).

[2] Basic details about Davis's life can be found in Ronald D. Dennis, "Llyfr Mormon: The Translation of the Book of Mormon into Welsh," Journal of Book of Mormon Studies 11/1 (2002), 45-49, or on Dennis's Web site welshmormonhistory.org.

[3] Some volumes of his diary may survive, but according to family lore Davis's eldest grandson burned most of the volumes, along with letters and other records, in the 1930s.

[4] See the address by John S. Davis in "Second Annual Festival of Deseret Typographical Association," Deseret News (February 13, 1856), 4.

[5] See "First Annual Festival of the Typographical Association of Deseret," Deseret News (March 16, 1854), 2. The Association also worked to promote the Deseret Alphabet, an experimental phonetic alphabet created by Brigham Young to improve education in the pioneer colony.

[6] "Second Annual Festival," 4.

[7] "First Annual Festival," 2.

[8] Bruce Michelson, Printe's Devil: Mark Twain and the American Publishing Revolution (Berkeley, CA: University of California, 2006), 5.

[9] Wendell J. Ashton, Voice in the West: Biography of a Pioneer Newspaper (New York: Duell, Sloan & Pearce, 1950), 125-26.

[10] Movable type was originally used in Asia, but due to the many characters in the languages, it never really caught on as a practical printing solution. Gutenberg's invention of movable type is generally viewed as a development independent of its Asian counterparts. For a brief overview of Gutenberg's achievements and the various improvements made to the press through the nineteenth century, see Robert Hoe, A Short History of the Printing Press (New York: Robert Hoe, 1902).

[11] Richard-Gabriel Rummonds, Nineteenth-Century Printing Practices and the Iron Handpress (London: The British Library, 2004), 101.

[12] Rummonds, Nineteenth-Century Printing, 102.

[13] Caleb Stower, The Printer's Grammar (1808), 302, quoted in Rummonds, Nineteenth-Century Printing, 104.

[14] Rummonds, Nineteenth-Century Printing, 102.

[15] Rummonds, Nineteenth-Century Printing, 103.

[16] Cornelius S. Van Winkle, The Printer's Guide (1836), 118, quoted in Rummonds, Nineteenth-Century Printing, 82.

[17] Van Winkle, Printer's Guide, 118.

[18] John Johnson, Typographia (1824), 128, quoted in Rummonds, Nineteenth-Century Printing, 73.

[19] Thomas MacKellar, The American Printer (1866), 119, quoted in Rummonds, Nineteenth-Century Printing, 85.

[20] I will not go into detail about the mechanics of printing in this chapter; there are sufficient other resources on the topic. In essence, however, a compositor (or typesetter) sets letters by hand, line by line, that are then transferred to a form. The pressman uses the completed form to produce a proof sheet, which the proofreader checks carefully for errors in grammar and punctuation, and to make sure it accurately reflects the copy supplied by the author before returning it to the compositor for corrections and the pressman for printing in larger numbers. There are a variety of tasks associated with each stage in which apprentices would participate.

[21] Johnson, Typographia, 128, quoted in Rummonds, Nineteenth-Century Printing, 73.

[22] Samuel Whybrew, The Progressive Printer (1882), 9-10, quoted in Rummonds, Nineteenth-Century Printing, 87.

[23] Rummonds, Nineteenth-Century Printing, 73.

[24] The Printer (1833), 15, quoted in Rummonds, Nineteenth-Century Printing, 80.

[25] Whybrew, Progressive Printer, 8, quoted in Rummonds, Nineteenth-Century Printing, 87.

[26] Printer, 3, quoted in Rummonds, Nineteenth-Century Printing, 75.

[27] Printer, 4-5, quoted in Rummonds, Nineteenth-Century Printing, 76-77.

[28] Printer, 20, quoted in Rummonds, Nineteenth-Century Printing, 43.

[29] Charles Henry Timperley, The Printer's Manual (1838), 68, quoted in Rummonds, Nineteenth-Century Printing, 67.

[30] John Southward, Practical Printing (1882), 413, quoted in Rummonds, Nineteenth-Century Printing, 52.

[31] Printer's Grammar, 383-86, quoted in Rummonds, Nineteenth-Century Printing, 64-66.

[32] "First Annual Festival," 2.


Davis/Davies, John Silvanus


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