Set in type

By By Lisa Anderson

By Lisa Anderson

Heading east on beautiful, tree-lined Center Street in Provo, you may drive right past the Crandall Historical Printing Museum if you’re not looking for it. The life’s work of printer, graphic artist and advertising agency owner Louis E. Crandall, this little brick building holds the story of how we all came out of the Dark Ages and came to be reading these very words.

One of the few working replicas of the Gutenberg Printing Press in the world resides in this museum, and the story of its invention is told within these walls, as well. It is truly a cornerstone for modern life, and one that most of us take for granted every day.

In the 1450s, Johannes Gutenberg’s press was responsible for the first printed book the world had ever seen: the Bible. The most important book of that time, its printing brought the power of religion into the hands of common people, allowing them for the first time to own copies of the book from which they received sermons. That was the moment when the light of knowledge dawned on the Dark Ages and the Renaissance began.

The Crandall Historical Printing Museum has been in operation since 1996 and now offers daily walk-in hours and tours by appointment. The tours include demonstrations of the Gutenberg, English common and Acorn hand replica presses, as well as an original Model 5 Linotype — a precursor to the typewriter that is as big as two refrigerators.

The Crandall is the only museum in the world with sufficient replica type to set two full pages of the Bible with the Gutenberg Printing Press, and this process is demonstrated during tours. The museum also proudly displays two facsimile copies of the Gutenberg Bible and one page of an original Gutenberg Bible, circa 1455.

Master printer Wally Saling often leads the tours as visitors make their way from the Gutenberg Room to the Benjamin Franklin Printing House Room, in which copies of Poor Richard’s Almanac are printed on a replica of Benjamin Franklin’s original English common press. The U.S. Constitution is featured in this room, and visitors are invited to print a personal copy for $1. The finished product looks authentic because the original type was perfectly duplicated.

Patriotism abounds in this quaint and quiet building as visitors are reminded of the important role the printing press played in the dissemination of Revolution-inspiring information, as well as the printing of the U.S. Constitution and Declaration of Independence.

During the week of Independence Day, the Crandall Museum holds a three-day Freedom of the Press celebration that focuses on the way in which printing was instrumental to the founding of our country. This commemoration focuses on the impact the printing press had on the founding of our great nation with period costumes, food and entertainment.

Taking into account the peculiar nature of Utah’s founding, it is not surprising that the final demonstration and displays of the tour are centered on the printing of the Book of Mormon. Brigham Young University offers a course in which a visit to this museum is required; the university also promotes the museum through its Religious Studies Center.

Crandall is an energetic man who has devoted his retirement to the museum and has been collecting antique printing equipment since 1954.

Printing has evolved from career to hobby and now something even more–a museum to share his passion with the world. He has great plans for expanding his museum because he wants it to continue to enrich people’s lives and to outlive him.

Crandall started printing at age 14 in Mesa, Ariz., and worked his way through college managing the letterpress print shop of the Tempe Daily Newspaper. At 28, he designed and built Legend City, an amusement park in Arizona. When he moved to Utah in 1964, he founded an advertising agency, and upon his retirement he converted the building into the museum it is today.

The museum’s concept was set into motion when he met Steve Pratt of Pratt Wagon Works in Cove Fort, Utah, who was an accomplished printing press builder. This acquaintance opened the door for Crandall to take his antique printing presses and his love of the craft and turn them into a full-blown museum. Pratt followed specs from the Smithsonian to build the English common press in the Benjamin Franklin Room and also built the Gutenberg and Acorn replicas.

The museum is a living documentary, offering demonstrations and hands-on experiences while teaching a computer generation about the humble and laborious beginnings of printing.