As we arrived, we were greeted by an older Norwegian gentleman who explained, "Us old guys all used to work in the printing business. Now we're retired but we'll show you around." He won me over quite quickly. There was something so endearing about these men who had long moved on from the printing press yet still came around to maintain the equipment, work on a few pieces as a hobby and impart their knowledge to those who visited.
The building itself was beautiful in it's industrial glory. Old wooden floors combined with steel supports enveloped the enormous iron machines and the smell of ink permeated the air. The windows on the far wall peered right out onto the water and sent rays of light through the entire space. It's almost hard to believe that it was once a simple storage space for the canneries in the early 1900s.
Stavanger had a very lively printing industry due to the abundance of canneries in the area (of course, the cans needed labels.) Lithography was the trade of choice for labels. The pictures and text were drawn by hand on large and heavy pieces of limestone. Multi-coloured labels followed a careful process - each colour was hand sketched on the limestone, pressed, dried and then the next colour, on a separate lithograph, was applied. In total, over 30 000 lithographs were made in Stavanger for the canning industry alone.
The rest of the museum was dedicated mainly to letterpress which honestly, was quite fascinating. Up until the 1980s, letterpress was the main method of newspaper printing in the area and what an intricate and I imagine, strenuous, process. Typesetting was done completely by hand, letter by letter, word by word almost as if arranging a puzzle daily in order to put the newspaper to press. In 1900, the first typesetting machine came to Norway which basically works like a computer keyboard except working manually to put a cast together shaping a line of text in metal.
We were lucky enough to watch it all come together as the machine clunked and the metals tinged eventually forming a phrase. The gentleman was kind enough to make a souvenir of sorts for us as we oohed and ahhed at the process.
The tour was really quite eye opening for me and as a lover of the written word, I couldn't help but be mesmerized by the letters surrounding me, each of them being created with so much time, effort & care.