— Insight of the printing history with amazing exhibits
A unique private museum is found near Tsukiji, Tokyo on the printing materials. So recently I visited this museum as it was just after visiting “Toppan Printing Museum” The museum displays a number of historic printing machines and various printed products. It was established by a medium-sized printing company “Mizuno Pritech Co.” in Tokyo in 1988 aimed to introduce development of printing technology and culture for social contribution.
There many Japanese and European historic printing works are observed, including the old European typographic books since Gutenberg, in addition to Japan’s ancient and medieval book prints, wood-curved products in Edo period, first letterpress prints in Meiji period.
Beside printing goods, the museum exhibits valuable hand-press machines too. They were machines actually used in the pre-modern Europe and classic typographic press machines in Japan. I’m really impressed on the quality and volume of exhibits the museum shows though it’s never a big facility. I’ve tried to describe the feature of collection and its cultural significance in the following section.
♥ Mizuno Printing Museum
〒104-0042 Irifune 2-9-2, Chuo Ward, Tokyo
♠ Amazing collection of printing works a exhibited
The first exhibit found in the shelf is the “Million tower Dharamni” sutra that printed in Japan in the ancient kingdom of Japan in 8th century (770). This is actually a replica of Buddhist scripture which said to be the oldest existing printed materials in the world. And one of the precious collections in the Museum.
There are lot of valuable ancient printing works collected and exhibited too, including the printed Buddha image in 8th century which excavated in Dunhuang in China, Papyrus documents in Egypt 4-7th century, European old parchment documents (13th century), in addition to the Japanese history book “Nihon Shoki” (16th century) using old printing-type, the “Fushimi” version’s beautiful prints “Johgan Seiyo” (Political document in 17th century, Japan) and others.
<After Gutenberg Printings>
The eye-catching exhibits in the collection would be a“42 lines Bible ” book (15th century) by Gutenberg, which is said to be the beginning of modern printing system in the world’s first typographical press. There is a rare collection of “Chaucer’s book “ (15th century), “Dante work ” (19th century), “Daus Bible” (19th century), etc. too in the exhibition room.
By examine the collection we could recognize that the new printing technology initiated by Gutenberg has given tremendous impacts to the medieval Europe in the field of religion, science, and literature, and so on.
<Japanese classic collection>
In the Japanese section, many modern printed books published since beginning of typography in the Meiji Era are found too, such as Fukuzawa Yukichi’s enlightenment book “Gakumon no Susume”( Promotion of Study), “Beiou kairan Jikki” (A Report Plenipotentiary tour to Europe) ”, “English Citation Books” (Keio University) and so on.
These publications have given enormous influence in the civilization process of Meiji period, Japan. In that sense, it seems to be a valuable museum that displays really enlightenment collection even in spite of small scale.
♠ Collection of antique letterpress machines
Another attraction of Mizuno Museum isn’t only available many printed works, but various tools and parts, which had been used in the technological evolution of printing, can look and directly touch in the exhibition room.
There, from the replica models such as ancient seals, cylinder stamps, clay boards (Ancient wedge-shaped letters in Sumer period) to the wood letter-type (17th century) used in Korea, “Ukiyo-e” of Japan (wood curved picture in Edo period), copper plate widely used e in Europe (18th century), and dozens maternal sample of letter-type mold (17th century) were exhibited side by side.
<Exhibition of European printing machine>
A couple of old classic typographical printing machines are displayed there as a symbolic collection. For example, the Columbian Press (manual guided letterpress manufactured in 1850), the classic Albion press (one of the most popular handmade letterpress printing machine), etc. are found in the collection. These are surprisingly still usable, and visitors as possible to handle them by our own hands, and you could piratically learn how the typography print works and history of printing.
<Print works in Meiji Japan>
Among these exhibits, the most significant machines seem to be the letterpress printers which produced first in Japan. This machine was made by Hirano Tomiji in the early Meiji Period. He has produced this machine at the Tsukiji letterpress manufacturing factory in Tokyo under the supervision of Motoki Shozo who was a pioneering engineer of modern printing. And currently this printing machine has been designated as a “Japan Machinery Heritage” in Japan.
In the room, when examined the prints with this letterpress, I’m surprised its fine figure and clear image.
＜New advancement of exhibition>
Exhibits of these historic machines and printing seem to indicate profound implication of a long human efforts to communicate their experience and disseminate knowledge through various devices. Particularly evolvement of printing tools and advancement of printing devices are significant. I can’t help really amazed how significantly the museum contribute to enhance our knowledge on printing culture and technology.
Additionally, in recent years, a museum has added a collection of “World postal stamp of 1000 on printing” that were donated from Mr. Hiroshi Kumagai who is a famous stamp collector, and it has added further charms to the exhibition.
♠ History of Mizuno and its Museum
The Mizuno Printing Museum seems really unique facility in term of motivation and establishment process. The Museum was actually set up by the single handed volunteer achievement by Mr. Mizuno, chairman Mizuno Pritech Co.. He has gathered massive domestic and foreign historic prints and machines by his life-long consecutive effort, and finally could successfully exhibit his collection at his company building in 1988. The motivation of museum establishment is told in the episode in the museum guidebook. It says that it was begun when Mr. Mizuno had a chance to go overseas for study in Europe before professionalizing in the printing industry, and at that time, he encountered the exhibit of “One Million Tower Dalarni Sutra” at the University of Cambridge Library.
That time, he said he first knew this Japanese sutra was the oldest prints in existence in the world, and he had shamed not to had known this fact before as a person engaging in printing business. Then, he began to study genuine history of printing and launched collecting and researching on the printing affairs.
In the process, he could happily obtain Gutenberg’s “42th line Bible” in his hand by chance and began to collect other classic books in Europe and other countries too. Sequentially Mizuno added Japanese historic printing works in his collection, while collecting and introducing the history of printing in his laboratory. Then finally he could set up his own Museum.
<Mizuno’s special focus on the development of Tukiji’s letter press plant>
As his printing office was geographically close to Tsukiji, his learning focus was particularly drawn to the background of “Tsukiji Letterpress Plant”, a pioneer of modern Japanese printing techniques. Because of it, he was very much appreciated when he got a Hirano’s Albion type letterpress machine used in this Tsukiji plant for his collection. This is a valuable printing machine which is currently displayed at the “National 1000 Special Technology Exhibition in Japan” at the National Science Museum.
The “Tsukiji letterpress Plant” was established in 1896 by Hirano Tomiji being commissioned by Motoki Shozo who developed the typographic printing for the first time in Japan. It is well known that the typographic printing industry was spread rapidly in the Meiji period by their own initiatives and gave big impact to the society at that time. we could imagine that Mr. Mizuno’s enthusiasm for setting up the museum is motivated by awareness of the social significance of printing works and he himself was inspired by the depth of its history.
After the visit…..
The museum was on the 6th floor of an elegant building in the corner of Tsukiji where the printing industry was thriving. Portrait of Gutenberg was placed at the entrance, and when I visited Mr. Mizuno himself guide me to the exhibition room. Although it was not that big room, there a number of historical printing machines were fully allocated, and series of print works were displayed in the shelves in line. I couldn’t help feeling wonder how Mr. Mizuno could collect these rich collections solely in his hand and put extensive commentary on the huge exhibits.
Mr. Mizuno kindly gave me a detail on the circumstances of establishment and content of collection. Honestly, I was just amazed by the abundance of collection, and also moved by his great passion that enabled to build the such level of collection in his private hand.
The museum was named in the Guide the “Print Museum to serve Society and Culture through Historical Understanding”. It is really deserved to that message.
- Mizno Printing Museum (A Guide book)
- Mizuno Printing MuseumHP：http://www.mizunopritech.co.jp/04_museum/contact.html
- “PRITEC” (published by MIZUNO Pritech) 1989
- Fuji Film Imaging Information Vol. 5 (1990)
- “Beginning of Modern Printing in Japan” by Masao Mizuno (in Japanese)
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