You Can Thank Johann Gutenberg For This Post


One of our SXSW field trips included a visit to the exhibition “Technologies of Writing” at the Ransom Center Galleries on the University of Texas campus.

Never before had we seen our worlds of words and design collide so vividly. The history of mankind’s greatest invention is organized in such a way that ancient Sumerian tablets are grouped with woodblock type and a 1970 IBM Selectric–making perfect connections between centuries of communication.

Today, as we create this entry using Movable Type, we envision ourselves as modern day typesetters, using new tools to quickly format and reproduce our thoughts. And when we add hyperlinks, it’s actually no different than the illustrated references that scribes built into ancient illuminated texts.

If you’re in Austin, tonight’s event at the Ransom ties the whole thing together quite neatly: Henry Petroski, author of The Pencil: A History of Design and Circumstance, presents “Books, Bookshelves, Pencils, and Paper Clips,” a look at the way our writing tools influence our work.

If you’re not in Austin, the Ransom’s website will keep you enthralled for hours, with extensive online exhibitions including Woodward and Bernstein’s Watergate papers and the story of the first photograph.