Lit House Course Leaves Print on Students’ Writing Careers

By Brooke Schultz

Elm Staff Writer


Washington College’s Rose O’Neill Literary House has a unique course running for those who have an interest in bringing the past to the present. Every semester, Michael Kaylor holds a book binding and printing course for students to take advantage of the Print Shop, located in the basement of the Lit House. The Print Shop contains many technological aspects of writing, including a book binding system and a printer for letters.

Kaylor has been working with the Print Shop since the summer of 1986. He has owned his own printing business and directed an in-plant print shop. Kaylor started setting type when he was twelve. Because of his knowledge of books, the opportunities of the Print Shop expanded from just printing workshops into book arts.

“It’s a working museum,” Kaylor said. “It’s about history, preservation, restoration and conservation to keep this alive. Keeping it alive here is what’s exciting to me.”

Professor of English Sean Meehan takes all of his English 101 students to the Print Shop when his classes learn about the effects of technology on writing. He said, “I want students to recognize that writing is already a technology in the older sense of the Greek root of the word ‘techne’ – an art or craft. The arts of printing and making books are extensions of that craft.”

The book binding area is set up in the Lit House for students to begin the course.
The book binding area is set up in the Lit House for students to begin the course.

Meehan himself wants to take a course to learn more about printing and book making. “I am jealous of the students who will be taking the course. My ideal would be to teach one of my courses on writing in coordination with the Print Shop and have students work towards publishing their work on the press and making a course book.”

The Print Shop course puts student in touch with what it has taken to get words into print throughout history. In combination with teaching students how to either set type or bind books, Kaylor also gives a history of the written word and the tools and materials used to produce writing and how it naturally develops into a book.

Kaylor said, “In the class, [we] take historic models and methods that have been around for thousands of years and then do something funky with them.”

Students also are able to make their own blank book to be used for watercolor, sketching or writing. The materials students have access to are archival materials – papers, glues, cloth and leather that are acid neutral. Kaylor said, “To work with those, heightens the experience and makes you more conscious of what you’re doing. You’re working with these kinds of tools and making something that as a two-thousand year history.”

Freshman Kirstin Webb learned about the workshop through email and was really excited about it. “I first encountered the Print Shop during orientation week at the Lit House open house. I spoke with the master printer about some of the projects students do while taking these workshops and was fascinated by his knowledge and expertise. Books have always had a special place in my heart, so I expect getting some hands-on experience will be really neat,” she said.

There have been a number of books that have been published for students and staff throughout the years that Kaylor has worked in the Print Shop. “We have the capacity to print text and bind, and a number of students have made their own books. The assistant director of the Lit House and her two friends made an edition of an anthology of their poetry. It’s a cool, symbiotic process.”

The use of a printing press allows students to see a whole different side of writing.
The use of a printing press allows students to see a whole different side of writing.

Kaylor’s classes run each semester for beginners and advanced students for about seven weeks, giving students the ability to set type, print on the presses and produce a body of work or bind their own creations. The first course will begin Feb. 3, and the advanced course will begin Feb. 5. The classes act as a foundation, and if students choose to go further than the course, they can meet informally for however long it takes for the project to be produced.




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